Cabaret Festival Review: Andrew O’Keefe “Shouts” Johnny O’Keefe

Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock rebel.  There at the dawn of rock and roll music in the 1950’s, O’Keefe blazed a massive trail.  Labelled ‘the Australian Elvis’, his wild ways cemented his place in local history.  Australia loves a naughty larrikin, of which O’Keefe certainly was.  His sometimes reckless behaviour eventually saw his career become derailed, but not from the hearts of fans.

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Presented by: Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed:  14 June 2018

Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock rebel.  There at the dawn of rock and roll music in the 1950’s, O’Keefe blazed a massive trail.  Labelled ‘the Australian Elvis’, his wild ways cemented his place in local history.  Australia loves a naughty larrikin, of which O’Keefe certainly was.  His sometimes reckless behaviour eventually saw his career become derailed, but not from the hearts of fans. Although he died in 1978, his legacy endures with many tribute acts to the ‘Wild One’.  Songs such as Shout and others have become radio standards.  Even those born after his death would have heard one of his tracks used in countless commercials and retro TV shows.

Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, O’Keefe’s family have tried over the years to emulate his success.  His daughter Vicki attempted pop stardom in the early 80’s by appearing on Countdown. Now it’s the turn of his nephew, the multi-talented Andrew O’Keefe.  He is no stranger to local viewers due to his appearance as the host of TV game shows such as Deal or No Deal and The Chase Australia.  Getting his start in musical theatre, O’Keefe is well versed in entertaining his audience.  In a world premiere exclusive to the Cabaret Festival, he brings his own personal observations on being the nephew of an icon.  Mixed with these anecdotes were his singing of his Uncle’s beloved classics.

Bounding on the Festival Theatre stage just like his dynamic Uncle, Andrew O’Keefe immediately began to belt out one of J O’K’s classic tunes.  From the first moments, it was evident this would be a very personal show.  Exploring the Johnny O’Keefe mystique from a unique familial perspective, O’Keefe delved deeper into revealing his Uncle’s humanity.  J O’K clearly wore his heart on his sleeve and what you saw was what you got.  A man with huge flaws but who faced them and got on with things, these attributes came across extremely well.  Charting his determination to ‘make it big’ to chart success, downfall, resurgence and legacy, the show was packed with fascinating, hilarious and even sad moments of his remarkable life.

The majority of J O’K’s tunes were aired.  She’s My Baby and many others were cheered by the very enthusiastic crowd.  The place was brimming with fans of all ages and their glee in having a bit of a taste of the era of golden rock and roll was palatable.  Whilst Andrew O’Keefe is certainly no J O’K with several wonky moments during songs, he at least captured the dynamic energy of their lyrics.  Exploring the background behind each track, these successfully enabled full engagement in each tune. This set the show apart from others as it was clearly well thought out and with the chronological structure welcome.  The backing band of 5 musicians and amazing female vocalist were top-notch and as he is on his various TV engagements, Andrew O’Keefe was a very amiable host. His breezy delivery and ability to take not taking himself so seriously made for a fun and diverting ninety minute tribute.

Andrew O’Keefe ‘Shouts’ Johnny O’Keefe was a very well researched and interesting examination of an Australian musical legend.  Unafraid in revealing said icon still stood in a feet of clay, this didn’t diminish his impact on the 20th century cultural landscape.  Although the O’Keefe entertainment legend continues with his nephew, Johnny O’Keefe’s name should endure going by the huge round of applause at the show’s energy-filled finale.

Rating out of 5:  4

Reviewed by: Patrick Moore
Twitter: @PatrickMoore14

Venue: Festival Theatre Stage
Season: 13 – 16 June 2018
Duration: 1 hr, 10 mins.
Tickets: Premium – Adult: $59.90, A Reserve:  Adult – $54.90, Concession – $49.90.
Bookings: Book online at www.bass.net.au or phone BASS on 131 246

 

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