Wednesday, May 23, 2018


With Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney. Devised by Peter J Adams. Directed by Jason Langley. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. May 21-22. 

A bit of a whirlwind visit, this, but those lucky enough to catch Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney in full anecdotal flight were clearly delighted by these two rare performers.  

Quite a few years ago they teamed up for a lovely two hander called Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, about a rich older woman who takes dance lessons from a younger instructor. Now, off the leash of a scripted play (but in a piece with its own disciplines), they spend a deeply rich couple of hours mining their own careers and memories, even stopping to field some audience questions.

McKenney is long legged and funny and still a dancing whirlwind when he wants to be.  The Boy From Oz, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and, most chillingly, the MC from Cabaret are all revisited as is his long stint as a ruthless judge on channel 7’s Dancing with the Stars.

Hayes, with a far longer resume, ranges from her first starring show, Sweet Charity along an award winning time line that includes My Fair Lady, Annie, Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd…and having the Hayes Theatre named after her. A short snatch of Sally Bowles is a revelatory reminder that the both Sally and the Elsie whose life and death she sings about are English. The language and the characters of the two women are immediately vivid and poignant.

A screen upstage enables snippets from the past and a generous selection of seats allows the occasional sit down segment. But mostly there’s no rest for these wicked performers and the audience loves that.

As do I, growing up with a father who was steering a follow spot in Sydney for J. C Williamson (and the Tivoli and the Royal) at the time Hayes was in her first professional shows. Appropriate, too, that the smooth lighting is by designer Trudy Dalgleish who was one of our first students out of Drama at Canberra’s Phillip College in the 1970s. Bosom Buddies is part of the passing on of a theatrical inheritance.

Hayes and McKenney put on a splendid show, steeped in the love and language of dance and song and musicals.  More, please!

Alanna Maclean