Published on August 12th, 2018 | by Curtis Mayfield
The Boy from Oz Review (Melbourne 2018)
Summary: Chuck on a sparkly outfit and your best dancing shoes and go see your auntie’s favourite stage musical, The Boy from Oz in its 20th year of production!
Witnessing the bedazzled brilliance of the story of an Australian icon unfold as a complete novice to musicals may be the best way to experience Peter Allen’s journey. All the cliché but wonderful elements of a night out at the theatre (campy jokes, a million dazzling costume changes) are on full display at the latest incarnation of The Boy From Oz, the musical that put Hugh Jackman on the map. Jackman is probably somewhere else right now polishing his Wolverine claws so it’s time for Rohan Browne (Singin’ in The Rain) to slip into the shiny-shirt role of the talented Australian musician.
Browne’s take on the flamboyant larger than life character shines through as he breaks down the fourth wall and narrates Allen’s story, jumping in and out of scenes and even having a few playful jabs at the audience – and himself! Browne plays Allen as an open friendly character, so much so you might feel the urge to jump on stage and give him a hug (sidenote: please don’t do this).
Browne is supported by an extremely talented cast, particularly Caroline O’Connor who stars as Judy Garland, the person who (according to the story) introduced Allen to American audiences. Loren Hunter’s spot on performance as Liza Minnelli is show stopping (but in the good way) as she not only speaks exactly like the Broadway star but also matches her singing talents as well. The quiet achiever of the cast is Robyn Arthur who plays Allen’s mother and biggest fan. Arthur plays the old-fashioned Australian country mum with so much warmth that it will probably inspire a phone call home after the show.
Mix all these talents together and add a live band, catchy songs, beautiful costumes, amazing set design and lighting as well as the odd cabaret dancer or two and The Boy from Oz pops right out off the stage and into your heart. Try watching the fun brilliance of ‘I Go to Rio’ without getting out of your seat. The second half of the show is where all the magic lays. The audience has loosened up, the drinks have been consumed and Browne is ready to do all the high kicks and campy jokes an audience could ask for.
The stage production of Allen’s sometimes tragic life does sugarcoat many of the singer’s sad moments. The death of Garland, divorce and eventual AIDS related death are prominent parts of the story but aren’t focused on too much. But so what! The show isn’t meant to be an eye-opening exposé on the man’s ups and downs. It’s a celebration of music and love and all the other sappy moments we should hold onto in life. The show is also an education for the under 30s crowd too. Did you know that ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ wasn’t just a song to help Qantas sell tickets?
Some of the themes of the show have been updated to 2018 sensibilities with Browne rocking a sequenced jacket with the Aboriginal flag on the back as well as a song and dance number accompanied by a sign language interpreter. So chuck on a sparkly outfit and your best dancing shoes and go see your auntie’s favourite stage musical in its 20th year of production.
#: Images Jeff Busby
Starring: Rohan Browne, Loren Hunter, Caroline O’Connor, Maxwell Simon, Francis Greensdale and Robyn Arthur
Music and Lyrics by Peter Allen
Musical Director Michael Tyack
Costumes Tim Chappel
Lighting Trent Suidgeest
Book by Nick Enright
Director Jason Langley
Choreographer Michael Ralph
Set Christina Smith