Tracking the meteoric rise of Australian "kid" David Campbell

Broadway producer Richard Jay-Alexander has seen plenty in his 20-odd years in the theater business. So when he waxes rhapsodic about someone, you tend to listen.

"The male-singer quotient has been empty for a long time, and all of a sudden this kid flashes on the scene and I've never seen anything like it."

The "kid" in question is David Campbell, 25, a cabaret singer from Adelaide, Australia. The New York Times caught a recent Campbell show at New York's famed Rainbow and Stars room and gushed: "In a cabaret world where careers tend to build slowly over many years, occasionally a meteor appears." Campbell was the youngest singer ever to be given a solo stint at the venue.

The subject of all this fuss is an affable, photogenic singer who mixes Broadway songs (Stephen Sondheim's Not a Day Goes By) with pop hits (James Taylor's Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight). Campbell, who now lives in New York, wraps this season's Manhattan Nights in Miami series tonight and Saturday at the Colony Theater.

The musical blending is apropos. His father is Jimmy Barnes, a rock star in his native Australia (Barnes teamed with INXS in 1987 to score a U.S. No. 47 pop single with Good Times).

"My father, being a rock and roller, [accounts for] the more contemporary sound I have. I was brought up by my grandmother in Australia, and she listened to Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Darin and Scott Walker, so there was a great variance of music in my house. It was the best of both worlds."

Art Garfunkel's sweeping 1981 solo ballad, Bright Eyes, also struck a chord with a young Campbell. "That's one of the first songs I remember singing."

Now a school in his native Australia has named a performing arts center after Campbell. "I called the principal," Campbell recalls with a laugh, "and I said I've got two questions for you. 'Do you realize how old I am?' And, 'Did you look up my GPA when I was there?' 'And you still want to do that there?' I wasn't a great student. I was bright but I wanted to play."

And now he does.

By Howard Cohen - The Miami Herald Published: Friday, April 9, 1999