Festival Theatre, Sun 8 Jun
Peter Dawson and Jack O’Hagan were two of Australia’s most prolific musicians and composers, yet more widely lauded overseas than here on our own ground – and Dawson, in fact, heralded from Adelaide itself. Brought to the stage in the sold-out Festival Theatre, Barry Humphries narrated the life stories in chronological order from their simple beginnings to the global recognition so wildly deserved, in a humorous, personalised and nostalgic delivery.
Surely one of the highlights of the Cabaret Festival, we enjoyed a kind of musical royalty in Soprano Greta Bradman, Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes and The Idea of North – Australia’s most well-loved a Capella quartet. Accompanied by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and led by Musical Director Vanessa Scammell, the audience is treated to a visual spectacular from the first moment the curtains are raised; surely there is no greater feast for the eyes in such a venue as a full Symphony Orchestra assembled onstage.
The fascinating insight into the lives of baritone Peter Dawson and songwriter Jack O’Hagan is brought to life as we hear old radio jingles that many of the audience may now be too young to remember, performed with finesse by The Idea of North. The charisma is mesmerising between Bradman and Rhodes as they alternate between singing alone and together, while the added touch of the Voice of Transition Choir, who are brought to the stage in places, add a lot of life to the music yet detract slightly in a visual sense only with their attire in comparison to the rest of the glittering, visually impeccable soloists and orchestra. However their professionalism and musicality was spot on.
Historically this performance is important and would be brilliant to be toured, as it contains so much information that one hopes is not forever lost including interesting background from such songs as Along The Road To Gundagai, Our Don Bradman, and Dog On The Tuckerbox. Dawson’s incredible career is touched on, albeit briefly, for how can you encapsulate such a career that spanned such a time of change, the introduction of gramophones which heralded a new chapter for his personal record sales? Rhodes’ rendition of Boots was a highlight – one of Dawson’s more well-known compositions, albeit recorded under one of the many pseudonyms he used in his writing.
The evening finished with the audience singing along to Waltzing Matilda; a standing ovation was naturally in order.
Overall, Pete & Jack was an absolutely stunning display of professionalism in the coming together of such diverse yet complementary musical skills. It was an absolute privilege to hear Humphries speak, and his own frequent additions of his personal experiences with Dawson and O’Hagan was something the audience will treasure.