Dream Lover Review
It isn’t true that you live only once. You only die once. You live lots of times, if you know how.” – Bobby Darin.
The legacy of American entertainer Bobby Darin lives on in Dream Lover, the latest biographical musical– a genre made popular by the likes of Jersey Boys – to hit town, making its worldwide debut at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise this genre is now a mainstay of the theatre world – after all, music stars tend to lead interesting lives and despite dying at the young age of 37, Darin is no exception.
Diagnosed with rheumatic fever as a child and suffering a serious heart condition as a result, doctors warned he wouldn’t live beyond his teenage years but Darin set out to prove them wrong and give his all to his music career in the way only those living on borrowed time can. A singer, songwriter, movie star, cabaret performer and TV host, he was also married to Gidget star Sandra Dee, making them one of Hollywood’s first glamour couples. Throw in a family bombshell, and it’s the sort of story that proves real life is often more interesting than fiction.
Thanks to a thorough childhood musical education of all things 50’s, 60’s and 70’s from my parents, I pride myself on knowing more about music from that era than most of my fellow Gen Y counterparts, but I have to admit to not knowing much about the Bobby Darin story. I’m obviously not alone based on a conversation heard at intermission:
“He’s singing Michael Bublé songs,” says the 20-something woman in front of me at intermission.
“They’re his songs!” corrects her companion.
And there in part lies the broad appeal of Dream Lover. Older audience members will appreciate the music of their time and reliving the story of an icon, while the younger crowd will still tap their feet along to familiar tunes (that they may or may not have been educated on by Mr Bublé) and enjoy the narrative’s twists and turns.
There’s always risk in bringing a new story to the stage but that risk is significantly lessened when the lead role is in the very capable hands of David Campbell. On stage for nearly the show’s two and a half hour entirety, he brings the self-assured confidence of a seasoned musical theatre performer to the show and by the end, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
The supporting cast hold their own too with special mention to theatre royalty Caroline O’Connor in two contrasting roles of Darin’s salt of the earth mother Polly and Sandra Dee’s pushy stage mum, Mary.
All good bio-musicals bring classic tunes to life and Dream Lover is no exception with an impressive 40 songs performed in full or in part and backed up by an 18 piece big band suspended on stage.
Campbell’s cabaret background makes his rendition of opening number Mack the Knife enough to have you making a mental note to purchase the soundtrack. The most fun of the night is reserved for Splish Splash, performed with an energy that makes it impossible not to smile along.
So grab the music lover in your life and make it a date. In the words of Bobby Darin, “You live lots of times, if you know how,” and a night out at Dream Lover is definitely living done right.