When my family first heard a stage musical based on the life of Bobby Darin was in the works, there was only one man we could imagine successfully taking on the role. That man was David Campbell. We knew he’d be impressive, but I don’t think we were quite prepared for just how good he would be.

Dream Lover really is David Campbell’s show. His Bobby Darin is a presence in virtually every scene, and he shines throughout. We’re first introduced in Bobby on the night of what would be his final performance. I’ve seen David perform the opening number “Mack the Knife” several times over the years, but with back-up dancers and a tight orchestra (who are celebrated on stage rather than buried in the pit as in so many musicals) the song reaches another level.

From there we’re taken on a journey through Bobby’s life. We see him as a child with stars in his eyes, as a hard-working rock-and-roll singer, and as the toast of Hollywood with Sandra Dee on his arm. We’ve seen this kind of rags-to-riches tale before, but most musicals tend to shy away from the darkness Dream Lover isn’t afraid to explore. Bobby Darin’s stellar catalogue of beloved music ensures the show doesn’t get too gloomy.

Stepping into Bobby Darin’s shoes is no small feat. This is the Bobby Darin story after all. This character isn’t always likeable, yet there must be a charm about him that helps us forgive his unrelenting ambition. He sings, he dances, and he gives the production its anchor. David makes all this look easy, as the very best stage performers do. I’ve long admired his vocal chops, but I didn’t realise how impressive his acting skills are.

Special mention must go to Caroline O’Connor, a stage veteran who took on the dual roles of Polly and Mary Douvan with aplomb. Hannah Fredericksen brought the right amount of sweetness and strength to her portrayal of Sandra Dee and Bert Labonte was also excellent in the role of Charlie, a paternal figure to Bobby.

Sydney is lucky enough to have the world premiere of Dream Lover, although I’m sure it will tour around Australia in time. And after that, who knows? This musical is certainly solid enough to leave the country and grace the stages of Broadway or the West End. However, unless David Campbell commits to taking the role abroad, I can’t imagine it’ll be as good as the original Australian production!

Dream Lover
is playing at the Lyric Theatre until at least November 27.

Like so many Australians, some of my earliest musical memories came from watching Disney movies. Songs like “We Are Siamese” and “Once Upon a Dream” became early favourites. My parents bought my sister and I the read-a-long books with cassettes, and while the stories were fun, it was always the bonus songs at the end that got us dancing. When music makes such an early impression on you, I don’t think it ever really leaves your heart. So when I heard of the Disney Under the Stars concert, I snapped up tickets.

I expected my husband and I would be one of the few childless couples. However, most of the people in our immediate area were in the same boat, adults unashamed of their passion for Disney. We discussed our favourite movies and characters until Chong Lim and his orchestra took to the stage and treated us to an instrumental medley of some of Disney’s most beloved songs, complete with an animated background of movie moments.

David Campbell, Ricki Lee, Lucy Durack, and Harrison Craig soon joined the musicians for “Part of Your World” from Aladdin. It was a wonderful start to a night that combined nostalgia, magic, and fun, all of the essential Disney elements.
There were so many highlights that took me back to some of my favourite film memories. Ricki Lee might have looked more like Ariel than Lucy Durack, but the blonde stage star carried off the animated mermaid’s signature song “Part of Your World” beautifully. Ricki Lee did her part playing the princess roles too, with superb solo performances of “Colours of the Wind” and “Let it Go.” I’d heard David Campbell sing “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book at his shows before, but it lost nothing despite the familiarity. Speaking of David, his performance of one of the songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of the true showstoppers. I also loved seeing him pal around with Harrison Craig in “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” A rambunctious group performance of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” had everyone clapping and singing along. The good versus evil dichotomy of Lucy Durack and Ricki Lee’s performance of “Once Upon a Dream” was really inventive, although I can’t help thinking it was a little dark for those little girls dressed as princesses in the crowd.

It’s very hard on a night like this to please everybody. As an older concert goer, I could have done without the three (or was it four?) songs from Frozen played. While I enjoyed “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled and “Touch the Sky” from Brave, I could have easily given them up for a few older Disney tracks. I felt for the woman sitting in front of me who adored Cinderella, yet didn’t get to hear one song from this film. Some of my personal favourites, Dumbo and Robin Hood, were also neglected. But for the younger crowd, there’s never enough Frozen, and those new movies are the one they have fond childhood memories of. While big kids like me could have fun on a night like this, it’s perhaps more important the smallest members of the audience are not left feeling short-changed. Sometimes tells me it’s what Walt would have wanted.

