Dream Lover – Bobby Darin lives

 David Campbell revives the memory, music 
and the magnificence of Bobby Darin

Last Thursday night my wife and I attended the evening performance of “Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical” performed at the Melbourne Arts Centre.

Starring David Campbell as Bobby Darin there can be no doubt that he is the perfect choice and his vocal abilities are perfectly in tune with both Bobby Darin the rock/pop singer and Bobby Darin the cabaret and showman.

Also performing is Hannah Fredericksen in the role of Sandra Dee, Darin’s wife – Arole. This is a role she is absolutely perfect for and we loved her. In fact the casting in general is most excellent. 

We have Marney McQueen and Martin Crewes in the roles of Nina (Darin’s sister) and Steve Blauner, Darin’s oldest friend, biggest fan and longtime manager.

Then we have Marina Prior playing the dual roles of former showgirl Polly, Bobby Darin’s mother, and the ambitious, cut throat Mary Douvan, brilliantly playing Sandra Dee’s mother. 

Finally Rodney Dobson plays Charlie, the partner of Nina, a warm father figure to Darin. 

The Melbourne Cast of Dream Lover – the Bobby Darin Story 

While the song Dream Lover plays a pivotal place in the performance, the show covers so much of Darin’s recorded material, material he sang and material he wrote that others sang.

It really is an intimate and epic story of an all-round entertainer adored by his fans. For those who were not around in the period that the musical covers,  Bobby Darin, together with his movie star wife Sandra Dee, provided the iconic soundtrack to a generation.

The 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.

In fact it is almost worth the price of the ticket to watch and listen to the amazing 18-piece “big band” assembled for this show. The horn section is an utter delight and overall it reminds us just how brilliant and powerfully emotional is the music generated by a live and highly talented big band is.

Based on an original concept and stage play by Frank Howson and John-Michael Howson, and adapted for the stage by Frank Howson with Simon Phillips and Carolyn Burns, the show includes 34 great hits from the 50s and 60s.

Frank Howson spent a lot of time with Darin’s family in the USA getting his story first hand, and it shows.  The complexity of his story, such as Bobby Darin’s mother actually being his grandmother and his sister actually being his mother, his presented in a clear to understand manner and yet, in a way that surprises us. Howson has provided us with an accurate storyline that is full of surprises.

Dream Lover writer – Frank Howson

The choreography is spot on and the costumes perfectly reflect the changing periods that the show goes through.  With the big band featuring predominantly on the stage I an arc above the actors, the Director, Simon Phillips, uses the limited stage to its utmost and it’s not just the choreography of the dancers that deserves applause, but the choreography of the scene changing that occurs while the musical is being performed.

So what is my conclusion?  Dream Lover is an extraordinary production. The quality of the individual performances are excellent. The renditions of the songs are simply wonderful, and the performances by the actors deserved the standing applause they got.  

The lighting and the sound production support the performance in the manner in which it deserves. We relive the music and the triumphs and tragedies of this man born as Walden Robert Cassotto – the man who we came to know as, Bobby Darin.

On Friday January 5th, Frank Howson announced that the show had broken all box office records at the Arts centre for pre-show sales.

Miss this show and it’s your your own loss.

Tickets can be ordered by clicking on this icon – 


Dream Lover

David Campbell as Bobby Darin in Dream Lover image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Dream Lover has hit Melbourne like a dazzling and magnificent tsunami of entertainment.

From subject matter in the late, great Bobby Darin through to the original concept and stage play by John Michael Howson and co-writer Frank Howson, adapted for the stage by Frank Howson, Simon Phillips and Caroline Burns through to all the outstanding production team and performances.

The dynamics and genius that fuel this years stage extravaganza in Dream Lover will continue to reverberate.

David Campbell starring as Bobby Darin in Dream Lover image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

I was fortunate enough to be at the second dress rehearsal before opening night.

From beginning to end my body pulsated with toe tapping glee to Bobby Darin’s iconic and  heart warming songs from the fifties and sixties, arranged and conducted by legendary musical supervisor Guy Simpson and performed so beautifully by his amazing orchestra.

The synchronicity between the flawless performances by the actors, the music, the sound design by Michael Waters, the oh so effective and atmospheric lighting design by Paul Jackson, the razor sharp costume design by Tim Chappel and choreography by Andrew Hallsworth; all showcased within one of the most versatile and  sophisticated set designs by Brian Thompson.

