After their success in the two-hander play Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks Todd McKenney and Nancye Hayes were asked to do a return season. They declined.
“Nancye and I thought we’d left it in such a great place last time, it was such a hit, we thought, let’s not flog it, let’s come up with something else,” explained Todd McKenney.
Instead, McKenney and Hayes sat down with producer Christine Dunstan and started sharing their stories. The stories were written down and became the basis for a new show: Bosom Buddies.
“We slowly built the show around our dinner party stories.”
Todd McKenney and Nancye Hayes first worked together in 1989 – in the musical 42nd Street.
“I had an accident during the show, actually. An abscess in my mouth burst … and Nancye and I kind of bonded, because I walked off the stage at interval with my head pounding and an arm shot out of Nancye’s dressing room with a glass of brandy in it, and she said, ‘Here, try that darling’. It was her nursing remedy! Then I had to go to hospital after the show, and they wouldn’t treat me because they thought I was drunk!” laughed McKenney.
It’s just one of many entertaining stories told in Bosom Buddies. All the stories are factual, and as McKenney explained, all the stories are already well-rehearsed – because they’ve been shared with friends over the years. Once the stories were compiled, McKenney and Hayes then considered which songs to add to the show.
“It’s a chat show, interspersed with song and dance.”
The whole process to create Bosom Buddies took about nine months. Bosom Buddies includes video and stills footage, so it took them considerable time to go back through archives and find appropriate footage, as well as seek approval to use the material.
“It’s a charming show – that’s the way I’d describe it. It’s totally different from anything else I’ve ever done,” said McKenney, adding, “And funny! Nancye’s got some killer stories!”
Creating the show has been a very collaborative process and knowing each so well already means they are very comfortable in providing feedback to each other.
“Nancye and I sharing the stage is like a pair of old slippers working together. Do you know what I mean?” asked McKenney.
Nothing was off limits for the show.
“We’re pretty open and honest. We said if we’re going to do it, we want the real stories and not sanitised,” commented McKenny.
“It’s not all laughs. There’s one moment in the show and it’s just so beautiful, it’s about harder times in our lives and it’s really, really emotional.”
Although they were already good friends before they started working on Bosom Buddies, Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney have still learnt a lot about each other.
“I learnt about her childhood. Nancye had to wear a caliper as a kid, because she had a tumour on her leg, and the doctors said, ‘You’ll never dance again’. I’d heard that story but I’d never realised just how serious that was. Also, Nancye had to work when her mother died. She was doing Sweet Charity when her Mum died and she went on stage that night. I didn’t know that. She learnt about my Dad leaving me and how it affected me as a child,” said McKenney.
“I think people are going to get educated and entertained at the same time – that’s the aim.”
With their stories all neatly scripted, I asked Todd McKenny if there was much ad-libbing in the show?
“That’s a good question … well, we change it every time we do it! Our stories are our stories. We didn’t want to waffle on. We scripted them so the show doesn’t go for 14 hours, and now that we’ve scripted them, we’re loosening them up again. We’ve taken out all the extra bits that weren’t really doing the show any favours. Each story now has a succinct beginning, middle and end. We learnt them and now we’re unlearning them, so we’re back to telling our stories.”
There is also an opportunity for the audience to ask questions to Hayes and McKenney.
“That could be my favourite part of the show – or my worst nightmare!” laughed McKenney.
While McKenney anticipates the show will appeal to fans of musical theatre, he said the show is very user-friendly, even if people don’t know anything about them, will appeal to a wide audience and is appropriate for all ages.
“It would be a great lesson for musical theatre students to come and have a listen to some of Nancye’s tales and what it was like back in the JC Williamson days, when they used to bring in imported artists and they wouldn’t let Australian leads in musicals. Nancye was one of those who broke that trend in Sweet Charity; along with Jill Perryman and Toni Lamond. She’s got quite a legacy. I think it would be good for musical theatre students and good for people who love musical theatre.”
