Few musical boys are lucky enough to have had Judy Garland as a mother-in-law, been married to Liza and toured with Bette Midler. For a gay boy from Armidale, to be played by Hugh Jackman must seem the final climax.
Peter Allen died in 1992 but his story, from Aussie country boy to famous singer-songwriter, spawned our most successful musical here and on Broadway. Jackman’s comet really took off with his American success in the role and now he’s come home with this spectacular arena-style re-staging of The Boy From Oz.
Tickets aren’t cheap but, in short, Jackman delivers in spades and so does the show.
Allen’s fine songs luckily illuminate the chapters of his own life and, even more pertinent, his story is celebrity-studded enough to deliver the likes of Judy and Liza. Chrissy Amphlett is superb as the slurring, fun-loving Garland, as is Angela Toohey as the breathless Minnelli.
Allen’s earthy, adoring mum may not be as famous but Colleen Hewett’s performance helps make her so, especially when she sings Don’t Cry Out Loud .
In this arena production Allen’s story is stripped back to the very bare essentials and upstaged with the most astonishing spectacle. With his taste for camp and sparkle, Allen would probably have adored it -“ right from the beginning when Jackman descends from the skies on a white piano.
The detail of Nick Enright’s poignant original script may be sacrificed, but only to make room for a feathered line-up of 60 high-kicking Rockettes. Flanked by huge screens, this extravaganza of dance, costume and song successfully reaches out to the thousands.
The original coming-out story is still there and we meet Allen’s one true male love, Greg (Murray Bartlett). They never actually kiss but Greg does sing a heartfelt I Honestly Love You -“ before going off to die of AIDS.
If Peter Allen would have had any complaints, it might have been that Jackman gets more billing than his story. It’s really Jackman’s own cabaret show, resting on his effortless charisma, engagement and skills.
He holds every minute of our attention, whether in a solo spot or at the centre of an exploding spectacle like I Go To Rio. Jackman and The Boy From Oz deliver what’s close to your best Mardi Gras moments.
The Boy From Oz has now left Sydney for a national tour but returns to the Sydney Entertainment Centre from 14 to 23 September.