The collective genius played me like a Stradivarius emotionally.  I was transported back to my early childhood where Hollywood’s magic and romance reigned.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed the show and would like to thank producers John and Barbara Gilbert from Gilbert Theatrical, the legendary John Frost of GFO and last but not least Director Simon Phillips along with the cast and crew, all of whom received a deserving standing ovation.

By Kerrie Pacholli

Dream Lover’ is on until 1 March 2018 at Arts Centre Melbourne.


What’s in a Song? This question is about to be answered by two internationally successful songwriters in an evening of songs, VIP guest performers (including Sarah Maclaine, Barry Smith & Issi Dye), and stories that will bring laughter and tears, as they frankly discuss the stories behind the songs they have written, and why they were written.

In a one night only exclusive show called “2 GUYS AND THEIR SONGS” Thursday 16th. November at Chapel off Chapel, Frank Howson and Warren Wills will give their audience an insight into the creative process and the events that triggered the inspiration behind their songs. The show will feature songs written for the hit show “GENESIS TO BROADWAY” as well as their upcoming shows “CHOPPER – The Musical” (inspired by the life of Mark “Chopper” Read), “LOVE ME TENDER” (a show about the final years of Elvis Presley), and “GLAM”.

Award winning writer/director/author/recording artist/lyricist & poet Frank Howson

has become an Australian showbiz legend having commenced his career at the age of 7. As a writer/producer and/or director he has over 14 movie credits including the award winning Boulevard of Broken Dreams, What The Moon Saw, Hunting, Flynn, Remembering Nigel amongst others. His theatre credits includes directing the acclaimed Australian production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number, as well as 2 sell-out seasons of Genesis To Broadway (also writer),  and writing Cry Me A River (starring Rhonda Burchmore), and his current smash hit Dream Lover (The Bobby Darin Musical). His songs have been recorded by many international artists including Richie Havens, Eric Idle, Little River Band, Dan Hill, Marc Jordan, John Farnham and many others. Howson also gave Ian Meldrum the nickname “Molly”, and Meldrum recently described him as “one of the most creative minds Australia has yet produced”. A recent exhibition of his paintings (see frankhowson.com) at Fad Gallery was so successful a new exhibition is scheduled for this coming December. 

Multi award-winning Australian born composer /md/pianist/broadcaster /producer, Warren Wills has diverse achievements from the West End end hit,Olivier nominated, Simply Heavenly, the critically acclaimed Genesis to Broadwayto organizing the World Premiere for 2,000 professionals and amateurs alike at the Forth Rail Bridge Centenary Celebrations, to working with RSC, Woody Allen, 28 albums out worldwide (see all info on warrenwillsworld.com) the world premiere  Pinmoney Opera, for which he won the Carling London Best Musical Award. He has md’d and composed for Sheila Ferguson, Pamela Anderson in Aladdin, Ilham al Madfai, and has 25 albums out worldwide for Prestige Records on iTunes, and is delighted to be here again in this workshop environment 

Simon Phillips to Direct Twelfth Night

Dream Lover
Love Never Dies
Love Never Dies
Australia’s favourite and busiest Director Simon Phillips to direct Twelfth Night in MTC’s 2018 season.  Simon is currently in NY directing Love Never Dies for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s American tour.  John Frost co producer of Dream Lover the Bobby Darin musical engaged Simon to bring his vast and successful experience and creativity to Dream Lover which will open at the State Theatre Melbourne later this year.   
 Melbourne Theatre Company
Rounding out the season is a new production of Twelfth Night, directed by MTC’s former artistic director, Simon Phillips. The cast of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy will include Brent Hill, Richard Piper, Christie Whelan Browne, Frank Woodley and Geoffrey Rush. Rush, who will star as Malvolio, and Phillips have worked together before – including on MTC’s 2011 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Rush played Lady Bracknell in Phillips’s final season as director of the company.

The Way Out

Close your eyes, really tight, breath the clean air and even just a for a second, imagine a bleak and dystopian place that has snatched from us all that is great about this country. Now, was that difficult, or is it not so much of a far reaching prophecy?

For debuting play-write Josephine Collins, this is the backdrop to which her characters and narrative are set. The writing is tightly wound stuff, taking the form of a rambling conversation shared over a pint in some backwater pub with an old timer, busy spinning yarns ’bout old time.