McKenney and Hayes have an extensive regional tour planned for Bosom Buddies. McKenney loves to drive and during their car travels Nancye Hayes will pop on a CD of a musical that McKenney hasn’t seen before and then explain the entire show.
“By the time we get to where we are going I feel like I’ve seen another show! Nancye’s really, really knowledgeable.”
Bosom Buddies is now playing and it’s already proven to be a big hit.
“I’m really happy with it,” said McKenney.
From the reaction of first audiences, they’re really happy with it too.
For more details: http://www.toddmckenney.com.au/schedule/bosom-buddies/
PENRITH Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre
Tuesday 17 April, 7.30pm, Wednesday 18 April, 11am & 7.30pm
Bookings: 02 4723 7600 or www.thejoan.com.au
RINGWOOD Karralyka Centre
Fri 20 April, 8pm; Sat 21 April, 2pm & 8pm
Bookings: 03 9870 2888 or www.karralyka.com.au
HOBART Theatre Royal
Tuesday 24 April, 7.30pm
Bookings: 03 6233 2299 or www.theatreroyal.com.au
LAUNCESTON Princess Theatre
Thursday 26 April, 7.30pm
Bookings: 03 6323 3666 or www.theatrenorth.com.au
GEELONG Geelong Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 28 April, 2pm & 8pm
Bookings: 03 5225 1200 or www.gpac.org.au
FRANKSTON Frankston Arts Centre
Tuesday 1 May, 7pm
Bookings: 03 9784 1060 or www.artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au
NARRE WARREN Bunjil Place
Wednesday 2nd May, 8pm, www.bunjilplace.com.au
NUNAWADING Whitehorse Centre
Friday 4 May, 8pm; Saturday 5 May, 2pm & 8pm
Bookings: 03 9262 6555 or www.whitehorsecentre.com.au
BENDIGO Ulumbarra Theatre
Tuesday 8 May, 8pm
Bookings: 03 5434 6100 or www.ulumbarratheatre.com.au
BALLARAT Wendouree Centre for the Performing Arts
Thursday 10 May, 7.30pm
Bookings: 03 5338 0980 or www.wcpa.com.au
SALE The Wedge Performing Arts Centre
Tickets on sale in February from www.ebbwed.com.au
TRARALGON Latrobe Performing Arts Centre
Tuesday 15 May, 7pm
Bookings: 03 5176 3333 or www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/lpawhatson
DANDENONG Drum Theatre
Thursday 17 May, 8pm
Bookings: 03 8571 1666 or www.drumtheatre.com.au
MOONEE PONDS The Clocktower Centre
Friday 18 May, 8pm; Saturday 19 May, 2pm and 8pm
Bookings: 03 9243 9191 or www.clocktowercentre.com.au
CANBERRA Canberra Theatre Centre
Monday 21 May, 7pm; Tuesday 22 May, 1pm
Bookings: 02 6275 2700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au
TOOWOOMBA Empire Theatre
Friday 25 May, 8pm
Bookings: 1300 655 299 or www.empiretheatre.com.au
TAMWORTH Capitol Theatre
Monday 28 May, 8pm; Tuesday 29 May, 11am
Bookings: 02 6766 2028 or www.capitoltheatretamworth.com.au
NOWRA Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre
Friday 1 June, 11am & 8pm
Bookings: 1300 788 503 or shoalhavenentertainment.com.au
PARRAMATTA Riverside Theatre
Sunday 3 June, 3pm
Bookings: 02 8839 3399 or www.riversideparramatta.com.au
ADELAIDE Adelaide Festival Centre
Sunday 10 June, 3pm & 6.30pm; Monday 11 June, 5pm
Bookings: 131 246 or www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au
PORT MACQUARIE Glasshouse
Friday 15 June, 1pm & 7.30pm
Bookings: 02 6581 8888 or www.glasshouse.org.au