'Australian Bee Gees Show' evokes disco legends
Thanks to his mom, Matt Baldoni was a fan of the Bee Gees before he knew anything about the band.
As a 6-year-old, he liked both the "spectacular and sparkly" cover of "Spirits Having Flown" and singing along to Barry Gibb's high-pitched vocals in "Stayin' Alive."
"That's where your voice is when you're 5 or 6 years old," Baldoni said.
Now 35, Baldoni is still singing Barry's lines -- and playing the eldest and last-surviving Gibb brother -- in the touring cast of Annerin Productions' "The Australian Bee Gees Show," which is making its Chicago premiere at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place on Tuesday, July 9.
The show, according to Maurice Gibb impersonator Jack Leftley, is a re-creation of four Bee Gees concerts across four decades.
"We get it all in there," Leftley, 22, said.
The Bee Gees, forever tied to the disco era, are best known for hits like "How Deep Is Your Love," "Night Fever," "You Should be Dancing" and "Tragedy."
Australian natives Leftley and Paul Lines play Maurice and Robin Gibb, respectively.
Although Baldoni is the only non-Australian member of his group -- his Italian-American family is from California -- he has a great respect for the country.
While touring with the "Bee Gees Show" down under, Baldoni was nervous to perform the Bee Gees' music, which he said is as popular in Australia as the Beatles are in the U.K.
But the "wonderful" Australian audiences welcomed the American and told him, "You're one of us."
And, Leftley joked of Baldoni, "He's starting to talk like us."
Leftley's own fond memories of the Australian tour include a visit to the bronze statue of the three Gibb brothers and Bee Gees Way in Redcliffe, Australia. Dressed in costume, Leftley said he, Baldoni and Lines took pictures and sang for fans.
"Australia is really proud of the Bee Gees," he said.
Leftley, of Melbourne, has been hooked on the Bee Gees since seeing the band's televised concert at age 9.
Baldoni and Leftley said they each owe their performances as Barry and Maurice to their mentors, the impersonators of the permanent "Bee Gees Show" in Las Vegas.
Michael Clift trained Baldoni in the art of mastering Barry's male falsetto voice, which Baldoni said is "higher than a lot of women sing." Clift also taught Baldoni how to walk, talk, stand and strum guitars like Barry.
"He's the best Barry Gibb impersonator who ever existed," Baldoni said. "He's the best possible teacher I could have had. Nobody knows more about Barry Gibb, except Barry Gibb himself."
Leftley had equal praise for Wayne Hosking, who taught him how to impersonate Maurice.
"He can make people believe he's Maurice," Leftley said.
"The Australian Bee Gees"Location: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chesnut St., Chicago, (312) 977-1710 or broadwayinchicago.com
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday; from July 9 to Aug. 4