The Sunday Session at Hong Kong’s leading live music venue, The Wanch, was spiced up last Sunday July 24, 2016 with appearances by Aussie film and musical theatre writer and director, the impresario Frank Howson.

Barry O’Rorke, Brian Greytak, Phil Whelan, Rocky Dabscheck and Frank Howson take the Hong Kong Drinking Oath of Allegiance at the Wanch

The Sunday Session acts as a scoop for the cream of Filipino musical talent in Hong Kong where they proliferate throughout the entire live music scene in Hong Kong’s 5 star hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs. They come to create a warm and convivial party atmosphere for the one day a week off for foreign domestic workers who for the other six days of the week, slave away to earn a paltry income most of which is repatriated back home to support their families. This is their day to let their hair down and have some fun relaxing from the rigors of their daily toil. Fortunately they have a chance to do with a some of the best musicians in town.

Frank Howson and Barry Robinson with a drifter in front of the Wanch music bar
Frank Howson and Barry Robinson with a drifter in front of the Wanch music bar

Frank Howson certainly quickened the pace and added greatly to the sense of excitement all were experiencing when the spotlight fell upon him as he fronted Armando Cada’s band, Armie and Friends. Having appeared at the Wanch four or five times over the past few years during his visits to Hong Kong, the dance floor was flooded with those familiar with his musical style as they danced and jived to his impressive singing.

Later he returned to the stage to front a group of very tight professional musicians, Benji Del Santos’ The FRC Band (Folk Country Rock). Benji’s group specialise with some of the classic sounds of the 70s and 80s ranging from Eagles, James Brown, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Beatles, Clapton, Bee Gees, Dire Straits etc. Once again, Frank had the joint a rockin’, especially with a reggae version of the Bob Dylan classic, ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. The audience was eating out of his hand as a supplicating communion of souls danced in tune with the musical message of seeking forgiveness and understanding for their sins. He had tapped into a strong theme not lost on a predominantly waxed, wavering and those still firmly entrenched, Catholic Filipino audience, and he hit gold!

Armando Cada with orange juice, band leader of Armie and Friends band

Frank Howson is currently in Hong Kong to tie up some loose ends before the premier of his new musical extravaganza which is soon to hit Sydney like a tsunami, along with exploring some new creative endeavours he has on the go. In fact Frank Howson is entering into a new golden age where many of his past pursuits that have been relegated to a back room, have been brought out into the sunshine, dusted off, and are suddenly starting to pay off big time.

Frank Howson and Marly Apostol

These include Frank Howson being sought out by an international film distributor who is taking his latest film, “Remembering Nigel” to Cannes Film Festival this year and distributing internationally his backlist of films along with actively promoting ‘Nigel’. He has just had a new book published. His musical, “From Genesis to Broadway” is doing just that. Negotiations are underway to have it finally staged on Broadway. Plus lots of other creative new veins have been taking place in his life especially with a range of new musical projects he has been working on, and music videos he has produced for other performers. And lots more, far too extensive to cover here.

Benji Del Santos and his FRC Band

Of course the cream of the crop has to be the new musical stage play, Dream Lover, he has co-written with his cousin, the internationally famous writer, director, broadcaster and actor John Michael Howson. Due for release in Sydney in September this year, this musical with a sensational cast of over 40 top performers, covers the life of the extraordinary story of legendary singer, songwriter and actor Bobby Darin. Starring David Campbell, Caroline O’Connor, Hannah Fredericksen, Bert LaBonte, Martin Crewes and Marney McQueen and directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical), the show presents great hits from the 50s and 60s including Mack The Knife, Beyond the Sea and the multi-million-seller Dream Lover.

This musical captures the glamour and passion of the big band era, the Rat Pack in Vegas and the Golden Age of Hollywood – a time of trail-blazing stars, knock-out fashions and life-changing events. As well a sensational cast, with over 40 on stage including an 18-piece big band, Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical is a big show with a big score and a big heart.

Dream Lover trailer:

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Currently a writer of ESL materials and a teacher of English and Japanese in Hong Kong, his journey to the East started in the 1850's goldfield town of Ballaarat where the Eureka Rebellion took place on Dec 4 1854. After 2 decades there he then went on to spend three decades in Melbourne to pursue studies at Monash Secondary Teachers College (Rusden) and La Trobe University before taking up an active role in (Asian) furniture making and design, alongside running a business with his partner that had a dramatic impact on migrant education in Australia, the opening up of the overseas student market to Australian schools and institutions, and provided a link for Australian educators to establish their expertise throughout the Asia region, particularly in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. On the way to Asia with an obligatory trip around Australia in mind to see his own country, Darwin and the Northern Territory captivated him. Shortly after arriving, he found himself resident in Alice Springs, in the heart of the Australia, where he had for the first time, contact with Aboriginal people and the problems that confront them in a land that has largely left them marginalised. That was a real learning curve for him and is something that empowers him to see they have their problems redressed in a just and equitable way. For a culture that has existed for over 60,000 years, the world's oldest continuing living culture, that had never been messed with prior to the 1788 British First Fleet of convicts, of whom some of his roots came from, the takeover of their land and their culture deserves nothing less. However the East has always been something that's fascinated him since childhood. After many trips to Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, The Philippines and Indonesia over the years, it wasn't until 2008 that he was finally able to live in the heart of this region, in Hong Kong.