Campbell's Endearing Performance

Thursday October 9 8:27 AM EDT

David Campbell (Cinegrill, Hollywood Roosevelt; 200 seats; $15 cover)


HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - If Tom Cruise were 20 pounds lighter, spoke with an Australian accent and possessed an amazingly facile vocal instrument, he just might be David Campbell.

Exuding an ingratiating boyish charm and a marvelously controlled and powerful voice, Campbell sails through a well-chosen 17-number set that includes a few standards but mostly consists of little known or original material.

Opening with a hard-driving rendition of Brian Lasser's "Tear up the Town Tonight," segueing to the lovely but seldom heard Jerry Herman ballad "To Be Alone With You," the 24-year-old Aussie possesses two amazingly well-developed skills for someone his age. Vocally, he is as tonally and rhythmically perfect as a virtuoso instrumentalist; yet, like a fine actor, he is always focused on the story inherent in each lyric.

Campbell instills an emotional urgency into such well-worn standards as the Hoagy Carmichael-Ned Washington ballad, "The Nearness of You," Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By," Lane-Harburg's "Old Devil Moon" and Irving Berlin's "Alexander Ragtime Band," as if he is imparting vital information that the audience needs to know.

The most memorable songs of the evening, however, are the achingly beautiful ballads, "Only Heaven Knows" (from Alex Harding's Australian musical of the same name), Don Walker's "It Will Always Be You" and Tom Anderson's sadly ironic "Yard Sale," as well as the evening-ending pair of John Bucchino songs, the rhythmically intense, "Taking the Wheel" and the philosophical ballad "Grateful."

Giving understated but exceptionally intuitive accompaniment is Christopher Denny on the baby grand.

Presented in-house. Musical director-pianist, Christopher Denny; director, Les Solomon. Opened Sept. 30, 1997; reviewed Oct. 7; runs through Oct. 11.


By Julio Martinez