Tag Archives: Barry Gibb

Party Piece

GREASE

Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 29th May, 2017

 

When it was first staged in the 1970s, the show was a nostalgic look-back at supposedly simpler times.  The film version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as positively geriatric teenagers, became a phenomenal global hit, still highly popular, and giving the stage show a new lease of life that shows no signs of failing.  Inevitably, with the film so fixed in the popular consciousness, there are audience expectations that director David Gilmore must meet.  We know how Grease should be done.  Or we think we do.  Some of the songs don’t appear at the same points in the story as they do in the screenplay.  Other numbers, only background music in the film, are given centre stage here.  Conversely, what appears in the film but not in the show, has been interpolated here: chiefly, the opening number by songwriter supremo, Barry Gibb.

Plotwise, it couldn’t be simpler.  Boy meets girl but they’re in different groups at high school, where peer pressure is irresistible… Who will change to overcome the cultural divide?

Frankly, the T-Birds, all leather jackets and DA haircuts, come across as a bunch of twats.  Danny (Tom Parker) feels obliged to deny his feelings for Sandy (Danielle Hope) in order to keep in with his laddish mates.  For her part, Sandy is too straitlaced to be fully integrated into the girls’ gang, the Pink Ladies.  Parker, former member of boyband The Wanted, sings competently; his real strength is in the physical comedy of his portrayal.  Hope is suitably prim as Sandy, her singing voice rich and with a more mature sound than her girlfriends.

Louisa Lytton is a brassy Rizzo.  She gets the ‘dramatic’ moments when a pregnancy scare allows her to belt out There Are Worse Things I Could Do.  Like Danny, she is hampered by her public image.  Revealing her true self would be a sign of weakness.  And so, the show is about the pressures on teens to conform – with whatever group they wish to be part of.   Also, Frenchy (a vivacious Rhiannon Chesterman) feels she can’t tell her friends she has flunked out of beauty school, while her would-be suitor Doody (Ryan Heenan) is physically incapable of stringing the words together to ask her to the dance.

Heenan stands out among the T-Birds as the likeable, little one.  He gets a couple of solo moments, showcasing his talents.

Greased Lightning is a big production number with Tom Senior’s Kenickie cranked up to 11.  It’s loud and brash, laddism writ large.  It’s like being beaten up by a song.

Treat of the night comes from a cameo appearance by ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond himself as a somewhat superannuated Teen Angel.  Pure showbiz royalty, Osmond knows when to milk it, knows when to be cheesy – how dairy!  His song brings the house down and such is his charisma and the fact that IT’S JIMMY OSMOND, we hardly notice the showgirls swanning around in true Las Vegas style.

The energetic ensemble generates a lot of heat.  Arlene Phillips’s choreography is flashy and fun, adding to the infectious quality of the show.  People are here to have a good time.  This audience doesn’t need warming up.  It’s a party of a show, a guaranteed good time and a chance to escape from whatever it is you might want to escape from.  Cosy and safe, Grease is a reliable crowd-pleaser – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

grease

You’re the one from The Wanted, oo-oo ooh. Tom Parker and Danielle Hope

 

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Just One Falsetto

BARRY GIBB: “Mythology”

LG Arena, NEC, Saturday 21st September, 2013

 

I don’t usually review concerts on this blog but in this case I make an exception.

You don’t have to be a Bee Gees fan to recognise the song writing mega-talent of the eldest (and surviving) Gibb brother, Barry.  Together with brothers Robin and Maurice, he is responsible for some of the catchiest pop music of the last five decades.

But who isn’t a Bee Gees fan to some degree?  I’m a lifelong obsessive so I relished the chance to see the last surviving member of the band performing live.

The show begins with a video clip: Gibb sings Technicolor Dreams, a bouncy little song about the silver screen that sets the tone.  Tonight is going to be about nostalgia, to be sure, but there is also going to be warmth and humour.

The great man himself strides on in black, not so much a silver fox as a platinum lion.  The mane is still there, as are the beard and the teeth.  The video screens show us in massive close-up: Barry Gibb still has a twinkle in his eye.  He opens with Jive Talkin’ and Lonely DaysYou Should Be Dancing gets us on our feet.  Already in these three numbers, we realise the distinctive voice is still there in all its range and beauty.  Gibb can still belt, can still pull off the breathy whisper, and the sweet, searing falsetto has lost none of its power.

The other brothers’ absence is felt, but they are also present, in the slide shows and the reminiscences but mostly of course in the legacy of their music.  Gibb launches into I Started a Joke only for video footage of late brother Robin to take over in the second verse.  We all stand up, in celebration and tribute.  There is a lot of love in the room.

The back catalogue is outstanding.  There is no way Gibb can cover everything but most of the biggest numbers are here: the Saturday Night Fever classics especially, interspersed with some older, less well-known songs.  Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You is a moment of weirdness with Gibb’s eldest son Stephen, a mountain man with a biker beard, intoning the Latin incantation that heralds each verse.  With The Sun In My Eyes is a tone poem, a beautiful ballad with one of my favourite Gibb lyrics ever, “Who is the clown that walks in the steps of my shadow?”

Maurice’s daughter Sammy joins her uncle to duet on How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? – she also has a solo spot for the Diana Ross smash Chain Reaction.  One of the three backing vocalists, BethCohen steps forward to duet on the Streisand hit Guilty, and to take centre stage for one of that diva’s biggest ever hits, Woman In Love.

If pressed to pick a highlight (impossible!) it’s when Gibb duets with his son for I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You. Gibb junior has a rich, rough rock voice, complementing the smoother and softer stylings of Gibb senior– The song is an example of the brothers’ storytelling abilities.  Other numbers highlight an impressionistic approach to lyrics, but above all it’s the melodies that hook you in, perfect pop refrains, time and time again.  It’s not only words that take your heart away; it’s the tunes as well.

The show ends with Words, dedicated to Linda, Gibb’s wife of 43 years.  It is a celebration of their life together and their growing family: five kids and eight grandkids (so far), and a look to the future, after all the losses this musical dynasty has sustained.

For two and a half hours I am transported.  Memories of my own are summoned – Gibb truly has provided a soundtrack for my life.  Judging by the energy and quality of his performance, Gibb (now in his late 60s) looks and sounds like he’s got many more years in him yet (jokes about erectile dysfunction aside!).  I really hope so. 

As Gibb points out in Immortality, with images of all his brothers (Andy included) and his parents on the screen behind him, ‘we don’t say goodbye.’  The lost Gibbs live on as long as the songs continue to be played.

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 You can check out what else is on at the LG Arena here.