Thursday, 10 January 2008

Shout! The Legend of the Wild One, Jan 10, 2008

 Shout! The Legend of the Wild One
by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell & Melvyn Morrow
State Theatre, Jan 10 until Feb 10, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you were a fan of Australian rocker Johnny O’Keefe, The Wild One, you’ll be rocking along in Shout, a biographical musical about his short life. His life was peaks and troughs, the peaks being in his earliest years before his shocking injuries in a car accident.

JO’K was an ambitious, self-absorbed show-off when he touted himself to American concert promoter Lee Gordon (Mark Holden) in1959. His behaviour rapidly deteriorated into substance addiction, manic-depression and schizophrenia.

In biographical shows the facts are massaged to create a dramatic structure. Three writers (John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell & Melvyn Morrow) take highlights of JO’K’s life and glue them together with songs from his repertoire.

The show, directed by Stuart Maunder,  opens with an awkward scene portraying O’Keefe in the 1970s reminiscing at the Stadium where he wowed the audience. What follows is a narrative constructed from selected episodes in his life.

We see his rebellious school days at a Catholic college, his obsessive bid for the Stadium gig, his hounding of Gordon, live gigs, the tragic car accident that interrupted his career, his television shows, reckless lifestyle and careless treatment of his wife Marianne (Alexis Fishman) and his disastrous quest for fame in America and England.

The songs are the heart of the show because the dialogue is often trite and the structure of the narrative clumsy. You’d have to be tone deaf to think Johnny O’Keefe was a great singer but, in his early days, he was a terrific showman who sold a rock song hard.

The return season of Shout! has a change of cast with Tim Campbell as O’Keefe. He is certainly not a look-alike for JO’K (lucky for him) but his voice is definitely better so the songs do not have that rough, slightly tuneless quality of O’Keefe. The crowd were delighted with his versions of Wild One, What’d I Say, Move Baby Move, Six O’Clock Rock, She’s My Baby and Shout!

Colleen Hewett is a feature as Johnny’s Mum and her duet of On A Slow Boat to China with Glenn Shorrock and the family singing Mockingbird were a treat. Fishman is moving as Marianne and Holden is brazen as Gordon. The Delltones (Steve Judkins, Nicholas McMahon, Paul Ross, Kurt Sneddon) Get a Job was a delicious vocal blend. The beatnik scene, Shimmy Shimmy Koko Pop, was a highlight with sultry choreography by Ross Coleman.

Shout! is a crowd pleaser because of its songs and O’Keefe’s place in our rock history but it lacks the dramatic coherence needed for great music theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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