From the perspective of this being the first full length theatrical work written by Collin’s, there’s a finite attention to detail, a strongly developed nuance of the interaction between and the importance of character and back story.  The allusion to narrative device is a deliberate choice, lingering questions left post performance. It’s  undeniably political without being brash, and a strong example of activism through art. The Way Out touches upon and references the current day in an eerie and eluding way. The mention of bodies being strung up along the exterior of Flinders St Station, a beautiful image and notion to introduce. Here similarities can be drawn to the recent adaption to screen of Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale.

Penny Harpham, director, has really brought to life these characters and their story. Particularly drawing out and using the overriding testosterone seeping from the pores of the loping young male characters. Odd moments of humour appear and simmer, each performer and their intertwined stories ricochet off each other and with a great rhythm found already, so early into it’s season. The richness offered up makes for a strong basis, but some characters do need to soften a little.

Bringing the dystopian future into a visual reality, the work of set designer Charlotte Lane, here transforming the intimate Red Stitch Theatre into a ramshackle pub a location and set not dissimilar to scenes from Fury Road. Lit beautifully, and with elements of the se extending further than the stage itself, this production easily traverses the fourth wall . 

Noting that Bruce Springsteen was to some degree the inspiration for the musical score- created by Daniel Dixon, may seem a curious choice, but the more one thinks about this obvious conclusions between countries and times do emerge. His resulting collaboration and work on this production is a nice edition, and gives a cinematic edge to the production.

This work has been a labour of love for so many, with creative development spanning a number of years. Made a reality by Red Stitch and their INK program, it’s a bold choice to support the presentation of new material by a new playwright, and for this Red Stitch have triumphed. Truely great theatre. 

For more info, or to book your tickets click here.








2017 NICHE

Kicking round the local theatre scene and treading the boards both locally and further afield for around a decade, Elbow Room have once again delivered a potent work, dripping with their trademark darwinistic style. Niche bridges such far divides as our evolution from primate to man to now, where in an almost canabilistic fashion we seek out, hunt and consume the popular culture corporations feed us and is sought through social media feeds.

It’s fanciful stuff, sometimes dwelling that moment to long on a single point of contention, to only, secondly laters break into the most extravagant musical interludes that would make even the most seasoned drag queen moist at the crutch.

The music plays a huge part in this performance, the creative love child of Eryn Jean Norvill, Marcel Dorney and Robin Waters. If ever their careers in theatre fail (which is not at all likely), they could easily break out into the world of popular music and production- move over Gaga.

A two hander, with the performances of Emily Tomlins and Erym Jean Norvill impressive particularly in final scenes where the power play between these two woman channels just a little  Baby Jane. The on stage action is constantly disrupted by projections of both actresses, taking on roles that in direct response challenge, mimic and criticise the Australian identity for want of a better definition. These mise en scènes providing a much need comedic antidote;  

Lighting is used effectively, however the production team may have spent more time assessing how the performance, and it set respond to and sits within in space. Site lines, here are an unfortunate issue. 

For all the glitter, the performance does perhaps reach an uneasy and to early crescendo, with final scenes missing several exits off this freeway of cataclysmic exploitation it. But not with standing, the proceeding fifty minutes of theatre is well worth the ticket price.

I first discovered the work of Elbow Room nine years ago, then presenting upstairs at the Lithuanian Club in North Melbourne, as part of Melbourne Fringe. After what has been close enough to a decade,  to now reconnect with this company, has been a privilege, and stands as an example of the strength, resilience and talent present here in Melbourne. They may be continuing to reach maturity and the depth that other contemporaries have reached, but this work is certainly a step in the right direction and they are damn close to delivering us a knock out performance.

You will walk away from this one, barely able to register what has just transpired, in the most beautiful way. With the banging soundtrack playing on loop inside your head for days to come. Niche plays Northcote Town Hall this week till Saturday, get on it folks.

For more info, or to book tickets click here

The Real And Imagined History Of The Elephant Man

Melbourne audiences have recently been offered up a plethora  of theatrical works made in the same gothic style, brooding, incomplete and fanciful experiences. This work may however remain proof that a tight production, abundance of smoke effects, emotive sound, lights and everything else at your disposal, won’t always prove enough to wow an audience. 

