The life and times of 1950s/’60s Aussie rock idol, Johnny O’Keefe, provide serviceable fodder for a rollicking retro-tuner in “Shout! The Legend of the Wild One,” which rates high on the clap-along, feel-good meter. A re-vamped version of the 2001 original, the current show (now wrapping its Melbourne leg before moving to Sydney) boasts gleaming production values, big orchestral sound and mostly strong perfs from a cast that cannily mixes younger and older talents from the national music scene.
O’Keefe, himself, was something of a raw, home-grown talent who came into his raucous own at a time when Oz pop was still dominated by U.S. and U.K. imports. This nice Catholic boy forged the way for future local industry stars, attaining national icon status despite a personal life plagued by drink, drugs and mental breakdown.
The volatile nature of the late performer’s life-journey is more signaled than actually explored here and constitutes a thin narrative excuse for one-hit-after-another on a powerhouse playlist, expertly delivered by an enthusiastic ensemble.
Although more of a pleasing tenor than baritone belter, Tim Campbell acquits himself capably as the eponymous JO’K, cutting some sharp moves in designer Roger Kirk’s garish spiv-suits. As his German-migrant sweetheart and future wife, Marianne, the spirited Alexis Fishman, with period-perfect Eydie Gorme looks and vibrant voice, does well in a thankless role.
However, the most memorable moments are courtesy of three older-but-still-golden 1970s singing stars. Colleen Hewett and Glenn Shorrock (ex-Little River Band) are a joy as Johnny’s parents, especially when indulging in sharply written, crowd-baiting shtick with the audience — and later with Campbell and Fishman in a show-stopping rendition of “Mockingbird.” Meanwhile, the ever-infectious John Paul Young impresses in a cleverly contrived series of featured guest cameos ranging from security guard to tartan-trousered sideshow barker.
Climaxing in a rousing flashback to a 1959 all-Australian rock gala, the niftily engineered nostalgia-fest is flamboyantly directed by Stuart Maunder with dynamic choreography by Ross Coleman and dazzling designs by Kirk.