Image source: own photos

Before David Campbell dazzled Australia with his turn as Johnny O’Keefe and his swinging standards, he was wowing crowds on Broadway. So it makes sense that he’s returned to musical theatre with his latest album, David Campbell Sings John Bucchino.

I consider myself a bit of a musical theatre nut, but I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with John Bucchino’s work. This album provides the perfect introduction to his music though. David didn’t simply take his songs and run with them. He enlisted John to play piano on all the tracks and the duo shares production credits.

There are a few other names in the album sleeve, but this album feels like a two-hander. If you were expecting big Broadway embellishments, you’d be disappointed. Personally I appreciate the simplicity of the delivery. Without frills, with only a tinkling piano as accompaniment, David’s voice and John’s lyrics shine. It’s a perfect marriage. Sometimes it can be difficult for an artist to inhabit someone else’s songs, but David’s connection to the material is obvious.

I felt invited into the intimate bond of these musicians as each track unfolded. I was captivated from the opening track “Sweet Dreams,” a tender ballad about a chance meeting between two broken-hearted souls and the different paths they ultimately take. It remains one of my favourite numbers on the album, but I was also swept away by the unbridled enthusiasm of “Taking the Wheel” and the romance of “Unexpressed.”

I don’t expect David Campbell Sings John Bucchino to set the charts on fire the way David’s swing albums did. He made a name for himself singing familiar songs, and it’s going to be tough to convince music lovers to work a little harder and embrace something new to them. But anyone who does will be richly rewarded, because the pairing of these stellar artists is truly something special.

Image used with permission from Jaden Social

David Campbell is one of my very favourite Aussie performers. I get my daily fix on morning TV, but he really shines when he’s on stage. So I’m thrilled to hear he’s back doing what he does best, after a three-year-musical hiatus, with the help of his Broadway composer idol John Bucchino.

After albums paying tribute to musical decades and genres, David’s celebrating John’s music with his latest release David Campbell Sings John Bucchino. The album’s sure to sound great when you slip it in your stereo, but even better on the stage. David will play these songs with John, and the pair will take the time to share with audiences stories about their friendship, their careers, and the music that binds them.

It’s worth pre-ordering your copy of the album, as all advance orders will be signed by David and John. You’ll also go into the draw to win an ultimate David Campbell Sings John Bucchino prize. How do return flights to Sydney, one night’s accommodation, a venue tour, VIP lunch plus meet and greet with David and John, and front row tickets sound? Fabulous!

Even if you aren’t the lucky winner, you can catch David and John doing their thing at the following intimate shows.

25 May 2014 - Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
6 June 2014 - Brisbane QPAC Concert Hall
13 & 14 June 2014 - Adelaide Cabaret Festival
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27 & 28 June 2014 - Hayes Theatre, Sydney
29 June 2014 - Riverside Theatre, Parramatta

Image used with permission from Jaden Social

I last saw David Campbell celebrating the music of the 1980s in April. David and classic pop tunes proved to be a match made in heaven, but the somewhat stiff venue of Newcastle’s Civic Theatre didn’t quite gel. So I was thrilled to see the show again last weekend at the Central Coast’s favorite club, Mingara.

In many ways this was the same show I saw a few months ago. The core stories remained, the outfits were every bit as loud, and the set list had just a few tweaks. The ’80s music took centre stage, much to the chagrin of a few murmuring nannas in the audience. They were treated to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” after intermission, and “Shout” at the conclusion, but David clearly had a vision for the night. As a child of the ’80s myself I lapped it up, even if I did feel a little sorry for those confused old ducks.

Spandau Ballet’s “True” is my favourite song of all time, and again David Campbell transported me back to the time I first heard it. His simple rendition gets to the heart of the classic ballad. The stripped back section, with covers of Yazoo’s “Only You” and Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” was another highlight. And David’s takes on “Goody Two Shoes” and “Come On Eileen” might even be better than the originals.

