JASON DONOVAN: Amazing Midlife Crisis Tour
Artrix, Bromsgrove, Wednesday 8th May, 2019
I remember a Jason Donovan gig at the NEC at the height of his teenybop fame. I remember standing and watching over a sea of screaming tweens, with the heads of parents dotted here and there, bobbing like buoys. Tonight, thirty years later (bloody hell) the mums are out in force and there’s no sign of a kid in sight. As Donovan has grown and developed from teen idol/soap superstud so his audience has matured. The show is not a concert but a retrospective natter about Donovan’s life and career, prompted by reaching his 50th birthday last year, and he proves himself an engaging raconteur, regaling us with anecdote after anecdote, all of them laced with down-to-Earth Aussie humour and swearing.
He speaks of his early life as only child to a famous single parent, his early forays into television before his big break in sunshine soap Neighbours, culminating in the iconic wedding of Scott and Charlene. We are shown brief clips, but it’s enough to get the nostalgia gland working.
There’s his pop career, his relationship with Kylie, the diversification into musical theatre. I have fond memories of him in his loin cloth, playing Lloyd Webber’s Joseph at the London Palladium. Sigh…
There’s Priscilla, the ‘Jungle’, Strictly…
Donovan speaks frankly about the highs and the lows of finding fame so young. The cocaine (highs, which are lows, I suppose). He suffers from a throat problem that means he has botox injections in his neck every few months. We can hear the croakiness – luckily, his singing voice is unaffected and, he quips, he now has the best-looking neck in showbusiness!
He is joined on stage by guitarist Marcus Bonfanti and we are treated to acoustic renditions of a couple of his biggest hits. We sing along and it’s a lovely communion.
There’s a Q and A to round things off. Audience members have jotted questions on postcards and he reads them out and answers them with good humour. Most of them involve propositions (and no, I refrained from adding my plea to the pile!); I suspect a couple of them are staged, providing funny call-backs to earlier stories.
What comes across most of all is openness, warmth and a complete lack of pretension. Jason Donovan may not have reached the Hollywood heights of Neighbours co-star Guy Pearce or the apotheosis of Kylie Minogue, but he reminds us tonight of how ingrained he is into popular culture. It’s touching to hear him speak about his wife and kids. It’s also moving to reflect on the passage of time, how life has affected him, how it has affected us, in the decades that have passed since he first pointed out there are too many broken hearts in the world.
Ah, Jason, you didn’t break my heart but you certainly touched it.