See a side of Peter Allen you’ve never before experienced, as stageshow and music star Robert Bertram lights up the stage …
The Lives of Me will be coming to the stage in Port Macquarie and Taree before it hits the capital cities. Tell us a little bit about the show and how it will showcase Peter’s life?
The show itself is more like what you would get if you went to see a Peter Allen concert, as opposed to what people have come to know from The Boy from Oz musical.
What people end up getting is a combination of me talking about his life, and also myself taking on the role of Peter and telling stories of his relationships with people like Bette Midler and Harry Connick Jr., which among many others, are the ones that people will be most surprised to hear about, because they don’t feature at all in anything you read or learn about Peter Allen.
You have a fair history in stage, show, singing and music. How much of this comes into the performance?
It’s a dream opportunity for me, because I have never had the chance to show my abilities and talents in one show. Presenting Peter Allen’s songs in the way that we do at a Peter Allen concert, I’ve got the band behind me and I am at the piano for 80% of the show, and jumping all over it with maracas and things.
So having to go between narrating the show as me, and then also representing Peter Allen in that particular way so people get the third person and first person difference throughout the show – it’s a massive challenge. It’s like nothing I have taken on before, but it’s so much fun, and I can’t wait to get into it.
You do a bit of a Tap routine in the show as well. Was this a new skill you had to learn?
Yes, there is a bit of a Tap routine in there. I used to do Irish dancing for a bit, but then when I did my study at Waapa, a musical theatre course in Perth, we had to do three years of Tap classes anyway. So I can hold my own enough as a Tap dancer – enough to jump off the piano and punch out a time step if I need to, so it’s good fun.
What will audiences love about this style of show and its content?
I think they will obviously love the fun and the frivolity and the excitement of Peter Allen’s energy in general, which is kind of what we are trying to celebrate and pay homage to. But the thing they might be surprised to enjoy is the songs that they mightn’t have heard before, or heard very often.
Apart from doing all of the hits, we are doing a lot of things that Peter Allen wrote and performed but don’t get re-lived very often, so it’s exciting for us.
Is it a fairly big production that you are bringing to the theatres?
There will be a three-piece band behind me on the grand piano, so it’s actually quite intimate. I think even when Peter Allen did his concerts, he only had a six or eight-piece band behind him on the piano. There are no props or sets – only Tap shoes and maracas!
The career of Peter Allen is varied with the type of performances he did, such as stage, song and acting. This is not too dissimilar to what you have done. Is this something that drew you to do this show?
People have always drawn similarities between he and I, because of the piano and singing. I think people of certain generations relate quite quickly when they hear certain songs. I knew that doing something with Peter Allen would probably come my way, because we do have similar skills, so I suppose inadvertently you are right. I jumped at the opportunity for this show, because of these similarities.
One of the most famous songs and what is considered by some to be the unofficial Australian anthem, I Still Call Australia Home … is this going to be featured in the show?
Well, if people clap enough at the end, they might get it as an encore!
Aside from this show which is dedicated to Peter Allen, we hear you are also composing one based on the life of Steve Irwin?
I have been working on that for a little while, but took about six months off from this project. The Peter Allen show turned up, so I will probably get back to it later in the year with a fresher approach. Hopefully one day in the next few years you’ll get a crocodile kick line somewhere.
Back to The Lives of Me, how far and wide are you touring with this show?
Obviously assuming that all goes well, we would like to visit everywhere throughout the eastern side of Australia, and over to Perth as well. Hopefully we get to do a bit of traveling with it.
We have seen quite a few tribute shows recently in the area. Do you think they are becoming increasingly popular?
They definitely are becoming popular, and one that always stands out in my mind is the Johnny Cash show, The Man in Black. It’s a top class show, and I think it’s kind of set a bit of a precedent for similar shows. We are not thinking of the Peter Allen as a tribute show; I know it sort of fits into that category, but it’s a little bit more intricate than that, and we hope that people will come out of it learning a lot more than they thought they would when they arrived.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Feel free to bring your Hawaiian shorts along, if you want to get in the mood!
This story was published in issue 79 Greater Port Macquarie Focus