While I heard the same music as before, there was a more spontaneous feel to the evening that really suited these commercial pop songs. He told us how Mingara was always a favourite place to play, and he seemed to relish the chance to move away from the script. An impromptu question and answer session was a bit of fun, even if the wrinklies turned on him when they discovered young Leo Campbell was yet to meet his grandmother. The inevitable hecklers were treated with David’s trademark humour, and he blew kisses at the women who boogied with abandon at the front of the stage.

David apologised sincerely that he couldn’t meet us all after the show and sign autographs as he usually does, but he needed to be up at quarter past four for another Channel Nine morning show stint. A lesser performer might have cut the show short to hit the highway early, but not David. He performed a full length set that never felt rushed and an enthusiastic encore with the energy turned up to eleven. I certainly wasn’t awake to see the TV performance he gave Channel Nine viewers on Sunday morning, but the one he served up for the Central Coast the night before was flawless.

Image source: own photo

Last week David Campbell took me back to my childhood when his Let’s Go tour touched down in Newcastle. I expected big things from the show. I knew I’d be treated to songs from my favourite decade of music, and I’ve never left a DC show without a big smile on my face. Predictably he didn’t let me down.

As the lights came up we were instantly transported back to the 80s. The band wore more neon than I’ve seen for years, and the lights were straight out of the period. It was perfect. He opened with the title track, “Let’s Go” and barely took his foot from the throttle as he treated us to songs from the album and other 80s favourites. As a child of the 80s those unexpected gems were some of the night’s highlights for me. His stripped back version of “Every Time You Go Away,” beginning with an a capella section, was breathtaking. His take on “Knew You Were Waiting,” with back-up singer Josie Lane stepping into Aretha Franklin’s shoes was so much fun. And his version of “Power of Love” was even more awesome after hearing his story of performing it as a teen beginning his journey as a musician. Those tales really made the night for me, the reminiscing about buying Smash Hits magazine and recording songs from the radio using the old two-fingered method. They were probably lost on certain sections of the audience, but as a 30-something I was right there with him.

I’ve always loved seeing shows at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. It’s such a beautiful venue, so intimate and so well appointed. But it may not have been the best place to see David Campbell. I spent so much of the night dancing in my chair, dying to do more. As he started “Goody Two Shoes” it all got too much and Mum and I jumped out and found a quiet corner to dance. The theatre’s not really the place to do that, but who can sit down with that sort of music?

The show was brilliant but it probably wasn’t the right venue. Thankfully David’s announced some more dates later this year. I think I might have to go back for a second helping!

Image source: own photos

I expected the kind of merry Christmas and happy New Year that all the greeting cards tell us everyone receives, but I didn’t get it this festive season. On December 25 my Grandma had a bad fall, which led to her admission to hospital the day later. Also on Boxing Day my Mam, my mum’s stepmother, found herself in hospital too. While Grandma’s still resting up, Mam passed away. We had her funeral yesterday. Consequently the season which is ordinarily so festive was stressful and sad.

Of course I turned to music, this time the 80s pop showcased on David Campbell’s latest covers album Let’s Go. We have a rule in my family never to buy ourselves anything in the lead up to Christmas, so I was a bit late getting my hands on it. But goodness it was worth the wait.

This is the David Campbell album I’ve been waiting for. Anyone who knows me knows the 80s is my decade, and David’s done it justice. Some clever arrangements see the tunes feeling fresh, although they’re not so different as to alienate the diehard fans.

Funnily enough the album features many of the 80s tracks my husband and I had discussed prior to its release. David equals Tony Hadley’s silky smooth vocals on “True.” Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” has just the right amount of pep, while “You Make My Dreams Come True” should put a smile on anyone’s face. I’ll say this; David Campbell has impeccable taste.

In some cases he’s even done the unthinkable and bettered the originals. The arrangement of “Missing You” brings out the gutwrenching heart of the lyrics like John Waite’s version never did. I must have heard “Come On Eileen” a million times on radio, yet David’s version has so much energy that I find myself hitting repeat.

This is one of those albums that begs for a sequel, just as we saw with his Swing Sessions. I’m not sure whether I’ll get my wish, but I’m certainly in for an amazing show when David Campbell hits town later this year!

