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Supporting live theatre in Adelaide PO Box 10278
THE BOY FROM OZ
Marie Clark Musical Theatre
The Arts Theatre
Until 1 Nov 2008
Review by Brian Godfrey
With “The Boy From Oz”, Marie Clark Musical Theatre has come of age.
The South Australian amateur première of Nick Enright’s musical biography of Peter Al en is almost as
perfect as the original 1998 professional version starring Todd McKenney. A show that features so many wel known songs, flashbacks, gay love, glitzy dance numbers and three showbiz greats (no less than Al en himself, Judy Garland and Liza Minnel i) would probably send a lesser production team screaming to the nearest Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, but not Max Rayner (Director), Irena Setchel (Choreographer) and Adrian Holmes (Musical Director). They present a show that Al en himself would surely be proud and want to be part of. Rayner gives the audience many memorable pictures, including a very militaristic version of “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” emulating the upheavals that Judy Garland’s death caused in gay communities: two of the saddest, most poignant death scenes to be seen in a musical; and a version of “I Stil Cal Australia Home” so stirring and patriotic that you want to rush out and buy shares in Qantas. He also takes a very brave risk at the beginning of Act Two that pays off big time (the loveliest Radio
City Rockettes ever!). Setchel ’s choreography is varied to suit the time periods (60’s, 70’s and 80’s) and she has dril ed her dancers to be tight and fairly wel timed (especial y in the Bob Fosse style “Sure Thing Baby” routine and the rhumba-ling “I Go To Rio”). Led by Holmes, the voices are superb and the orchestra is great (though a little too boisterous at times, tending to drown the singers and the actors’ dialogue). Ole Wiebkin’s sets are easily workable and suitably drab – rustic colours for the Aussie outback and blacks and greys for the pol uted American scenes. Wiebkin has underplayed the set to al ow the colour and flamboyance
to emanate from the character that was Peter Al en. The chorus al deserve their place in the show and a couple of cameo roles are great: Syd Moyle as Brian Henderson (the 50’s and 60’s Mol y Meldrum) and Merici Thompson as Valerie Anthony (wife of producer Dee Anthony). Of the principals, Thomas Goldsmith (as young Peter) shows lots of promise and should one day see his “Name In Lights”; Jo Hunt is very motherly as Peter’s mum, Marion, and doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house with her rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud”; as Greg Connel , Al en’s life partner and lighting designer, Steve Rudd is a terrifical y tender Texan who sings “I Honestly Love You” in honestly lovely fashion; and al performers should have Sal y Scott (Linel e), Amy Hutchinson
(Shena) and Kate Dempsey (Karen) as their back-up singers. They are gorgeous and can they vocalise! Rachel Rai as Ms Minnel i is Liza with a Z for zest and zing and a capital M for marvel ous. In the role of Judy Garland, Louise McNamara does not fare as wel ; her voice is beautiful (especial y in “Al I Wanted Was The Dream”), but she does not portray the lady as she was towards the end of her career - riddled
with drugs and alcohol. McNamara looks and acts more like a slightly huffy Julie Anthony. As the Boy from Oz himself, Kim Clark shimmers and shines. He doesn’t quite move as wel as the real Al en, but he certainly sings better. By the end of the evening, one is convinced that it is Peter Al en playing Peter Al en. Clark does not fol ow in the footsteps of Todd McKenney and Hugh Jackman – he is
striding right alongside them. Forget going to Rio – grab your maracas and head down to the Arts Theatre. !
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