While Tim Draxl’s been busy carving out an international career as a singer and actor – appearing in films like A Few Best Men and the upcoming TV mini series Mrs Biggs – he’s balanced his working life in LA with regular jaunts back to his Sydney hometown. It’s in Melbourne, though, that audiences have really missed him; Draxl’s last appearance on a Melbourne stage was as part of the Production Company’s She Loves Me, well over a decade ago.

“When I come home to Sydney I usually throw together a little show to perform, but it doesn’t travel. So this is a thrill – particularly to be part of the Melbourne Festival for Brett Sheehy’s final program,” Draxl told the Star Observer.

The show Draxl’s bringing to Melbourne is Freeway – The Chet Baker Story, which rose from intimate beginnings at a Kings Cross cabaret bar to enjoy acclaimed seasons at the Sydney Opera House and Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

The ‘musical play’ sees Draxl mix songs made famous by Baker with stories and anecdotes from the legendary jazzman’s life.

“He is such an icon of the 1950s and ‘60s, and yet so few people really know much about him compared to, say, Marilyn Monroe or James Dean. It’s been so gratifying to have people come up to me after the show saying they’d never heard of Chet Baker, or they only knew the name and perhaps one or two songs, but they were now interested in listening,” he said.

“Even more than that, though, have been the Chet Baker fans who come along who don’t know who I am – now that’s daunting. But they seem to really love it, which is very humbling and gratifying.”

The show represents a unique opportunity for Draxl, a multi-skilled performer who has rarely been able to showcase all his talents in any one particular role. Singing the songs Baker made famous – My Funny Valentine, My Buddy and Let’s Get Lost among them – Draxl’s swoonsome voice is on show. The between-song scenes serve to flex his acting muscle.

“I’m not impersonating Chet, it’s more about the essence of him. It’s quite raw and stripped-back – I’m a 30 year old man, so I’m not going to be trying to impersonate Chet at the end of his life when he was 60 and he looked 100. There’s no make-up, no costumes, but between songs it’s a mix of narration and me speaking as Chet,” he explained.

Draxl’s also recorded an album, My Funny Valentine, to accompany Freeway. It’ll be available to buy at his Melbourne shows and can also be found on iTunes and in selected record shops.

“I hadn’t been in a recording studio for more than 10 years, and it surprised me how excited I was to get back in there. Last time I was on a big record contract with Sony, so it was really nice this time to do something small and low-key without the pressure of a big record company and everything that comes along with that.”

INFO: Freeway – The Chet Baker Journey, Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, October 16-20. www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

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