Shout – The Legend of The Wild One

‘Shout! The Legend of The Wild One’ is a brilliant, adult orientated Australian musical, based on the life and times of Johnny O’Keefe the undisputed King of Australian Rock and Roll. The musical, which is a raw and honest account of O’Keefe’s life, was developed from the book by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow. It Premiered in Melbourne at the State Theatre in December 2000 and was nominated at the 2001 Helpmann Awards for Best Direction of a Musical, with a second award for David Campbell as O’Keefe – Best Male Actor in a Musical. The album, with sales of over 35,000 was certified gold in Australia. It received the ARIA Award for Best Original Cast/Show Album in 2001.

This fast-moving presentation is a jukebox musical with 33 instantly recognisable tracks in the two and a half sparkling hours. There are songs by O’Keefe and hits by many other celebrities from the 1950s and 1960s.

This breath of fresh air, a 150-minute production is presented by the Koorliny Arts Centre and Kwinana Industries Council in the large, Theatre 1 in the Koorliny Arts Centre. This theatre has wide comfortable seats and a good leg space. The three-week season runs on Fridays and Saturdays until 7th March. Curtain up at 7.30 pm. Booking essential.

The Scene: 1974 in the derelict Sydney stadium, where twenty years earlier Johnny had performed to a huge audience.

The Set: was by Jon Lambert. The walls are a grubby dark grey. At each side of the stage is an archway. The blank rear wall acts as a screen for date and place information. This wall splits in two and when drawn aside reveals a glittering theatre stage with The DeeJays Band, O’Keefe’s backing group. The musicians included:- on keyboard, the Musical Director Shanice Tudor; reeds, Talitha Dunn and Wayne Griffiths; on brass – trumpet, Jack Ready and trombone, Michael Baker; guitars, Vlad Sturdy and Johnny Jazuli; Bass, Christian Ingram and on drums Ben Shelley. These musicians completely captured the atmosphere of the era 60 years ago – well before they were born.

It is rare to learn that a theatre’s or Art Centre’s General Manager has rolled up her sleeves and became a set painter Good on ya Kate.

Lighting designer Jon Lambert covered several scenes from the dark spooky stadium through to the special ‘nightclub’ and the authentic dance hall’s flashing lights.

Stage manager Brittany Kirk employed the actors and ensemble to quickly and skilfully wheel in and out desks, hospital beds, rostra and domestic furniture; often whilst part of the action is still taking place. Even a large decorated Christmas tree was removed in silence. Great work.

                It is 1974 and with flashlights in hand, Johnny O’Keefe (Laurence Williams) wanders around Sydney stadium’s rubble with his new fiancée (Brittney Northcott). He starts to tell her about his visit and concert there two decades earlier.

                John’s Mum, Thelma O’Keefe (Jane Anderson) and Dad, Ray O’Keefe (Peter Shaw) want Johnny to go into their family business, but Johnny has bigger plans. While out with his friends, he spots an attractive German girl, Marianne (Claudia van Zeller) and tells her of his ambitions. Later he met a group of boy singers who called themselves The Deltones – Pee Wee (Jordan Jackson), Warren (in cognito, was it really Allen Blachford), Col (Jesse Angus) and Brian (Liam Gobbert) who have incredible vocal harmony and are looking for a lead singer.

Johnny is frustrated by his lack of progress and so when he meets a devious American entrepreneur,  Lee Gordon (Jon Lambert) he signs up for a career path and a life of drugs. Johnny soon has a new backing group of attractive young girls (Stacey Hollings, Eloise Kirk and Brittney Northcott), things look good.

We are taken on a rollercoaster ride as Johnny goes to America, the UK and Wagga Wagga.

The hard-working and extremely talented ensemble includes Matthew Ballantine, Rohan Baudains, Xander Baudains, Chantel Bell, Erin Bullivant, Colin Howe, Sarah Hubber, Jemma Humphries, Jenny Lawrence, Johnny McCarthy, Jordie Mears, Cody Patel, Marcus Petrolo, Murray Petrone and Maddy Wells. This group had several members with a degree in theatrical performance along with some other very young members who were also extremely accomplished. The two groups blended together seamlessly.

The director Brad Tudor and his assistant director Rachel Monamy have carefully chosen a perfect cast, who have captured the atmosphere of the era amazingly well. From the marvellous Deltones harmonies to the poignant solo ‘Ave Maria’ by Brittney Northcott.

Likewise, choreographer Allen Blachford has selected some outstanding dancers – although I believe they queue at his door to appear in his shows. Costume designer Brad Tudor bought back perfection with his boppers and jivers who wore full-circle poodle skirts and paper nylon petticoats.

With any musical based on original well-known songs by famous artists, the audience’s expectancy is often unfairly high, but even so, in this show every single song was delivered with perfection. Congrats to Shanice Tudor and all her singers.

An unexpected highlight was Lulu’s amazing but hilarious version of ‘Shout’. Then there was a delightful and fun ‘interlude’ when Johnny’s staid and naive parents arrived to see one of his concerts.

As the Sydney Morning Herald said, “Wild One brings house down! An obvious crowd pleaser. The production attains poignancy and dramatic conflict. A nostalgia trip but also an exciting entertainment.”

If you are an oldie and remember this era, then go and see an authentic glimpse of the time. If you are a youngster, just go and be surprised at what you have missed and how cool your parents were.

Not surprisingly Koorliny reaped yet another bundle of Finley Awards this year.

A brilliant production. WOW, a top rate production from an incredible company.