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‘Australian Bee Gees Show’ a fine tribute to iconic trio

‘THE AUSTRALIAN BEE GEES SHOW’

RECOMMENDED

When: Through Aug. 4

Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut

Tickets: $35-$80

Info: (800) 775-2000;
www.broadwayinchicago.com

Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission

Updated: August 17, 2013 6:09AM



Okay. If ever you were going to pull that white spandex leisure suit and neck chain out of the trunk in the attic, now is the time. And while you’re at it, might as well see if that old disco ball can still spin. The dance moves will come back as soon as you hear the beat, as will visions of John Travolta in his prime.

Yes, those British-born, Australian-bred Gibb brothers — Barry (now 66 and still alive), and younger twin brothers, Robin and Maurice (both deceased) — are singing again courtesy of “The Australian Bee Gees Show,” the time-traveling tribute band concert that has taken up temporary residence at the Broadway Playhouse. And with their deft harmonizing on all those classic ballads of love and heartbreak, and all those dance-ready disco tunes, this “cloned” band easily gets its audience (equal parts card-carrying AARP members and current-day club-goers) moving to the beat.

The Bee Gees might not have had the distinctive personalities of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, and they weren’t big on moving and shaking, but they had their little quirks. Most crucially, having played together since childhood, they had a fantastically smooth sound enhanced by the beautiful harmonies of their songs. And the three musicians now evoking them deftly capture that sound as it shifted over four decades, from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Enhanced by wigs, flashy lighting and era-changing costumes, the trio of “re-creators” here include: The notably good-looking Matt Baldoni (the American-born vocalist and guitarist who plays Barry, and moves easily into that singer’s memorable falsetto mode); Paul Lines (who, as Robin, shares the lead vocal role), and Jack Leftley as Maurice (the third voice who spends much of his time at the keyboard). They are backed by a power band featuring Mario Basner (an excellent drummer), with David Inamine (bass), Damion Puluse (guitar and vocals) and Pete Sprague (keyboard and vocals).

The structure of the show is straightforward, beginning with a brief little video that gives us a reminder-in-reverse of major global events during the Bee Gees’ long career. Once we’re back in the 1960s the guys arrive in suits, with foppish little scarf-like neckwear and long hair, and evoke their semi-croon style in such early ballads as “I Started a Joke,” “I Can’t See Nobody,” “To Love Somebody,” the country-tinged “Massachusetts,” and the confessional “Words.”

Then, as they arrive in white spandex pants and silvery shirts, they launch into the disco sound everybody is waiting for, with spirited performances of “More Than a Woman, “Night Fever,” “If I Can’t Have You,” and “How Deep Is Your Love?” These, of course, were the songs that drove “Saturday Night Fever,” the hit film whose producer, Robert Stigwood, they thank for making them “the jewel in the crown.”

The show’s second half opens with the barest bit of commentary as we are told that musical tastes changed in the 1980s, but by writing for others’ voices, new possibilities opened up for them. Here the tribute band gives us fine takes on “Islands in the Stream” (inspired by a Hemingway title, and originally sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton), “Heartbreaker” (first sung by Dionne Warwick) and “Guilty” (for Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb).

The big final section, inspired by the Bee Gees’ 1999 concert at the then-new Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia, is full of hits, including “You Should Be Dancin’,” “Jive Talkin’,” “Stayin’ Alive” and more.

The Bee Gees’ lyrics (particularly in the first half of the show) often get lost here. But this hardly seems to matter to an audience that is perfectly content to sing along, dance in front of their seats and spend a couple of hours inside a comfortable little musical time capsule.



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