The Boy from Oz
The Boy from Oz
For its inaugural season at the historic Great Star Theatre in Chinatown, Landmark Musical Artistic Director Jon Rosen has chosen the jukebox production of The Boy from Oz, based on the life of Australian songwriter and performer Peter Allen. It’s an ambitious project that lives or dies on the casting of the lead, and Dan Seda capably brings to life the turbulent highs and lows of the flamboyant Allen’s career. Featuring songs written or co-written by Allen, the plot follows his life from the precocious and driven child in the Australian Outback, to struggling lounge act, to being discovered by the legendary Judy Garland, his failed marriage to Liza Minnelli, his ill-fated long-term gay relationship and eventual death from AIDS in 1992. Written by Nick Enright, the original production in 1998 ran for two years to great success before arriving on Broadway in 2003 with 40 singer-dancers and a 25-piece orchestra. It won a 2004 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for star Hugh Jackman for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.
This production does its best to achieve the high energy of Allen and his flashy numbers like “Everything Old is New Again” (Allen/Carole Bayer Sager), “Bi-Coastal” (Allen/David Foster/Tom Keane) and the grand finale of “I Go to Rio” (Allen/Adrienne Anderson) with choreography by Kimberly Krol and excellent musical direction by Tammy Hall and her 5-piece band. The sound system didn’t help matters in the cavernous theatre creating a tinny AM radio atmosphere.
Seda is charming as Allen, driving the narrative with a natural ease. His lovely tenor, lower than Allen’s, brings out the charisma and pathos of the lyrics. Local legend Connie Champagne, who’s been skillfully channeling Judy Garland for decades, sings the lovely “All I Wanted was the Dream” and “Don’t Wish Too Hard” (Allen/Sager) and brings true realism to her character. Kat Robichaud is wonderful as Liza Minnelli singing three Allen/Sager tunes: “She Loves to Hear the Music” in a Fosse-esque production number, the wistful duet with Peter, ”I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love”, when they realize they’re marriage is doomed, and cathartic “You and Me”, where the two ruminate on their successful solo careers.
Boy from Oz gets an A for effort with a hardworking ensemble cast and great intentions. Allen’s rags to riches story, his fabulous over-the-top personality and masterful pop songs epitomized a turbulent era in social and musical history is nice to see on the stage once again.
Landmark Musical Theatre presents
The Boy from Oz – A Musical Based on the Life of Peter Allen
Runs April 23 – May 15, 2016 (Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm)
Great Star Theatre
636 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94110