In a dark theatre people’s silhouettes are shuffling along rows of seats while the orchestra tunes their instruments. The conductor taps his baton and the audience falls silent, waiting with bated breath. As soon as the keyboard strikes up, a smile sweeps across everybody’s face.
Everyone knows the lyrics. It seems strange to watch grown men and women around you singing “Lah la lah, la lah” but that is what Spicks and Specks, the hit ABC television series, has done, brought together people from all walks of life through a shared love of music.
Once the song ends, three of the friendliest faces in Australian television appear on stage; Adam Hills, Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough. For seven years this unique trio have brought engaging entertainment to living rooms across the nation. After 277 episodes and more than 50 guests Spicks and Specks finally ended on a high note in late November 2011.
To give the show a proper send-off, Hills and his two team captains have been touring Australia with their live production, Spicks and Speck-tacular – The Finale.
The show is a live version of the television series and has already been received extraordinarily well across Australia. Instead of the guest stars, members of the audience are brought up onto the stage to play the part of the contestants.
So how can you ensure you will be a part of the live tour? Theatre People asked Spicks and Specks team captain, Alan Brough, for the inside scoop on the show, which last came to Perth in 2007.
In the final episode host Adam Hills called him “the forever man” and “the rock of ages”, adding to a long list of hilarious and flattering taglines Alan has accumulated over the past seven years. The 6’4 New Zealand-born Brough has been the right hand man of the show, impressing and entertaining Australia with his vast music knowledge and colourful shirts.
Alan said they will be using a very similar system to the last live tour. “We’ll ask a question and people jump up as they know the answer and we’ll try and get the first person.”
The questions might be a bit nerdier this time, said Alan, as they are trying to find bigger music experts.
“We’ve had some fantastic people so far and the good thing about it is that it’s certainly not a fool-proof system so we end up with a really good variety of people up on stage.”
Last time Spicks and Speck-tacular came to Perth four years ago, an infamous audience guest – a blind man – caused an uproar when he gave Adam Hills “shit” about having an artificial leg. He is not the only memorable audience member to have joined Adam, Myf and Alan up on the stage.
“We had a guy in Brisbane I think, who was pissed, completely pissed and I didn’t realise until we were halfway to the stage and I thought ‘well can’t turn back now’,” said Alan.
“We’re quite adept now, helping people through any difficulties they might have.”
“I’ve clocked a couple of people occasionally looking out to the audience thinking ‘oh shit, look at all those people’. On the whole, people respond pretty well.”
The finale, which aired on November 23 on ABC1, starred a number of famous guests who have been a part of the Spicks and Specks journey including Dave O’Neil, Hamish Blake, Andy Lee, Megan Washington and Denise Scott. Even Oscar-winning Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush, was there to give the show a proper send-off.
So out of all the stars that appeared on the show over seven years you would wonder if Alan Brough has a favourite. Well he actually has a few.
“There was a young woman called Sarah Lee Guthrie. She is a wonderful person in her own right but she is Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter.”
Woody Guthrie was an American folk singer-songwriter best known for the song ‘This Land is Your Land’. His son, Arlo Guthrie, wrote the 1967 protest song ‘Alice’s Restaurant Massacree’. Sarah Lee Guthrie performs in a duo with her husband, Johnny Irion, and appeared on Spicks and Specks in 2006.
“Someone like that who has an extraordinary musical heritage, to just be chatting with her was, well I found, quite remarkable,” said Alan, who also mentioned Sharon O’Neil and Lloyd Cole as some of his favourite guests.
“Every episode there was always someone remarkable. It’s a very difficult task to pick the best one and if you ask me again tomorrow I’ll probably tell you three or four different people.”
It is sad to think there will never be another Wednesday night of Spicks and Specks but for Alan the journey does not end until after the tour.
“I think that this time next year, when we would be filming a new series if we were continuing, it might feel a bit weird. But we’re doing a tour at the moment so we’re all together and having a ball”.
“There has been a lot of love for this show and to be standing on stage and feeling that love, live, from 1800 to 2000 people, is an extraordinary experience and one that is both hugely uplifting and humbling at the same time.”
For those attending the final night of the tour however, which is on January 15 at the Melbourne Convention Centre, Alan warns not to expect anything special for the finale
“I’ve leaned over many years of performing that you just go out and do it again and enjoy it. It’s a really fun show to do.”
“It will speak to the fact that there’s something in it for a wide age group. It’s daggy, old-fashioned and it's pure entertainment. We’re not setting out to do anything other than be entertaining.”
Besides finishing the tour, Alan does not have any immediate plans for next year although he would love to return to television and the film industry.
“A young lady came up to me in Adelaide and said, ‘thank you for entertaining me and my family for seven years’ and I found that incredibly moving, because I’m not sure why I got into this business in the first place, but I’d never thought I’d ever have someone come up to me and say, ‘thank you for entertaining me and my family for seven years’
“Someone I had never ever met before, so I found that quite a profound moment and if nothing else ever happens then I’ve got that.”
Spicks and Speck-tacular, The Finale will be held at the Perth Convention Centre from Wednesday 4 to Sunday 8 January. Tickets are available from Ticketek.