BWW Reviews: A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN TRAVOLTA, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, February 16 2014
It's actually him! After a greatest hits reel that showed the extraordinary breadth and longevity of his work (tellingly the loudest cheers were provoked by iconic scenes from Saturday Night Fever and Grease), he walked amongst us! Well, walked on stage anyway, looking in remarkably good shape for a man on the eve of his 60th birthday. IT'S JOHN TRAVOLTA!!!
In some ways, that was as good as it got. The man himself is just too nice a guy to dish the dirt on anyone beyond faceless studio bosses who held him to his contract - hence the ill-starred sequel to SNF, "Stayin' Alive" - and happily radiated a feelgood positive aura that swept everyone along. It was more Hollywood Babble than Hollywood Babylon, but nobody felt shortchanged - it genuinely seemed to be the way a genuine guy just is.
And we got a sense that he was speaking the truth from the heart because when pressed by his interviewer (an 80-year-old Barry Norman - looking disturbingly like his Spitting Image puppet - who seemed to lose track a little towards the end of the show) Travolta was candid about the support his fellow Scientologists had offered him in the aftermath of his son's tragic death. If he veered a little into corporate shilling when talking about his flying or clicked into promo mode when talking about his upcoming movie - well, it must be almost instinctive by now. A tougher interlocutor might have drawn more from him, but this was no night for Paxmanesque probing - it was about feeling the love.
The audience didn't care that their hero got an easy ride. They wanted, and got, time with a bona fide superstar, a heart-throb from their youth who didn't blow up like Elvis, didn't fade away like David Cassidy, didn't go mad like Michael Jackson. Travolta just stayed true to his remarkable ability to connect as an actor, singer and dancer, taking the work he wanted and turning the rest down. And connect he did to everyone in the packed auditorium, eyes a-twinkling and with that same grin that made them (and is still making them) swoon in the aisles. It's electrifying all right!