11 January 2008

SHOUT! – The Legend of the Wild One

SHOUT! – The Legend of the Wild One
11 January 2008
The State Theatre, The Arts Centre

If this is down and dirty, sweaty and sexy rock and roll, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

SHOUT! – The Legend of the Wild One is nostalgic and fun. Seeing Mark Holden, Colleen Hewitt, Glenn Shorrock and John Paul Young is equally as nostalgic and fun. The design is sassy and satirical, the choreography authentic and addictive, and the ensemble cast are one of the best around. But it isn’t wild, it isn’t sexy and it really doesn’t show what was so unique and captivating about Johnny O’ Keefe. This production is more Rock and Roll Eisteddfod than genuine rock’n’ roll. 

The writing is where this production is falling down. It’s rose (pink really – lots of pink) coloured nostalgia, rather than story. The dialogue is mostly exposition, a bit of explanation and the rest is joke. There’s pouffe jokes, a salmon mornay joke, a Lorraine Crap joke and a charming splattering of 50s racism (which teeters somewhere between boring and offensive). It’s assumed that the audience knows everything about JOK already. 

 The disappointment, determination and degradation of JOK’s life is perfect material for a musical. His fight for fame in Australia, his continual battle with drugs and alcohol, the car crash, his overseas failure, his battle with mental illness, his failed marriage, his gradual comeback and final happiness. It’s all briefly touched on, but never used to create poignancy or real emotion.  His come back is shown as his parents watch it on TV. 

 We don’t see the darkness. We don’t see the deterioration, the addiction and the pain. A quick scene in a straight jacket doesn’t even begin to hint at what he went though. His wife mentioning to his parents that he’s taking drugs does nothing to show us his addiction. His bag of marijuana was used only as a joke. This man believed he was Jesus Christ – why on earth wasn’t this real and dramatic material used to its full potential? 

 I think the writers were trying to show us JOK through the eyes of his wife and parents. So we saw a loved person with minimal faults. This story is about nice little Johnny and his very nice parents. He was a bit naughty, but that’s about it. He sure as hell isn’t presented as wild and revolutionary. Faults and mistakes make drama. Namby pamby characters are not interesting. I wanted SHOUT! to show us what JOK went through and why he was, and still is, one of our greatest. 

 With a restructure, more of a focus on character, story and personal journey and a greater exploration of the dark side of JOK, this could be a bloody terrific show. The music, cast, look and feel are all there (the encore alone is worth going for), but it isn’t reaching the emotion level it should and it's making rock and roll seem just a bit blah. 

 This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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