Air Supply singer redefines glam rock
October 24, 2008
Graham Russell met Air Supply collaborator Russell Hitchcock during an Australian production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1975. The two played apostles, lepers and general riffraff in the chorus.
Eventually, they played together.
"We were lucky from day one when we sang together," Graham explained. "We were blessed."
The pair went on to become one of the most popular soft rock duos of the 1980s and penned top 10 hits like "Even the Nights are Better" and "Making Love out of Nothing at All."
Now Russell plans to return to musical theater. This time, he’ll share the stage with 30 frolicking children, a fairy, and his wife, Jodi, in the children’s show "Petalbump." The 90-minute, one-act production will run Oct. 27-31 at Rose Wagner Theatre.
Graham will play a giant plant. At first, he was hesitant to cast himself. "I didn’t want to be biffed by 30 kids," he said. And then he thought that the idea was so ridiculous it just might work.
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Graham wrote and composed the show about a woman who returns to her childhood home after her parents die. She crawls through a hollow log in the garden and comes out the other end transformed into a child again. "As adults we lose our imagination," Jodi, who produced "Petalbump," said. "We lose that ability to play.
They plan to release a children’s book by the end of the year and have signed a deal with Sandman Studios to turn "Petalbump" into an animated feature-length film.
In part because Graham still tours with Air Supply he said he performs about 120 times a year, in fact the couple has taken about a decade to complete the project.
Ten years ago, Jodi awoke from a dream about a dog fairy named Petalbump. She immediately told her husband.
"I don’t get the dog fairy bit," he responded. But he liked the sound of the name and started to write songs using the name as inspiration. Originally conceived as a ballet, "Petalbump" also uses elements of modern dance. The dancers are from Vibe studio and range in age from nine to 16. "They have such great energy," said Jodi, who has worked in Los Angeles as an actor. "They keep me on my toes."
Rocking out in Park City
The Russells moved to the Park City area 14 years ago after a fire destroyed their dream house in Malibu. Today, they live fulltime on a 1,200 acre plot in Woodland. In the winter, about a hundred elk roam the property and the couple is licensed to rehabilitate orphaned and injured mammals.
Jodi bottle feeds bobcats and deer. She loses about half the animals she tries to help, but it is better than the alternative, she said. "All of these Bambis were dying in our arms," she explained. "We wanted to do something."
After all, it was Summit County’s open space that attracted the couple. "I loved the scenery," Graham said. "We felt like we were shedding our skin."
The couple loaded their two dogs and cats into a truck and drove from California to Utah.
They haven’t looked back.
Graham built a recording studio in his home and often walks around with a digital recorder, eager to capture strange noises. "I love being able to record anywhere," he said, "even the sound of a tree rubbing against a brick wall. It’s very releasing for me."
Graham’s primary passion, though, isn’t recording. It’s performing. "I always have loved getting up on stage and just rocking out," he said.
It is a love that he will share with his wife as the two perform in Salt Lake City, plant costume and all.
If you go
When: Oct. 27-31, 7 p.m.
Where: RoseWagner Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets: $25 at ArtTix or by calling 355-ARTS (2787) Special prices available for kids and seniors