The Boy from Oz is a jukebox musical based on the life of singer and songwriter Peter Allen, featuring songs written by him with the book by Nick Enright, with a revised book by Martin Sherman. The Boy from Oz is celebrating 20 years this year, having premiered in Australia in 1998 starring Todd McKenney. A revised version opened on Broadway staring Hugh Jackman in 2003.
The Boy from Oz tells the story of the extraordinary life of legendary singer/songwriter Peter Allen, from his birth in 1944 in Tenterfield, NSW and humble beginnings growing up in rural Armidale to his meteoric rise to fame as an international star. The story covers Peter’s career in Australia and the United States, as well as his relationships with legendary singing stars Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, until his death in 1992.
A juke-box musical, The Boy from Oz weaves many of Peter Allen’s most famous and beloved songs into his life story: unforgettable songs like ‘When I Get My Name in Lights’, ‘Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage’, ‘Everything Old is New Again’, ‘I Honestly Love You’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’, ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ and ‘I Go to Rio’.
The Boy from Oz is being presented by MLOC from 12-20 October at the Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale.
With a cast of 28 made up of representatives from all walks of life and all ages including ‘veterans of community theatre, newcomers, salt-of-the-earth good eggs who were keen to do a show, amazing dancers, tremendous singers and some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. It’s like a Peter Allen hive mind with an enormous heart’ says Matthew Hadgraft, Musical Director. ‘(The rehearsal room) is large, with keen actors and dancers splayed around the periphery, finishing texts and sentences in time for warm-ups and pep-talks, smiling and laughing at the beginning, looking worn out but gratified at the end, with director Rhylee Nowell noticing everything, scribbling in her notepad with her four-colour pen, Matty J singing and acting up a storm, an ants nest of cast and crew preparing for their next cue, the odd committee member or costume assistant popping in to ask a question, and me behind the piano running the gamut of facial expressions.’
Matt Jakowenko plays the role of Peter Allen, a role he was lucky enough to see Todd McKenney perform while working Front of House at the Princess Theatre in 1998. When asked if he felt any pressure bringing this iconic role to life, Jakowenko replied ‘Absolutely, there’s pressure with any role you perform. I’m looking forward to bringing my interpretation of Peter to life’. A lot of research went into this role with Jakowenko watching many bio-pics and interviews, reading articles and listening to Allen’s original recordings.
Director and Choreographer Rhylee Nowell is also no stranger to The Boy from Oz, directing a production on the Gold Coast in 2010, where she met Hadgraft. She was also bought up listening to Allen’s music, ‘I have been an avid fan for pretty much my entire life. I’ve read pretty much everything ever written and watched hours and hours of interviews and performance footage.’
When Nowell was asked about her biggest challenge whilst working on this show, it was the subtleties that concerned her. ‘The show is known for its big show stopping numbers, but I really wanted to work on the more intimate moments in the show as well to give people an insight into not just the music, but the man himself’. Nowell quotes ‘Once Before you Go’ as her favourite moment in the show, while Jakowenko is looking forward to performing the emotional ‘Tenterfield Saddler’ for audiences each night.
Both Nowell and Hadgraft have been involved with MLOC since 2013; and they are both excited to be working together again on such a special show to them. Hadgraft had the honour of playing Peter Allen in 2010, and now relishes in the change and challenge of wielding the baton for this production. ‘This is such a rich score with a life of its own that I’m simply loving every moment of hearing it come to life! I’m not feeling pressured, just having a magnificent time. It’s so well-written that the music evokes the characters and personality by itself. I’m the conductor/pianist, and this score is tricky, so my greatest challenge is conducting with my head and my third arm!’
With the role having been played by such iconic performers in the past, I asked MLOC’s own Peter Allen if he had a favourite.
‘I’ve been lucky enough to have seen all three Peter Allen’s (Hugh, Todd and Rohan). Hands down favourite for me is Rohan Browne. His interpretation was the most honest, heartfelt and made you walk away saying “I wanna do that”!’.
MLOC’s The Boy From Oz opens Friday 12 October and runs until Saturday 20 October. Tickets are available online at Try Booking or contact the Booking Office on 03 9551 7514.