Olivia Newton John and Peter Allen are two giants of Australian pop music of whom I know next to nothing about. Peter Allen's music I know almost exclusively from car and aeroplane commercials, and although I'm familiar with all the obvious Olivia Newton John hits, her singles had stopped charting by the time I'd entered my formative years. There's a hole in my knowledge and appreciation of these two major artists, that is, and holes are made to be filled, hence I found myself at the sort-of opening night for Livvy & Pete, brought to life by the capable cabaret stalwarts Michael Griffiths and Amelia Ryan.
Michael Griffiths has been doing these curious little psuedo-autobiographical deconstructions of pop stars for some years now, from Madonna to Annie Lennox to Cole Porter, but this show is not quite in that tradition. Griffiths is performing the songs of Peter Allen (and, sometimes, Olivia Newton John), not performing as Peter Allen (or ONJ).
Amelia Ryan, likewise, is in full flight as Amelia Ryan, which is only appropriate, considering she is quite gifted in the role. The cab star is a near-on dead ringer for Olivia, but her crowd-work, stage-manner and vocals are distinctly her own. If you've witnessed her antics before, you'll know what you're in for, but if you haven't, well, watch out for that "Physical" audience participation.
The upshot of all this is that Griffiths and Ryan spend most of the between-song banter sharing anecdotes that are personal to themselves, and less time lecturing on the lives of these artists, or diverting into asides on the construction of pop songs. The banter is entertaining, don't get me wrong, but Livvy & Pete doesn't have the special quality of a show which burrows deep into these pop stars and uncovers what it is that made them lasting and unforgettable. Instead, at times, it is more of a Grease singalong, which is perfectly fine, but not the introduction I was hoping for.
Griffiths and Ryan are worth checking out, as cabaret artists, individually. Together, it's a bit of a no-brainer to seek them out if you're a fan of cabaret, or of the backlog of either of the two artists they pay tribute to. Without that prior interest, however, there's a good chance this show isn't going to tickle your sensibilities to the extent you would declare this a must-see show. Which is a shame, because the concentration of cabaret talent on stage is certainly formidable.