The Boy from Oz | The Production CompanyTough luck if you missed buying a ticket for The Production Company’s current revival of The Boy from Oz. It completely sold out before the season even opened on Wednesday. It’s only been around since 1998, but Australia’s most successful musical already has cult status in this country.

And it’s easy to see why. Even in this pared down, concert-style version, it is still a darn good and highly engaging night of entertainment. Based on the colourful life of singer/songwriter Peter Allen and written by Nick Enright, The Boy from Oz manages to combine just the right amount of upbeat and downbeat, sing along numbers and lesser known tunes, serious drama and camp and wraps it all up in a nostalgic, irresistible package.

Director Nancye Hayes creates a narrative flow that is not completely chronological but works perfectly in setting up snapshots of Allen’s boyhood treading the boards in his local Armidale pub, his early success on the Asian touring circuit, tough breaks in America and his love for Australia that always burned in the back of his mind. There are flashbacks, a frequently reappearing Judy Garland (even after she dies), and a large cast of dancers who bring a celebratory energy to numbers like Pretty Keen Teen and I Still Call Australia Home.

Todd McKenney played Allen in the original Australian season of the musical and now, a decade later, he is reliving the role. Ten years on, he can still shake the maracas, charm the socks off his audience with precocious banter and pump out Allen’s best tunes, although he struggles to simultaneously sing and do Pilates manoeuvres atop his grand piano. McKenney even has an uncanny physical likeness to Allen, especially evident when video footage of the real Allen singing Tenterfield Saddler, his heartfelt tribute to his grandfather, appears on a large screen.

By show’s finish - the crowd-pleasing, samba-inspired I Go To Rio, it’s obvious how versatile a singer/songwriter Allen was. He wrote serious songs, Broadway songs, catchy songs, heartfelt songs – and they all work together as a musical score. Musical director John Foreman leads a stellar ensemble that supports them all with style. Christen O’Leary and Fem Belling both shine in their solos as Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli respectively, as does Robyn Arthur as Allen’s doting mother.

Choreographer Andrew Hallsworth has a large cast to work with, as 10 extra dancers from Patrick Studios embellish the nearly 20-strong ensemble. The dancing is not always as crisp as it could be and it gets a bit crowded on stage, especially since a big staircase takes up most of the floor space, but it easily conveys a range of styles, from gangster inspired Broadway in Legs Diamond Opener to leg warmers and big haired 80’s themed Bi-Coastal. Add in a Rockettes line-up and a swing scene, and The Boy From Oz never slows down.

This show can do no wrong - it tugs the heart strings, has the ta-da moments, the big, joyous numbers, just enough tragedy and hardship and, of course, the Australiana. For all its camp and corn, there’s a compelling story within The Boy From Oz.

Don’t feel bad if you missed out. Demand has been so great a January season is on sale now. It seems that no matter how many times it returns to roost, The Boy from Oz will always be able to call Australia home.


The Production Company presents
The Boy from Oz

Venue: State Theatre, The Arts Centre
Dates: 18 - 22 August, 2010
Bookings: www.theartscentre.com.au

JANUARY 2011 SEASON
Venue:
State Theatre, The Arts Centre
Dates: 6 - 16 January (5 Jan Preview)
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 182 183 | The Arts Centre www.theartscentre.com.au
Tickets now on sale