Stardom's Crossroads

David Campbell's new show at Rainbow & Stars is one of this year's most exciting cabaret experiences, An abundantly talented young performer from Australia with palpable star power, Campbell has come to a musical crossroads. To see him in his hour of destiny, up close and personal, is a rare opportunity.

It could be that Campbell is simply exhibiting an extraordinary versatility in his present engagement, but there appears to be something far more fundamental at work here; just as he's conquering cabaret, he's beginning to experiment with different styles and musical directions. For instance, he takes a cue from his father, the Australian rock star Jimmy Barnes, and opens with a raucous version of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"; he scats during a jazzy rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon"; and he samples Jobim with a smartly syncopated "Waters of March." Of course, he also sings pop songs, theater tunes, and cabaret standards, many of which are holdovers from his last show (some with new arrangements).

For all this, we're betting the cabaret farm that Campbell will reach stardom as an interpreter of lyrics, singing songs like Tom Andersen's achingly poignant "Yard Sale" and John Bucchino's robust "Taking the Wheel" - and we fervently hope he won't continue to pursue rock. Oh, he can do the screech and shout with energy and plenty of sex appeal, but it's not what he does best. And why flirt with jam, scatting pretty sounds, when he can sing the heart out of a lyric? With the help of his exceptional musical director and arranger, Christopher Denny, Campbell grows by leaps and bounds with every new show. Give him a pop song like Randy Newman's "Marie" and he turns it inside out, discovering an exquisite emotional depth at its core. He breaks your heart with his pairing of "The Nearness of You" and "Not a Day Goes By," and you laugh till it hurts when he launches into a dead-on imitation of Mandy Patinkin singing "Hello, Dolly!"

Erv Raible (the owner of Eighty Eights) is fond of saying that cabaret is where stars are lorn. One of those stars - born at the Cabaret Convention two years ago, then nurtured at Eighty Eights in what many already consider a legend-making series of sold out performances - is David Campbell. At Rainbow & Stars, he's putting on a dazzling show that's all the morc electrifying for the musical evolution that is so dramatically displayed.

 

by Barbara & Scott Siegel - InTheater - 30 October 1998