Random Play by Graham Reid

Alt.Nation: Dancing, with the Star

While some television critics and media commentators have been indifferent to the dance floor manoeuvres on last night’s Dancing With the Stars, others have been commenting on the singing and dancing of Jason Gunn who ended the show with a belting version of Save The Last Dance For Me.

“Frankly the show was fairly predictable in the dancing,” said singing tutor Emma Halliwell, “but the really interesting thing was Jason when he sang at the end. The way he slipped around the melody and keys in a kind of sassy and even slightly sexy way made me wonder about Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin or Sammy Davis Jnr or . . . So much stuff got brought up.

“In fact, the more I watched him perform the more I kept bringing stuff up.”

Talkback callers have been equally vocal in their opinion with comments ranging from “I never thought I’d see that on my television” to “there seems to be no beginning to this man’s talent.”

Gunn took on an especially difficult song. Save The Last Dance For Me was written by Brill Building legends Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus and it was originally covered in a romantic fashion by the Drifters.

The song is a classic and has been covered in a reggae style by the Heptones, by Ben E. King, and most recently by Michael Buble in a more up-beat style.

But Gunn’s treatment -- a risky big band outing in which he danced with well-known transvestite Candy Lane -- seemed to touch on many styles.

“What amazed me,” said cabaret singer Frankie Ellis, “was the way he took the risk to improvise lyrics towards the end to include a mention of Candy. This is the kind of style more commonly found in respected jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald or Dakota Staton.

“I hadn’t expected to hear this kind of vocal maturity and breadth on a show like this -- and even though I didn‘t the guy is obviously someone who has a unique approach.

"A bit like Wing, but who looks more like Michael J Fox, if you get my meaning.”

Other commentators noted that not only did Gunn sing and dance but he pulled out a range of facial expressions which added to the performance.

“I couldn’t help but think of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em.” said theatre manager Ron Pederson. “It was as if he had found a new facial mannerism for each line, if not every word. He went from sort of cheeky to vaguely surprised and then into looking like a man suffering from acute constipation.

“It was an extraordinary thing to watch and I have never before seen so much facial mobility in a singer. And that was pretty tough to pull off when you consider the lyrics go, 'Oh I know, that the music's fine like sparklin' wine, go and have your fun . . . ‘

“They might be simple and perhaps even full of pathos, but Jason found a whole new upbeat meaning in them -- and gave us the expressions to match. Extraordinary.”

And while talkback ran hot over whether Gunn should be given more time to sing and dance, one caller summed it up for many when she said that television directors obviously believed Gunn to be talented in ways that audiences had never previously realised.

“So I suggest he put together his own show and take it to theatres and clubs around the country to discover the true depth of interest in his abilities.”