Saturday, 24 November 2012

Normie The Musical, Nov 23, 2012

Book & Lyrics, Graeme Johnstone, additional music by Peter Sullivan
By Old Scotch Music & Drama & Beatroot Services
At Geoffrey McComas Theatre, Scotch College
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review published in Herald Sun on Friday, Nov 30, 2012

  Nathan Hotchkin-van Neuren, Normie Rowe, Julian Campobasso

Normie Rowe’s professional presence lights up the stage when he appears in this amateur musical production about his early years as the young King of Pop, and his subsequent conscription into the Vietnam War.
The strengths of this production are Rowe, the 60s songs and the band under David Wisken, but I could not forgive the glaring shortcomings: ham acting, pedestrian direction (Simon Eales), poor design, sloppy chorus work, awkward book and dialogue (Graeme Johnstone) and weak additional songs (Peter Sullivan).

Rowe does not play himself, but portrays former Prime Minister, Harold Holt, who was responsible for continuing Australia’s role in Vietnam, and for conscripting young men such as Rowe.

It is a delight to be reminded of Rowe’s vocal power and cheeky grin when he performs his hit song, Shakin’ All Over, as the ageing, philandering Holt who clumsily tries to seduce a young reporter.

He then sings to Holt’s wife, Zara (Gail Bradley), the moving ballad, It’s Not Easy (Loving You Baby), as an apology for his infidelity and loss of love, and later movingly delivers Holt’s lament, How Do I Sell This War.

As Rowe’s younger self, Julian Campobasso has pop idol looks and his voice captures the edge and passion of a young Rowe singing It Ain’t Necessarily So, Tell Him I’m Not Home, and Ooh La La, and in his love duet with Marcie Jones (Emma Newman), A Little Love.

The highlight of the production is Rowe himself singing a rousing finale, supported by the two younger Normies.

Unfortunately most of the supporting characters, including Rowe’s parents, managers, friends and colleagues are overacted or performed as excruciating caricatures.

In the right hands, Rowe’s songs and his early pop star life certainly have the potential to make a juke box musical, but this production falls short, although it obviously has its audience in the followers of Old Scotch Music and Drama.

By Kate Herbert

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