It is often said that a true artist is single – minded, driven and defined solely by their passion to succeed. Top musicians toil at their chosen craft in many different ways, shapes and forms. Every spare and waking moment is sacrificed to refine this vision.
For example, Doris Day was in and out of the studio in less than fifteen minutes, famous for recording ’Secret Love’ in one take. Whereas Dusty Springfield, obsessing for weeks on end just to achieve the right vocal tone, resorted to using acoustics in the ladies’ wash room where she worked.
Bruce Springsteen is one of the most successful performers of all time, with more than 64 million record sales to his name in the United States, and over 120 million units purchased worldwide at last count. His live concert and studio discography ranges from commercial pop to introspective folk.
Hit singles include ‘Blinded By The Light’, ‘Born To Run’, ‘Dancing In The Dark’, ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and the iconic ‘Born In The U.S.A’. Known for a deceptively spare and steadfast style, Springsteen’s multi – layered music speaks to America’s Heartland. In that country’s unsettled political climate, his voice is now more relevant than ever.
Of particular interest is how Springsteen captured and built on his fans’ dedication, as well as moving and influencing other artists in the process. Gabriel Bergmoser was one of those affected.
Bergmoser is the 2015 winner of the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Scriptwriting, an Emmy given out by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation. He also has a long list of plays to his credit, such as Below Babylon and its sequel, Beyond Babylon, Chris Hawkins, Glenrowan, A Good German, Hometown, Life Without Me, The Lucas Conundrum, One Year Ago, Regression, Reunion, The Critic, The Last Supper, and We Can Work It Out.
Recently, Theatre People conducted an in-depth interview with Bergmoser in tandem with publicity for this latest work. It is interesting how connected he feels to Springsteen, candidly drawing parallels between himself as an author / playwright and the rock star known for his uncompromising vision. Further, there are several moments in Bergmoser’s concept piece where these elements are clearly intertwined.
With an extensive resume of product output and touring obligations spanning more than four decades, it would be impossible to compress Bruce Springsteen’s journey into a ninety – minute play. Refusing to back away from that challenge however, Bergmoser has taken six key points from his subject’s personal and public life, imagining an episodic story around their placement and significance in relation to the man himself.
Springsteen is a piece which should interest both casual and hardcore fans of the New Jersey native.
It should be noted that Bergmoser’s play is not a standard jukebox musical, where grabs of dialogue are joined together by the artist’s catalogue. Instead, it is a straight play with several moments of musical reflection.
Springsteen works as a free-standing drama with universal appeal, simultaneously intimate and epic like two of Cameron Crowe’s films, Almost Famous and Elizabethtown, or the cult HBO Series, Vinyl.
Bergmoser also has an excellent ear for dialogue, where the writing drives the narrative tension, character interaction, and the overall direction. His show encapsulates the creative struggle, and how it impacts not only the artist’s work, but their inner circle of co – workers, friends and loved ones taking that journey along with them.
Playing the title role, Chris Farrell fleshes out Bergmoser’s text with a sensitive, emotional and complex reading. Viewers will relate to a highly serious man torn between commercial security and artistic freedom.
Farrell is supported by a strong cast of four, equal to the task.
Justin Anderson brings to Mike both legitimate frustration and faithful support as his headstrong manager. Kashmir Sinnamon is Steve, a member of the E Street Band, who weathers Springsteen’s many storms and successes in similar doses.
Jessica Papst brings humour to Wendy, an early muse and inspiration. Papst also fronts the show’s handful of musical interludes as well.
As his girlfriend and future wife, Patti, Alicia Beckhurst exudes a raw charm similar to the actress, Emma Stone. Beckhurst’s extended anecdote about being promised a childhood treehouse by her father, is particularly touching.
Simple yet defined costuming, uncluttered blocking and lighting are matched by relatively quick transitions between scenes; the story’s linear flow is maintained through good stage management.
Whether by sheer accident or deliberate design, this production appears perfectly timed with Bruce Springsteen’s current Australian tour, happening right now. (For his Melbourne stop, The Boss will play both AAMI Park and Hanging Rock early next month.)
Springsteen runs at the Tuxedo Cat until Saturday, February 4.