Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The Boy from Oz is a terrific jukebox musical about the life of Peter Allen, who came from the country town of Tenterfield, Australia. Instead of using original songs for the show, his story is told through the songs he wrote throughout his career. Peter's music fits the show beautifully, with songs such as "I Honestly Love You," "Once Before I Go," "I Still Call Australia Home," and the catchy "I Go To Rio."
Martin Sherman and Nick Enright's book gives the highlights of Allen's career, including his life in the Outback of Australia raised by a drunk, miserable father and a completely loving mother; how he escaped this life and performed at the Hong Kong Hilton Hotel where he met Judy Garland; and how this led to his marriage of Liza Minnelli, which ended amicably after seven years in 1974. It tells how his homosexuality came to the fore with the changing times and about his relationship with Greg Connell who later died of AIDS. Director Jon Rosen faultlessly weaves Allen's songs into this narrative.
The Boy from Oz is an energy driven show and it does not stop for a breath. It's a rapidly paced dancing and singing spectacular designed to illustrate the showmanship of Peter Allen. The score is pop music, from doo wop to lounge standards to disco and dazzling production numbers like the Radio City Rockettes number and the samba splendor "I Go to Rio."
Director Jon Rose has the right actor-singers, some Fosse-fierce tap dancing moves from choreographer Kimberly Krol and time-traveling costumes by Richard Gutierrez. Tammy Hall provides proficient musical direction and plays piano, with Keith Leung on reeds, Aaron Priskorn on trumpet, Ben Brown of bass, and Daria Johnson on drums/percussion.
New York actor Dan Seda is outstanding as Peter Allen. He has the Peter Allen voice on such numbers as "The Lives of Me" and "I Go to Rio." Connie Champagne (who has portrayed the divine star in several one woman shows in local cabarets) is a magnificent Judy Garland with a great Garland voice. She shows the character as an aging and fragile star. Kat Robichaud is Liza Minnelli, and everything is there: the brash and throbbing voice and the Minnelli gestures. Her featured song is a show stopper. Amy Meyers is pitch perfect as Peter's mother and has strong vocal cords singing several numbers during the two hour and half musical. Ivan Hardin gives a splendid performance as Peter's lover in the second act. Daniel Kaukonen as 13-year-old Peter in the first scene gives a great tap dancing performance. The large cast of singer-dancers give get-up-and-go, driven performances.
Landmark Musical Theatre puts on a delightful, amusing, and moving production honoring the ups and down moments of Peter Allen's life. I look forward to what they will produce next.
Landmark Musical Theatre's The Boy from Oz through May 15, 2016, at the refurbished Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Ticket information is available by phone at 855-526-3675 or online at www.landmarkmusicals.com.