Review of The Boy From Oz

Is this the same Hugh Jackman we have seen in X-Men? To Tell you the truth, I am not sure. He has totally immersed himself in this role that Hugh Jackman and Peter Allen have become the same person, well at least for three hours or so.

The Boy From Oz turns the life of singer/songwriter and openly gay man, Peter Allen, into a musical biography using songs he has written in his life. The show was first produced in Australia in 1997, and has been reworked, rearranged, and restaged for this production. The show leaves very little from Allen’s life out.  Allen began his career in 1959 when he became a last minute replacement in a duo, which became known as the Allen Brothers when in fact they were never related. While touring with the duo in Japan, Allen became aquainted with Judy Garland who made the group her opening act. She also introduced Allen to her daughter, Liza Minelli. The two eventually married and shortly thereafter divorced. Allen started a solo career as a singer and songwriter. He wrote such popular songs as I Honestly Love You, Don’t Cry Out Loud, I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love, When You Get Caught Between the Moon and New York City (Arthur’s Theme), and I Go to Rio, all of which are worked into the musical. He gained a reputation as a flamboyant stage performer. During this time he met his long time companion and partner Gregory Connell. Allen died in 1992 from an Aids related illness.

Hugh Jackman is not a stranger to the stage. He has starred in the Australian productions of Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard, where he received the MO Award (Australia’s Tony Award), and the celebrated UK production of Oklahoma where he was nominated for an Oliver Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He did not become well known until he starred as the metal blooded Wolverine in the popular X-Men films. Had it not been for the success of these movies he would not have been cast in this role. He carries the entire show, and without a big name to fill the seats the show would not work.

Hugh Jackman

Rather than The Boy From Oz, this show could have been called The Hugh Jackman Show. It is Hugh all the time. If I counted correctly, he is in and sings in every scene except for one. I was so impressed by his performance, and that takes a lot. He commands that every person in the audience look at him when he is on stage. The shows premise is an actual Peter Allen concert, so this gives Jackman the opportunity to ad lib, mingle with the audience, work the crowd, and urge them to join in at certain times. He sings and dances with the best of even the most seasoned Broadway performers. He struts around on stage like he has been wearing mid drifts and Hawaiian shirts all his life.  The actual show is alright, not the best I have seen, but it is entertaining. The music is fun pop tunes that have been given a Broadway flair so it is not as if you are just listening to his music on the radio. You will leave the theatre singing a few in your head, I know I have. At times the songs seemed forced into a place in the show, and sound out of place. The show has its funny moments and its touching moments as Allen reaches the end of his life. Without Jackman’s incredible performance the show would not have been a hit. To be fair though, I think the producers knew that. He is surely to be nominated for a Tony Award this year.

Now that I have finished with my Hugh drooling, there are other performers that do a fine job as well.

Isabel Keating and Hugh Jackman
Tari Kelly and Isabel Keating play Liza Minelli and Judy Garland respectively. Tari Kelly understudied for the usual Stephanie J. Block at this performance. It is scary that when in makeup how much these women look like their characters, and they both sing as well as their counterparts. The only thing I fear is that they are trying to sound so much like their characters that they are not giving truly original performances.

Beth Fowler is lovely as Allen’s mother. In a very touching scene, he tells her that he has met someone. She says that is great, what is her name? Peter replies, Greg. She says that’s great too. Mitchel David Federan plays a young Peter. He is adorable, and dances his way into the audiences heart.  Jarrod Emick plays Greg Connell, Allen’s partner. He has a beautiful singing voice. His rendition of I Honestly Love You would even give the most cynic of cynics of gay men a little tug at the heart.

The Boys From Oz is currently playing at the Imperial Theatre, NY

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**Photos kindly donated by Jackmanslanding and Joan Marcus

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