‘Boy From Oz’ was sparkly.
The sequins, maracas, shiny fabrics and diamante heels were all out at Noosa Arts Theatre’s sell out production of ‘The Boy From Oz’. Directed by Ian Mackeller, the energetic cast danced and sang their way into the hearts of the eager audience.
‘The Boy From Oz’, is a juke-box style musical which tells the story of Peter Allen. The highly successful musical originally premiered in Sydney in 1998 and starred Australia’s Todd McKenney in the leading role. In 2003, it became the first Australian musical to make it to Broadway where Hugh Jackman won a Tony award for his portrayal of Allen. Set in bars, nightclubs and concert venues in New York and Australia, the show tells the story of Peter Allen’s journey from his home town of Tenterfield to his career as a recording artist and performer in New York. Allen died in 1992, and the musical about his life was written in 1996 by Nick Enright. The show has since toured internationally and as an arena style production in Australia.
Sam Henderson strutted, or should I say, sashayed onto stage wearing a red sequined shirt to address the audience. With his vibrant smile, he greeted the audience with an enthusiastic, “hello Noosa” and from that moment, held the audience captivated for the entire length of the show. With a role previously played by the likes of Hugh Jackman and Todd McKenney, Henderson gave his everything and did justice to the show as well as the character and music of Peter Allen. At times, the dialogue was slightly rushed, but Henderson’s diction was clear and his energy was unabating. Henderson’s singing was dynamic and he successfully navigated the contrasts between the big showy numbers and the sensitive moments in the story.
12-year-old Xavier Vass took on the role of young Peter. Xavier was equally as dynamic as Henderson and exuded confidence. Like Henderson, his dancing was skillful and crisp and his vocals were flawless.
Director, Ian McKellar, managed the transitions between cities and places effectively with the use of projections, lighting and rolling set pieces including a baby grand piano. The choice to have Allen’s phone conversations from overseas with his Mum, Marion (Robyn Moore) delivered presentationally on opposite sides of the stage, helped the audience understand their geographical distance yet close relationship. Moore’s subtle facial expressions and genuine vocal tones conveyed Marion’s pride in her son’s achievements.
Robyn Moore is a versatile performer. Her rendition of ‘Don’t Cry out Loud’ after the death of Peter Allen’s father, confronted the audience with its rawness. Moore’s earthy and wholesome tone with stunning vibrato on her higher notes captured the emotional intensity of the moment.
Another standout performer was AJ Wildey who played the role of Liza Minelli. AJ’s exquisite vocal delivery, sharp dance skills and engaging facial expressions were captivating. AJ embodied the role of Liza and her acting was of a professional standard.
Aaron Sinclair’s portrayal of Peter Allen’s partner, Greg Connell, was natural and understated. Sinclair provided a nice contrast to the vibrancy of Henderson and the pair handled the intimate moments of the show sensitively.
Choreographer Nicole Kaminski, made good use of the tight space with clean, crisp yet simple movement that was highly effective and delivered with enthusiasm. While I was longing to pop a pair of tap shoes onto Henderson in ‘Everything Old is New Again’, the use of canon, levels and direction made for enjoyable dance sequences.
The tight ensemble appeared to be having a joyous time, with some wild ocker pub accents and an array of characters clearly defined to the audience by their costuming. The trio of singers, Ariah Aiello, Ava Crozier and Tessa Robertson, did the heavy lifting with the complex harmonies of the show. The trio featured heavily throughout the production and blended well. Costume designer, Margaret Courtney, dressed the trio in matching outfits to Henderson – and true to the colourful nature of Peter Allen, Henderson changed his shirt often. The choice to match the costuming of the trio with Henderson was not only visually stunning but symbolic. When Henderson left the stage, the trio acted as narrators to extend the story. Of the trio, the focus was on Aiello, with her extra pizazz and conviction.
A special mention must go to the lighting design of this show. I don’t think I have seen a community theatre production with such a detailed and magical lighting design. Well done, Travis Macfarlane – what a stunning design. Likewise, the attention to detail with the costuming was exceptional.
Even with the tragic moments of the story, the overall mood was a true celebration of the vibrant life of Peter Allen with 2022 marking the 30 year anniversary of his death. The finale of ‘I Go to Rio’ was everything you would expect – palm trees, maracas, exuberance, sparkles and even bubbles.
‘The Boy From Oz’ performs until Saturday, 19 November 2022 at Noosa Arts Theatre, however the season is sold out. For more information visit their website: https://www.noosaartstheatre.org.au/the-boy-from-oz/