CANBERRA THEATRE 26.10.12
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Todd McKenney’s relationship with Peter Allen is perhaps reminiscent of the dancer in “The Red Shoes” who having danced in the shoes, was never able to take them off again. When Todd stepped into Peter Allen’s glittering shoes to create the musical based on Allen’s life, “The Boy from Oz”, they fitted so comfortably that he was able to capture Allen’s energy and charisma totally and convincingly and his performance as Allen became one of the great performances in Australian music theatre history.
People who had never seen Peter Allen perform live, and many who had, were totally captivated with Todd’s performance, and many were introduced to Allen’s prodigious catalogue of songs through Todd’s performance.
Todd McKenney has now become a world-class performer and despite the fact that he has performed leading roles in other major musicals since "The Boy From Oz", and become a significant television personality, it is the songs of Peter Allen that people want to hear Todd sing.
Embracing this continued interest; Todd has created “Todd McKenney -The Songs and Stories of Peter Allen” to satisfy this demand, which, following just two inaugural performances in Perth, he performed in the Canberra Theatre at the beginning of an extensive Australian tour.
Throughout this show, Todd remains himself, effortlessly establishing immediate rapport with his audience regaling them with cheeky personal insights into his encounters with Allen. He shares stories of his experiences while touring in “The Boy from Oz” and talks of the people who surrounded, and where influenced by Peter Allen. The songs he performs with his customary panache and sensitivity, against a backdrop of shimmering festoon curtains which constantly change colour and mood in a dazzling lightshow designed by Trudy Dalgleish.
Two accomplished singer/dancers, Lisa Callingham and Kirby Burgess provide additional glamour, backing vocals, occasionally duet with Todd or sing solos. Champion ballroom dancers, Melanie Hooper and Brendon Midson contribute some dazzling routines and joined Todd, Lisa and Kirby in some energetic dance routines choreographed by Andrew Hallsworth.
A brassy seven-piece band, lead from the piano by Max Lambeth, provided excellent musical backing throughout. However, the visual clash caused by with their un-coordinated casual dress competing with the professional glitz and glamour of the other onstage performers took some of the gloss off the presentation, as did a microphone malfunction, some missed cues, and the poor quality of the sound, which commenced so uncomfortably loud and muddled that it was impossible to understand the lyrics of the first few songs or delineate the instrumentation of the band arrangements.
Though it improved as the show progressed the sound never reached the quality expected. It was later learned that the late arrival into Canberra of the truck carrying the equipment for the show prevented a proper sound check.
However, recognising that these were teething problems , that the hardworking artists on stage had little control over them, and relishing the opportunity to enjoy the artistry of Todd McKenney, and hear him sing the songs of Peter Allen one more time, the good-natured Canberra audience nevertheless gave the show an enthusiastic reception.