Published: 12:05 AM, Thu April, 25 2019
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
As a child, Maxine Linehan loved almost everything in her mother’s vast record collection.
But the voice of Petula Clark always stood out. The British pop songstress – with a voice full of honesty and clarity – was Linehan’s favorite.
These days, Linehan herself is an acclaimed vocalist, and she has put together an entire show based on the music of Petula Clark.
Titled “What Would Petula Do?,’” the tour comes to Orr Auditorium at Westminster College on Saturday. Linehan pays homage to Clark in the show, but she does it in her own powerful and expressive style.
In a recent phone interview, Linehan discussed the show, her career and how her love of Petula Clark got started.
What: Maxine Linehan in “What Would Petula Do?”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Orr Auditorium, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pa.
Tickets: $33 to $45; call 724-946-7354 or go to westminster.edu/celebrity
“My parents met and married in London in the swinging ’60s, and this was the soundtrack of their lives,” she said. “When they moved back to Ireland to start a family, they brought all of their records, and I listened to them with my mother, singing with her to all of those singers and bands. But there was always something about Petula, her sweetness of voice and her connection to what she was singing. I sang her songs together with my mom for hours.”
The idea for a show based on Clark’s music began germinating a decade ago. Linehan had mentioned to a friend how much she loved the singer, and in response, he told her she would sound amazing singing Clark’s music.
Linehan’s voice does lend itself to Clark’s tunes, so she began doing research to put together a show that covers Clark’s life and career.
Linehan said “What Would Petula Do?” is not a tribute act, and it’s way more than a jukebox show.
“Audiences will leave thinking they just saw a musical,” said Linehan. “[After performances,] people say to me they’ve been lifelong fans of Petula but had no idea she had done so much with her life. Petula was involved in every aspect of show business and conquered each part. Audiences feel like they are getting this full experience. They see why her music is relevant.”
Linehan is backed by a 12-piece orchestra in her show, which spans Clark’s career from her childhood when she sang on the BBC radio, to her ’60s hits, to her years in Paris, right up to today. “It is a real musical journey,” said Linehan, who also talks about how Clark impacted her own career.
By the way, the ever-youthful Petula Clark is still touring; she performed at the Palace Theatre in Canton just last November, and at 86, looks amazingly young and vibrant.
Linehan said she has had the privilege of meeting Clark a few times. “She is so supportive of my work,” she said.
The Irish-born Linehan, who now lives in Vermont with her husband and their children, has had an interesting life of her own.
She was a child actor in Ireland, but was urged by her family to take a more stable career path. She went to law school and was a practicing lawyer for 12 years.
After her firm relocated her to New York, Linehan began to rethink her career.
“I had a mini-crisis at around age 30,” she said. “I did not want to do this for the rest of my life. I was constantly trying to sing on the side, and did regional theater when I was in law school. The rude awakening came after the loss of both of my parents. I had to decide what to do with the rest of my precious time. I packed it in and transferred to music,” waiting tables on the side.
Linehan released her first album, “Beautiful Songs,” in 2015, and will release a live recording of her Petula Clark show in the fall.
Petula Clark isn’t the only artist whom Linehan honors; she also has a show in which she sings the music of Irish rock band U2.
As with the Clark show, Linehan does not mess with the melodies or the greatness of each U2 song. “I bring my voice and my emotional connection to each song, to make it personal without changing it,” she said.