The dramatic exploitation of physically disabled characters. Parallels drawn between London in years proceeding the industrial revolution and our present, here unspoken truth of climate change. These parallels between place and person proof enough of the works artistic merit.  But when a vast majority of art and theatre now collectively seek to push an agenda or incite conversation, each voice has to be  heard louder than the last.

The script limits the depth of these characters, none granted enough premise to foster connection. A radical empathy or sense there of, desperately missing. Having single performers take to multiple characters here has back fired, the resulting effect is confusing, oft missing the mark. The heightened sense of reality which builds in opening scenes, seemingly promises something great; but dissipates quickly. With all the important bits like character, connection, back story and plot lost, the performance canters along and soon falls into its own fail safe rhythm.

There is no great ending or resonate sensation left post performance. Theatre centres around and is at its best a study into the human condition. Not just a moment, but something which is documented, archived and kept. This work aught to be so much more, so much better than it is. Could it be that classic story telling is dead or now lacks some of its resonance? Could a fresh approach to this subject matter, more time or a more intuitive knowledge of the creative fabric that is Melbourne, given us what this performance should have been?

This work has great bone structure though little else. See it for the spectacle, but don’t look to close, nor think to deeply- this is decent theatre, but still leaves much to be desired.

The Real And Imagined History Of The Elephant Man is now playing at Malthouse Theatre, for more info or to book you tickets click here

Pins and Needles

Written by Thomas Ian Doyle
Directed by Gabrielle Savrone

Lucinda Cowden
Mardi Edge
Aston Elliot
David Macrae
Ticket Bookings

A cutting comedy exploring the love and the lives of two middle-aged married couples who decide that it’s time to explore their silent sexual desires. Carolyn and Gregg set the table, whilst Joe and Fay make the bed, as they all venture to navigate love in the modern generation. But with their younger years behind them, this proves more adventuresome than expected.

4th -13th October, 8pm

Bowie and Mercury Rising

Chapel Off Chapel – July 26-30 2017

International composer Warren Wills’ tribute to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie is a visual mess. This bemusing mishmash of montage, interpretive dance and lasers does little to honour the memories of these late icons. The often-convoluted arrangements highlight Wills’ skills rather than allowing the music to shine, detracting from the tribute.

From the obvious head shots of Bowie and Mercury through to seemingly random stock images of scenery, the projected montage has the coherence and professionalism of a school PowerPoint presentation. The transitions between images are choppy and they seem to serve no purpose other than filling in space.

Fortunately, Melbourne RnB singer and actress Thando Sikwila, whose credits include Dreamgirls and The Colour Purple, graces Chapel Off Chapel with her powerhouse vocals once again for Bowie and Mercury Rising. Offering some redemption for the disorienting visuals, Sikwila’s rich, smooth vocals supported by Wills on piano are the main draw for the show.

Inexplicably marketed as a musical, Bowie and Mercury Rising is more cabaret than musical, and more ‘inspired-by’ than tribute. Sikwila is given the host-esque role of cohering the performance, but her awkward dialogue of puns and impersonal anecdotes between songs fall flat. Don’t expect a story and don’t expect an emotional journey; there’s little in terms of narrative to guide the audience, and Sikwila unfortunately lacks the warmth and charisma needed to drive the performance in this role.

The show’s lighting budget appears to have been allocated to gear rather than design. Jason Bovaird’s light design demonstrates the same lack of cohesion as the other elements of the show. Late in the performance, a short laser show is as unexpected as it is underwhelming, apparently moving through all available settings rather than having any semblance of structure. Lights also occasionally blind the audience; squinting at the stage through the brightness, I can see I’m not the only one shielding my eyes from the glare.

Melbourne dancer Jessica Mortlock is undoubtedly talented, but her contribution to the show does little to ease the jarringly incohesive show. From writhing beneath sheets to gyrating atop the piano and later donning retro clothing to enthusiastically grin dance like the next member of High-5, Mortlock’s choreography treats each song as an individual show with no thought to the overarching performance. Mortlock clashes energetically with the laid back Sikwila, gently swaying while she sings.

Bowie and Mercury Rising should probably come with an epilepsy warning and complimentary sunglasses. Nevertheless, Sikwila and Wills will at least entertain you with this Bowie- and Mercy-inspired cabaret.