'Limahl: A Star Reborn'
What this fabulous touring show promises is a feel good reminder of all the great rock and pop movies and musicals of the seventies, eighties and nineties, and it delivers. This is a trip down memory lane; all the fabulously catchy songs are performed by a talented cast who breeze through everything Mama Mia, Fame, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Carwash, Rent, Aquarius, (and the proverbial 'and many more') with ease.
The whole company is fabulous and give their all, but the two star names merit particular mention. Gwen Dickie is a real asset to the show. The former lead singer of Rose Royce ably showcases three of her classic UK hits "Car Wash" and"Love Don't Live Here Anymore". This is the archetypal disco diva with real heart and soul, and one can but wonder to what heights she will soar in musical theatre.
Ditto that to Limahl. What a truly fantastic piece of casting this was. The outrageous front man of Kajagoogoo, whose solo chart success includes "Never Ending Story", from the hit film, progressed in the 1990s to composing, producing and remixing for artists such as Kim Wilde, Peter Andre and Worlds Apart. Fittingly his career began at 16 in musical theatre,
From his opening number an intriguing reworking of his classic hit Never Ending Story through Pinball Wizard, Can You Feel The Love Tonight and a spectacularly competent performance in full James Bond outfit of 'A View To A Kill'. Wow, what fun! This got me thinking about the cruelly fickle world of pop that not only wrote this guy off, but credited his trademark duotone electrocuted hedgehog locks as the fashion victim statement of the 1980's. But it's because of the hair and the ridiculous name that the voice is remembered. A reassessment of Limahl is well overdue; I caught up with Limahl backstage to get it.
So, why has Limahl gone through so many incarnations? "Well, when the 80's thing was over, it was well and truly over. For work as Limahl, my phone was dead for about ten years, so I thought fine, let's move on to something else. Luckily I had invested in a recording studio... and the pop acts seemed to be getting younger and younger, I mean Britney Spears was 17, so I thought well I'm too old now. I was into production, which was great, but then the 80s revival came along and I am again the blonde bombshell. It's been dubbed the years of the dawn of electronica, it must have been a really energising time for a working class lad from Wigan.
Limahl is to many an archetype of the 80s - but what was it about those times that made them so disctinct? "Musically, there were these new things called synthesisers and all the groups I listened to were pioneers of that, Human League, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell were all out there doing really well. A friend invested £10,000 - then was an incredible amount of money - in Kajagoogoo, bought all these new synthesisers and our songs were transformed. I wasn't really into punk and so the new wave with people wearing big hair and loads of make-up, I thought I do like that!"
What you realise in the audience is that the tendency of the media and the public to stereotype people and write them off is truly amazing - and pop stars allow themselves to be pigeonholed to easily. Limahl's voice is truly astonishing, and it's difficult to see why he never stepped outside of the pop arena when he was at the top. "What I'm doing now in Oh What A Feeling and with my 80's band shows is a real surprise. I've had to put my plans as a record producer and studio mixer on hold. I am just so busy being Limahl again. I started in theatre and I love the whole history and culture of theatre. I'm thinking of quite a few roles in the area at the moment. I quite fancy the role of the narrator in Blood Brothers, I also love La Cava, Christ I worship La Cava, but I don't sing in that style, it's classical singing. It moves me, it gives me goose bumps but it's not my style, it has to be something in the style of the genre that works for me. I'm also working on a fabulous idea for a musical with an up and coming playwright." With his skills at working an audience and his stage presence, you'd have though that Limahl might set his sights on TV presenting? "Some of those skills are natural, but most are acquired through pure hard slog and you just find out what works for an audience. I don't know about going into television, it was never really one of my ambitions, but if the singing thing ever dried up you never know..."
Getting back onto the stage wasn't a natural step on the face of it, and when the call came, it was unexpected. "I was on the beach in Bournemouth, it was a beautiful day and I didn't want to move but I got a call via my agent from a production company who were putting on a tour and he said would I consider it. Well, he kind of gave me a synopsis of the show and I went along and met the producer and because of the nature of the pop world, he made me meet with the musical director just to make sure that, unlike Milli Vanilli, I did sing on my own records. I sang a couple of songs and we got on quite well and he told me about the show. What you have to realise about me is that I am your ultimate thespian, I see everything in London from fringe shows to West End. And because I love theatre I was immediately interested - after all, it was certainly within my scope. The first thing I said when we sat down and talked about it was that it had to have dialogue with the audience to work - it had, in effect, to be like a gig for us because of the lack of props and not being in-character.
"As we're touring with the show, I feel like I'm converting people. They come in thinking of me as the guy with a daft sounding band who had a daft hit, but, people loved 'Too Shy' and there's a great deal of nostalgia and affection for that song. Now people are saying, "Wow, he really can sing". You know, you can't beat that live thing, the response is immediate, the vibe is immediate. Everyone knows there's trickery in the studio, we've seen all these line-ups of pretty boys and pretty girls, one Chinese, one black, all very politically correct identikit groups with their microphones attached to their heads doing amazing dance routines but miming! Miming doesn't lend credibility, the audiences are suspicious that the artists can't really hack it live. Part of the problem is that I think in the past a pop audience was really more diverse, from about 12 to 40 and what's happened to that more general audience is that it has diminished and become more niche, so the teenybop bands can get away with more with the younger audiences.
Given that proviso, is this happening in the world of radio? Are the stations becoming too narrowcast? "The problem is that the radio stations and record labels are being run by marketing people and lawyers. Its become so important how a band looks, because how they look is, in effect, how these bands are marketed. Now because I'm from that world, indeed I was sacked from Kajagoogoo initially because the band thought it was I as the frontman who was attracting the kind of teenybop audience who would never give us lasting credibility, I really do feel that this show is breaking down those barriers. People will hopefully say yes he had a couple of silly hits, but the guy can clearly sing, the guy can perform, he can communicate. That's the reaction I love; you know like in a soap an actor gets typecast, well I am that guy who sang 'Too bloody Shy' and I'm now breaking down barriers and that's what I need to do."
Breaking down barriers, communicating, converting people? This sounds like a pitch from a man who wants to relaunch himself - but is there going to be a Sinatra-style comeback in the pipeline? "You've got to be realistic, I have a philosophy about this business that it is so easy to look at what you haven't got. I always resist that business of self-pity when you're going, "oh it would be so good if I had this". I'd love a comeback album like Tom Jones, who wouldn't? But, this is where I am right now and I'm really happy about it."
Oh What A Feeling is touring nationwide and visits London for the first time on December 10th at the Palladium. Box Office 02074945058. For details of tour dates log on to www.flyingmusic.com or www.limahl.com.
Quelle: Soho Independant, Dezember 2000