MCKENNEY IS A MUST-SEE

Published on 1st Mar, 2011

Todd McKenney is Peter Allen! He has a mass of energy, he’s super-fit and he’s right on the mark with his sense of wit, tenderness and showmanship. I was a teenager when I last saw this show and to be honest I wondered how McKenney was going to be ten years on and he totally nailed it! He really syncs into the role with such ease. There’s also a genuine respect and kinship you can tell he has for the star he is playing.

This production is not like your traditional musical – it’s biographical and a dash cabaret but it’s definitely not a tribute. Part of the reason it has this less musical and more cabaret feel is because McKenney breaks the fourth wall. He speaks to us, shares with us and includes us in the journey, you almost expect he will come down into the audience and sit on someone’s lap. I love this. It makes us feel like we’re part of the show, his show, and we’re being carried along.

There is virtually no set apart from a non-descript staircase leading up to a platform which, when the stage is lit up, looks like some sort of strange scaffolding. This is not a good look. For the majority of time the back curtain has a spray of little lights that change colour. The actors carry on props that give meaning to scenes – this works quite well but I still think that this stand-out cast deserves more. I don’t really understand why there was no constructed set apart from the bare black stairs and platform. It looked a bit like a tech run.

The songs go off and the one’s everyone hangs out for include the sensitive, poignant Tenterfield Saddler, raucous and ritzy I Go To Rio and the classic ‘Qantas anthem’ I Still Call Australia Home which were all fantastic!

McKenney never disappoints and his energy just does not drop even for a moment. Stand out performers were McKenney of course, Robyn Arthur playing his mother, Christen O’Leary playing Judy Garland and Fem Belling playing Liza Minnelli. The quality of the performers really carries this show. There’s quite a large ensemble so you get some great classic kick lines and a fun, upbeat Rio finale with a generous serve of sequins, feathers and those famous puffy sleeves – definitely channeling Carmen Miranda.

Hurry along to see this show as it’s only in town for 3 weeks and it’s Mardi Gras season!

Emma Bell is a writer, reviewer and interviewer and can be found at www.emmabell.com.au

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