Sydney was blinded by $9.8 million worth of razzle-dazzle when the new, flashier production of the musical The Boy from Oz opened at the Entertainment Centre last night.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Chrissy Amphlett and Angela Toohey, the show tells the story of Peter Allen, who was born in Tenterfield and escaped a troubled childhood by immersing himself in music.
Allen, whose colourful life included a marriage to Liza Minnelli in 1967, crafted hits including I Still Call Australia Home and Tenterfield Saddler. He died in 1992 of complications from AIDS.
In contrast to the dizzying production featuring giant cocktail glasses, an overgrown white piano and enough sequins to kit out a mardi gras, the red carpet was a muted affair. Last night the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, the American cabaret singer Barbara Cook and Jackman's wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, were among those who arrived at the opening.
"I think I'm more nervous than he is," Furness said just before curtain up.
"It feels really special to do it here. An Australian guy coming home to do an Australian show -- I think it's just part of Australia's history."
The actor who played Peter Allen in the original production of The Boy from Oz, Todd McKenney, was invited to last night's performance but was unable to attend because he was rehearsing for his own show. McKenney's agent said the actor, who played the role for 766 performances, sent Jackman a gift. Flowers for the performers arrived at the venue all day yesterday, and the cast began their final, nerve-racking rehearsal at 4pm.
Amphlett, reprising her role as Judy Garland -- she played the fragile singer in the original Australian production in 1998 -- had to refresh her performance for this show, which has been rejigged to suit the large venue, which seats more than 12,000.
"Nine years ago I was Judy, and when I finished that show I let it go and I had to kind of rediscover it," Amphlett said. "I had to really start from the bottom again and rebuild it."
But it's not as if gracing the stage at the Entertainment Centre is a new experience for the rock singer -- she played the venue during the 1980s with her band the Divinyls.
"It's quite rock-and-roll really," she said about playing in the venue again. "I remember us playing here, it takes me back An arena is different to a theatre. You have to get to the back and reach out to all the sections."
"And although Amphlett and Allen were contemporaries and she plays his mother-in-law in the musical, Amphlett never managed to meet the high-camp star.
"It was a different school, and a very different time for both of us," she said. "Then, I was a little punkette."