I’ll admit, when I first heard about ‘Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical’ I thought, ‘who’s that?’.
But a quick Google and YouTube search later I realised I knew a lot of his songs. Thanks mostly to my mum’s music taste influencing mine. Mac The Knife, Splish Splash, Dream Lover, Things and Beyond the Sea among his some of the songs that I recognised. So I was looking forward to seeing the show.
Sadly, it’s opening number did not live up to my expectations.
The set was good. It reminded me of an old ‘band stand’ type style. A black stage, with podiums slowly increasing in size and musicians pride of place on top of them. The whole lot was bordered by an arc of bright blue lights that changed colour and strobe patterns through the show. That was cool. I liked that the 18 piece band was such a focal point – it makes sense, after all this is a show about music.
The show opened with Mac The Knife. Woohoo, I thought, I love this song. But enter the first cliché of the night: David Campbell aka Bobby Darin rose up from inside the stage, dressed in a tuxedo and singing in that staccato way Mac The Knife is sung – in between the musicians. While he was singing a great song, I could hardly hear him. His voice was not loud enough compared to the band.
A bunch of backup dancers and singers joined him on stage in black trench coats and hats. The number definitely got better as it went along. But I was after a bit more pizzaz to get me in the mood from the outset.
As the show went on David Campbell clearly began to feel more comfortable and get into the groove of things. His musical performances definitely got better. Highlights for me included: Splish Splash (perhaps a better opening number with the bright bath towels, sparkly bikinis and boys in boardies); Call Me Irresponsible as Bobby Dari wooed Sandra Dee (played by Hannah Fredericksen) on the set of Come September; their duet version of Dream Lover on the couch after she opens up about her past and; the ballad version of More sung by Nina (played by Marney McQueen) and Polly (Caroline O’Connor).
A gold star to Marney McQueen whose voice blew me away. While her speaking voice was, for me, a little exaggerated-America-musical-theatre for me, when she sang More I was blown away. In fact it was that song that made me then download the accompanying soundtrack of Dream Lover.
It’s always a treat to see Australia’s musical theatre darling Caroline O’Connor. Her voice is like no other. She cleverly portrayed two very different characters in this show. If it wasn’t for her unique voice I probably wouldn’t have realised it!
One critique – the show is too long. There are a few slow points that I’m sure could be done more succinctly (or not at all) to shave off 20-30 minutes from the show. The first half of his life is extensively covered, the downfall and latter years, not so much. I think the creative team could do something to address that.
But for all the Bobby Darin diehards out there (looking at you mum) then this show is for you. All the classics you know, a great band, short cameos from other music greats such as Buddy Holly (Tim Madden) and Frankie Avalon (Joshua Robson) plus flashing lights, glitter, sequins and a lot of toe taping.
A special treat at the end of the opening night performance was Bobby Darin’s son Dodd taking to the stage to give his thanks and regards to the team. It’s hard to believe this is the first musical ever produced about Bobby Darin’s life – his music repertoire could probably fill three different shows!
I must give kudos to David Campbell. I’ve seen him on his usual TV gig most mornings this week. It can’t be easy doubling up like that, from taking on Bobby Darin until the late hours, then wiping off the stage makeup to make room for the TV makeup to be himself.
Let me know what you think of the show!