‘The Boy From Oz’ was colourful.
With such an iconic Australian personality at the centre of the show, Savoyards Musical Theatre had a massive feat on their hands by taking on a production full of heart, music and colour.
‘The Boy From Oz’ follows the life story of Peter Allen; an Australian born pop star turned icon, most famous for his songs ‘I Still Call Australia Home’, ‘I Go to Rio’ and ‘I Honestly Love You’. This infamous tale first captured the hearts of our nation before becoming the first Australian musical ever to make it to Broadway. If that wasn’t enough to put the pressure on a beloved hit, Savoyards Musical Theatre also approached (and conquered) the challenge of delivering something new to a theatre show they first premiered back in 2009 (in Queensland).
Director, Miranda Selwood, took an interesting approach to the staging of the story; opting for four individual set pieces, which each represented a different era of Peter’s life. All were expertly crafted and designed by Charlotte Keen and her team. Selwood also opted to have these spaces constantly filled with cast members to keep the stage feeling alive. Though it was understandable why these pieces were needed, they were often a burden to move for the cast and crew. They also drew focus unnecessarily during some of the more poignant and emotional moments that played out through the show, robbing the company of some truly beautiful moments.
Despite this, the cast should be commended for their outstanding acting, dancing and singing abilities, especially Vanessa Wainwright (Judy Garland) and Natalie Lennox (Liza Minnelli). The audience was instantly drawn in by Wainwrights’ captivating vocal stability and energy, playing Judy Garland so magnificently and to a tee. It is clear that her dedication to both the show and the role played a massive part in her professional presentation of this character. Lennox’s portrayal of Liza was energetic and fun, infecting the audience with her amazing dance and singing skills. No stranger to the Savoyards stage, having performed in their previous hit ‘Chicago’ in 2018, Lennox is a performer to watch out for. Her immense dance background and capabilities made her extremely comfortable within the production.
As the leading performer, Shannon Foley’s hilarious rendition of Peter Allen was an extremely fun one to watch. Paired with the amazing work from their costume and wig department, who created defining looks for each number, Foley not only sounded like Peter but also looked almost exactly like him. Though Peter Allen’s exorbitant character can be a hard one to play, Foley’s extensive professional background certainly helped in executing the difficult characterisation to perfection.
Other notable mentions should go to Aiden Huntly (Young Peter Allen) and Jacqui Cuny (Marion Woolnough). Huntly is a young up-and-comer who is training in tap, ballet, jazz, singing and is trying his hand at acting. Based on the performance that we saw, Huntly is also another star on the rise. Playing his mother, Cuny gave a stellar performance portraying a strong role-model for Peter. Her versatility with emotions made audiences laugh and cry, and left us blown away with her heartfelt and mature portrayal.
As the nerves of preview night kicked in, the show did have a few downfalls. The cast seemed very focussed on getting the dance moves right, rather than just enjoying their moment on stage. No doubt Peter Allen would have enjoyed a well-polished performance, it’s just as easy to believe he would’ve preferred to see the cast having fun and really connecting with their audience. There were also a few technical glitches with the microphones where, at times, you couldn’t hear the performers over the amazing sound of the orchestra. That being said, these little bumps can easily be ironed out over the course of the show’s season.
Once again, Savoyards Musical Theatre has maintained their ambitions in staging entertaining theatre, dazzled in colour and standout performances. A show that will leave audiences bopping along with memorable hits, ‘The Boy From Oz’ is an energetic and fun rendition of Peter Allen’s life story – and to be honest, would he really have wanted it any other way?
‘The Boy From Oz’ performs until Saturday, 12 October 2019, at the Iona Performing Arts Centre. For more information visit Savoyard’s Website.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show have also worked for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.