Saturday, 12 August 2006

The Boy From Oz, with Hugh Jackman, Aug 11, 2006

 The Boy From Oz
Music & Lyrics by Peter Allen, Book by Nick Enright  
Rod Laver Arena until Aug 11 to 13, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Hugh Jackman is so deliciously charming he is almost edible. Even playing Peter Allen, the King (and Queen) of Camp, he is the sexiest creature south of Mars.

He pranced and minced on stage and, when he peeled off his sequined shirt, he triggered squeals of delight from a phalanx of women. They dived over seats to touch him as he cavorted in the aisles.

Jackman has that indefinable quality that makes a star. In addition to his remarkable stage presence and vivid characterisation of Peter Allen, he has a strong and passionate singing voice and impeccable comic delivery.

He deserved his 2004 Tony for this role and, when he does his ironic screen test as James Bond, the audience clearly thought he should have the role. Talk about versatile: from Las Vegas camp to sex symbol spy.

The original production, with a clever book by Nick Enright, adhered to a narrative. This arena production incorporates segments with Jackman addressing the audience directly, dancing and flirting with a couple of men in the crowd, doing topical stand up about Mel Gibson, Leighton Hewitt and even giving us the footy scores.

Accompanying Jackman is a glittering chorus in wild costumes by Roger Kirk. Jackman sports a parade of outfits in sequins, lame and other shiny stuff. The finale, I Go to Rio, includes an array of giant martini glasses, pineapple headdresses, feathers and flesh to put Mardi Gras to shame.

Chrissy Amphlett, as Judy Garland, captures the tremulous, tottering star in her final days singing, All I Wanted Was The Dream. Wendy Toohey bears an uncanny resemblance to Liza Minnelli capturing the Minnelli’s spirit in the Bob Fosse inspired Cabaret scene.

Colleen Hewett’s powerful, husky voice was profoundly moving in Don’t Cry Out Loud and Murray Bartlett’s rendition of I Honestly Love You is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

Director, Kenny’ Ortega’s eclectic choreography with Kelley Abbey fills the stage with colour and the onstage band is tight and versatile.

The show depicts the light and shade of Allen’s life. We see the child’s budding showmanship, his rise to stardom, marriage, divorce, the death of his partner and his father’s suicide. But, throughout, Allen’s music plays a leading role. The crowd adored the patriotic I Still Call Australia Home and Jackman’s encore of Once Before I Go was a fitting farewell.

All hail Hugh!

By Kate Herbert

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