David Campbell came home to the Hayes as part of the Hayes Cabaret Festival, and I don’t think we knew how much we missed him until he had returned.
Campbell, a household figure probably best known these days for his co-host gig on Channel Nine’s Mornings, is an old-school singer and musical theatre performer who was the talk of Broadway as a young guy trying to make it. He has had a long, close friendship with composer John Bucchino, and for this show at the Hayes, he brought his friend to us.
Bucchino, a prolific writer whose songs have been sung by Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone, Gavin Creel, Billy Porter, Kristin Chenoweth and countless others, and has written for shows including A Catered Affair, said he knew as soon as he heard Campbell’s voice that he wanted it to sing his songs, and Campbell’s affection for Bucchino is just as strong. In this show, it’s generous: Campbell, home town star, let this show be all about Bucchino, his career and journey, the hero of the piece being his songs which are conversational and wordy and often oddly moving.
Highlights are ‘Unexpressed’, ‘Playbill’, and ‘Grateful’ (an eternally puzzling success, that song; it should be trite but when it’s sung well it never, never is – it ends up emotional, sure, but successful, and touching).
The new cabaret show comes hand in hand with a new album, which is a new must-have, and both it and the show features Campbell in peak voice.
It’s almost shocking, being reminded of a real talent, feeling its uniqueness in the room.
How do you describe Campbell’s voice? It requires so many words. His tone is rich and full, with just enough husk around the edges to keep it from being butter-smooth, and all for the better – Campbell sings like he must sing, he sings like a careless thought voiced carefully, he sings like a rushing stream, conversational and lyrical in part.
He’s never divorced from the lyric which means he sings hope and hopefulness and frustration and longing like it lives curled in his chest.
He sings like an old friend, which is fitting, because so Bucchino is, and so their connection is. “It’s like singing in my living room,” Campbell says of the Hayes, and that’s how it feels – the warm glow of a post-dinner chat around the piano; David and John, two friends sharing old stories and loving every minute.
What a gem of a show. What a happy, happy night. What a wonderful, intimate conversation on which to eavesdrop. Thank goodness for the Hayes, thank goodness for David Campbell, thank goodness for John Bucchino.