Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen: did these two legends of Australian pop music influence each other … or even meet? Amelia Ryan and Michael Griffiths couldn’t find any photos of them together on Google. How should they correct this appalling deficiency for the public? By putting on the show Livvy & Pete: The Songs of Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen at Midsumma!
Ok, that probably makes about as much sense as the plot of Newton-John’s film Xanadu. But, suppose you can let go of pesky things like reason. Then, you’ll be able to appreciate this work as a way for performers to pay tribute to their idols. It will also ease your immersion into a show introduced as “rated C for camp”.
Ryan is a co-winner of the 2012 Your Theatrics International Cabaret Festival, an achievement she quickly minimized by explaining its limited scope. Aided by a blonde perm and costuming recalling some of the star’s more infamous appearances in film and music videos, Ryan bears a good likeness to Livvy. She also did a good job of imitating her idol in a selection of well-known tunes, and capturing the (oh-so-)dramatic heights within songs such as Suddenly.
Helpmann Award-winning Griffiths is an accomplished pianist. He showed his experience by modulating his volume, providing a good example for younger performers learning the craft.
Vocally, this was a mixed bag. At times Griffiths seemed to overdo a “show biz” accent on songs that didn’t suit his voice particularly well. When the performance was more restrained – such as on Tenterfield Saddler – we could quickly forget those cheesy abuses of Peter Allen’s songs around, and the lyrics achieved their tear-jerking potential.
Ryan and Griffiths clearly enjoyed themselves in their duets, such as Summer Nights from Grease. Both performers also gave some insight into the background of a song, or what musical selections meant to them, which could provide some illuminating context.
I couldn’t work out why the show name rang a bell, until I recalled this by AAR’s Bill Stephens. Whilst this show was certainly loose at times, it was of a better standard than the instance reviewed earlier. So, congratulations to Bill for having the courage to offer considered criticism, and, it seems, to the performers for having the maturity to take such comments on board. If there was more of this kind of exchange, we would have a consistently better standard of show on offer in Australia, and everyone wins.
And, yes smarty pants, there is one particular work where Livvy and Pete share credit: I Honestly Love You written by Allen and performed by Newton-John. Ryan and Griffiths do a good job of it!
Their show is undemanding fun with a little silliness, an amount of audience participation, costume changes, and maracas, that thoroughly deserves that C rating. This was a pleasant conclusion to a Midsumma evening that began with Steven Kreamer’s enjoyable I Sing Songs in the same venue.
Livvy & Pete: The Songs of Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 23 January 2019 – 8.30pm
Season continues to 27 January 2019
Information and Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com or www.midsumma.org.au
Image: Michael Griffiths and Amelia Ryan in Livvy & Pete: The Songs of Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte