Not the Boy Next Door (Astor Theatre, October 19, 2012)

Sometimes I wonder if this blog is too complimentary. Well, fear not. I’m definitely wearing my “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” hat today.

I’m a nutso Peter Allen fan, and therefore a nutso Todd McKenney fan. I went to the Boy from Oz. I bought the T-shirt. I went to a cabaret show of Todd singing Peter’s songs a year or two later at the now-defunct (I think) theatre on Beaufort Street. Can’t remember its name. I was so offended when Todd got dumped in favour of the more-famous Hugh Jackman for the international tour, I have harboured an irrational hatred of Hugh ever since.

I was so excited when I heard about this coming to the Astor, the Ministry was touched and paid for both of our tickets so I could show him the wonder and magic of Todd McKenney’s beautiful singing voice and intimate knowledge of one of the most compelling and tragic showbiz biographies ever.

I was not even put off when M (not the Ministry, the Matriarch) told me one of her friends was so disappointed in the show she and her husband walked out, and afterwards wrote to the Astor to complain about the show’s excessive volume, among other things. Old people hate loud music, I reasoned. And the Astor can’t do anything about the fact that you were stuck behind (quote) “three fat tarts”. I was blithely confident that the show would be awesome.

Imagine my dismay when the Ministry and I settled in for the first – deafening – number.


Knowing every word of the song, I was heartbroken to hear its nuance and beauty swept away by this raucous treatment. This may be an inevitable result of putting music theatre in a building originally intended to house movies, but you could not discern a single word of the song. The rest of the first half went pretty much the same.

Inexplicably, Dancing with the Stars contestants were made part of it. Well, I think they were contestants, or winners, or ex-contestants, or some-such. I wouldn’t know, because I DON’T WATCH DANCING WITH THE STARS. I WATCH MUSIC THEATRE. AND WHEN YOU SAY A SHOW IS ABOUT PETER ALLEN DO NOT TALK ABOUT DANCING WITH THE STARS. And he did talk about Dancing with the Stars. Far. Too. Much.

If it were billed as a variety show half about Dancing with the Stars, and half about Todd himself, and the remaining 0% about Peter Allen, then cool, whatever, I just won’t go. But Peter Allen’s story is subtle, and sad, and compelling, and it deserves a bit of respect and a bit of atmosphere. In this show at least, it didn’t get it.

Yes, there were some interesting anecdotes about Peter Allen’s life. But the Dancing with the Stars element was jarring. The bawdy jokes/stand-up style was a little bizarre. Todd didn’t even seem quite up to the job physically, pouring sweat and panting almost too much to joke about pouring sweat and panting. But not all the songs even needed such energetic, showy treatment. I would have been ok with it if he just sat on a stool, and talked and sang, and recreated the world of Peter Allen’s youth for us.

So the Ministry and I left at interval time, and went home and listened to the Boy From Oz original soundtrack, and I drank in Todd McKenney’s pitch-perfect voice with a glass or two of tawny port.

For disclaimer purposes, the second half may well have been much better. Perhaps my expectations were all in the wrong place. I’m sure a lot of people enjoyed it. For many, it was probably a good show. But I just didn’t have the time or patience to give it any more of my time. My faith had been broken.

Don’t worry. I’m sure next week I’ll be back to my complimentary, exuberant self. Because, after all, most of the time my judgement about what is awesome… is faultless.

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