Shout! The Legend of the Wild One

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.

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.

Shout! The Legend of the Wild One

Victorian Arts Center/State Theater, Melbourne, Australia; 2,000 seats; A$99.90 $92top

  • Production: A Dennis Smith and John Gilbert presentation of a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by various composers, book by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow. Directed by Stuart Maunder. Musical director, supervisor and arranger, Stephen "Spud" Murphy. Choreography, Ross Coleman.
  • Crew: Sets and costumes, Roger Kirk; lighting, Trudy Dalgleish; sound, Michael David Smeaton; production stage manager, Kirsten Marr. Opened Jan. 4, 2008. Reviewed Feb. 15. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.
  • Cast: Johnny O'Keefe - Tim Campbell Marianne - Alexis Fishman Thelma O'Keefe - Colleen Hewett Ray O'Keefe - Glenn Shorrock Lee Gordon - Mark Holden Guest Roles - John Paul Young Musical Numbers: "Wild One (Real Wild Child)," "Cry," "Rock Around the Clock," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Get a Job," "Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop," "She Wears My Ring," "Chapel of Love," "Right Now," "Shout," "Mockingbird," "I'm Counting on You," "She's My Baby," "Sing, Sing, Sing!," "Move, Baby, Move," "The Purple People Eater," "Witch Doctor," "Crazy," "Bye, Bye, Baby Goodbye," "Mr. Bassman," "Rock 'n' Roll Will Stand."