Country tunes are back in style in the south, with the world premiere of the John Denver tribute Whisper the Wind kicking off in Dunedin this weekend.
The production is set to go global, and a young, partially blind Otago student has scored the starring role as the singing star.
Twenty-one-year-old local crooner Beavon Gardiner grew up to the sound of Denver's tunes, and his promoter says they now sound so alike, Gardner even fooled the manager of Denver's estate.
"I said, 'hey, we found an old tape of John, what do you think?'" says Ken Dennison, "and he said, 'Wow, that's amazing, where did you find it?' and I said, 'actually that's not John, it's Beavon Gardiner."
Gardiner is about to join another, older Denver impersonator from America in a show that will take the audience back through the height of Denver's fame in the 1970s, his work as a humanitarian and environmentalist, and finally, his death in a plane crash in 1997.
Between them they will perform 25 of Denver's dozens of hits.
It is an opportunity of a lifetime for the partially-blind Gardiner.
"I've been a fan for a long time, a long time," he says. "It is a dream come true."
It is not the first time he has taken on the persona of his idol, performing at the 10th annual John Denver Tribute Week in Aspen last year.
"I got to meet a lot of his family," says Gardiner. "His mother, his brother, played with his band a couple of times, it was great to be part of something like that."
Vegas singer Ron Rich has been performing Denver songs for nearly 10 years. He plays an older Denver in the show, and is impressed by his young co-star.
"Beavon's a very talented man," he says. "Yeah, he's going to go far."
Gardiner is looking forward to the tour. His only regret is leaving behind his guide dog Denim.
"He's just been a bit bored, I think, sitting round in dressing rooms, sitting round doing nothing."
The show tours the country for a month. From there, if all goes well, it will be the world.
source: newshub archive