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    In the Mood for Love  

     

    O'Neill Brothers, Deborah Gibson bring 'Someone You Love' to Mankato
    The Free Press, Mankato, MN
    February 9, 2006
    by Amanda Dyslin

    Side ponytails held up by polka-dot Scrunchies, spandex in an array of neon colors, blue eyeshadow and frosted lipgloss - these were the fashions brought to us by mid-1980s pop culture.

    "Platoon" was in the theaters, Reagan was our president, and 16-year-old Debbie Gibson was our style guru. And, oh yeah, she sang a little, too.

    For you younger kids, Gibson was the Britney or Hilary of the '80s, except she actually wrote music and played the piano, a fact many people didn't know. Much like today's tweeners raking in millions during their 10 minutes on the Billboard charts, Gibson's talent wasn't marketed by her record company, but rather her image, as is customary if you want a No. 1 hit before you turn 21.

    Gibson says, herself, she had no idea what she was writing and singing about in her biggest hits, such as "Lost in Your Eyes" and "Only in My Dreams."

    "I always think about the fact that when I wrote those songs, I didn't even know what I was writing about," said Gibson, 35. "'Lost in Your Eyes'? I hadn't even experienced love."

    The big difference, however, between Gibson and the other girls is that when her 10 minutes of pop fame were over, she proved she had talent by going on to build a long and impressive career on Broadway. It's this new Gibson - the grown-up Deborah Gibson, as she goes by now, with an extraordinary set of pipes - that interested Tim and Ryan O'Neill of The O'Neill Brothers when thinking of female vocalists to add to their Valentine's Day tour.

    "She was at the top of our list," said Tim O'Neill, whose "Someone You Love" tour stops at Mankato West High School Auditorium Sunday afternoon. "She had a name that was very recognizable and a voice that was just incredible."

    The O'Neill Brothers, a sibling piano duo who grew up in New Prague and live in the Twin Cities, have toured five times, always bringing along five or six other musicians for a fuller band sound. For this tour in support of their new CD, "Someone You Love," they wanted to add a female vocalist to sing a few love songs.

    Gibson hadn't heard of the O'Neills, which isn't surprising considering pianists' music isn't usually showcased in film or television but instead serves as accompaniment. She also hadn't collaborated with other musicians for a tour, or toured solo small towns in the Midwest. ("Someone You Love" kicked off in New Prague Saturday and will make other stops in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska before ending in Minneapolis on Valentine's Day.)

    But after visiting the O'Neills' Web site, she was impressed by their resumé and was happy to sign on. The brothers have released 21 CDs of piano music and have written and performed music for HBO's "Sex and the City" and other television networks, including NBC and ESPN.

    "Part of what it was is the attitude Tim has - he's a real go-getter," Gibson said. "They've done so much (as independent recording artists), and I was really impressed by all of that."

    As a pianist, Gibson also appreciates The O'Neill Brothers' music. She, too, will be playing a little piano on the tour. Mostly she'll be singing songs that fit with the theme of the show, which is all about love.

    Gibson will perform some of her late '80s hits, including "Lost in Your Eyes," which she still hasn't grown tired of performing after 20 years. For one, she said, she hasn't disowned her past. She's proud of her accomplishments - they paved the way for many other opportunities. Plus, now that Gibson has experienced love, she can sing the songs with more passion.

    "You can do more emotionally, you can do more with your voice," she said about singing her signature songs.

    Gibson also will perform music from some of her lesser-known 1990s albums, which include "Body Mind Soul" of 1993 and "Deborah" of 1997.

    Gibson's Broadway career began in 1992 with a starring role in "Les Misérables." She played Sandy in the London West End production of "Grease," and she played Rizzo in the U.S. Broadway tour of the production.

    Her other Broadway roles include Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and her favorite, Sandy Bowles in "Cabaret" - a role she will reprise in the North Carolina Theater's production of "Cabaret" beginning later this month.

    "I took bits and pieces of every part of myself as an actress and a singer and combined it all (in 'Cabaret')," she said.

    Gibson also is proud of her stint on "Skating With the Stars," a pre-taped show airing on Fox. She skated with world-famous figure skater Kurt Browning, but the two received the lowest combined score from the judges a couple of weeks ago and ended their run on the show.

    This week Gibson is hosting "100 Greatest Teen Stars," a five-night series on VH1.

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