Image source: David Campbell Facebook page

I’m pretty excited at the coming together of one of my favourite Australian singers and my favourite musical decade. After tackling the standards more than once, show tunes, and the sounds of the swinging sixties, David Campbell is setting his sights on the 80s.

Next week David will release Let’s Go, an album featuring covers of tunes by Wham, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and The Style Council. Oh and there’s this version of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” Not to mention a version of my favourite song ever, “True.” Needless to say, I’m beyond excited.

Let’s Go hits stores on November 18, which is not so coincidentally the day that tickets go on sale for his next Aussie tour. David never does these things by halves; I’m sure you’ll be able to catch him busting out the retro numbers somewhere near you!

16 February 2012 – Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, Belmont
17 February 2012 – State Theatre, Sydney
25 February 2012 – Festival Theatre, Adelaide
10 March 2012 – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane
16 & 17 March 2012 – Palms @ Crown, Melbourne
12 & 13 April 2012 – Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre
14 April 2012 – Civic Theatre, Orange
19 April 2012 – Manning Entertainment Centre, Taree
20 April 2012 – Glasshouse Theatre, Port Macquarie
21 April 2012 – Civic Theatre, Newcastle
27 April 2012 – Llewellyn Theatre, Canberra
28 April 2012 – Regional Entertainment Centre, Bathurst
3 & 4 May 2012 – Performing Arts Centre, Wangarratta
5 May 2012 – Entertainment Centre, Albury
10 & 11 May 2012 – Regional Theatre & Convention Centre, Dubbo
12 May 2012 – West Tamworth Leagues Club, Tamworth
16 May 2012 – Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah
17 May 2012 – Queens Park Theatre, Geraldton
18 May 2012 – Perth Concert Hall
19 May 2012 – Regional Entertainment Centre, Bunbury
31 May 2012 – Performing Arts Centre, Colac
1 June 2012 – Warnambook Entertainment Centre, Warnambook
2 June 2012 – Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Mt Gambier
7 & 8 June 2012 – Capital Theatre, Bendigo
9 June 2012 – Eastbank Centre, Shepparton
14 June 2012 – Performing Arts Centre, Frankston
15 June 2012 – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat
16 June 2012 – GPAC Playhouse Theatre, Geelong

Longtime readers of my blog will have heard me wax lyrical about David Campbell before. He’s one of those rare artists that encourages me to get out and see him each and every time he tours. Even rarer, he does so because he always delivers an amazing performance. And it was no different when last night I caught his On Broadway show at Mingara Recreation Club.

After several very successful albums, David has an extensive and eclectic back catalogue to play with. There’s the music from Shout, the swing songs, old 60s rock and roll, and now showtunes in his repertoire. It takes a skillful performer to deliver such variety without alienating his audience, but David had us there with him through it all.

The first portion of the show concentrated on those Broadway numbers, which really came to life on stage. David’s always been such a theatrical performer, who no doubt learned a thing or two during his time in New York, so tunes from Chicago and Boy from Oz were an easy fit. I enjoy the On Broadway album, but was surprised by some of the disc’s more obscure song selections. Given that, I was thrilled that in the live arena he focused on those tunes we all know, encouraging us to sing along and ensuring we all had a fabulous time. “Bring Him Home,” the showstopper from Les Miserables was incredible, and we all had fun when he played with those high-tech recording pedals in Guys and Dolls’ “Horse Right Here.”

He kicked things up a notch in the second half, and it didn’t take long before I joined the women enthusiastically dancing on the sides of the auditorium. Songs like “Yeah Yeah,” “She’s My Baby” and “Suspicious Minds” are just so much fun, and we lapped them up. Not that it was all light-hearted. David brought tears to a few eyes with his incredible renditions of “Mr. Bojangles” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

It takes a truly special performer to breathe new life into songs we’ve all heard many times before. David Campbell is definitely that, a genuine showman who can move his audience to tears and have them in fits of laughter on a whim. Rest assured, I’ll front up for tickets when the next tour rolls around.

Image source: own photo

I’m heading home today, so I figured it was only fitting to end this little snapshot of Adelaide music on the artist I’m seeing live on Thursday night: David Campbell. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows how much I adore David, and I’m definitely looking forward to hearing him playing the tunes from the new Broadway album including “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Thanks for your patience while I’ve been away. Regular blogging resumes tomorrow!