The spirit of Peter Allen is taking some time out to be himself, writes JILL FRASER.

Having spent the past two-and-a-bit years years singing and dancing in Peter Allen's shoes, and with plans afoot to continue his success on Broadway next March, it's no wonder Todd McKenney wants a break from maracas.
    When director Gale Edwards stated that she wanted someone who would capture Allen's "essence" in the starring role of The Boy from Oz it was the brilliant young Perth dancer who turned out to be an inspired choice and rekindled Australia's love affair with one of her favourite sons.
    But for the next few months McKenney is taking advantage of the opportunity to rediscover himself.
    When the curtain came down on the musical's final Australian season in Perth last week, its star didn't even catch his breath before throwing himself into his new show.
    Todd McKenney -- In Cabaret has been designed to allow his own personality to come through.  But at the same time it also pays tribute to the man whose life has been a vehicle for its creator's fame.
    "I think it's really important that I stand on my own two feet for a while but I certainly want to acknowledge Peter," McKenney says.  "The characters of Todd McKenney and Peter Allen merged for the sake of art, but in reality we would actually be like chalk and cheese.
    "I'm nothing like he was.  He was a very busy guy and his energy was much more nervous and fractured than mine.  Yet I'll still walk into a room and hear someone say: 'God you're just like him'."
    With mock irritation McKenney talks about his desire to shed the Allen persona, but while he laughs at the way some people have tried to superimpose their memories on to him, he relates to their need.
    In describing himself as a huge Allen fan, he recalls meeting his hero unexpectedly in the back yard of his own Bondi flat.
    "He was having a barbecue with the people who lived beneath me," he says.  "He ended up giving me tickets to his show that night.  I think he may have thought I'd go out for coffee with him afterwards.  I wasn't really into that."
    Anecdotes such as this will be peppered throughout McKenney's cabaret show, which opens at Caper's Dinner Theatre tonight, as will some colourful behind-the-scenes stories about The Boy from Oz and tongue-in-cheek tales of the narrator's own experiences.
    "The first half is hysterically funny," McKenney says.  "In the second half I talk about my personal involvement with Peter and his family."
    Though the theatre on Broadway has yet to be secured for The Boy from Oz, McKenney believes that the production will play to 1400-seat houses.
    "I'm passionate about New York and I adore New York audiences," he gushes.  "But I also adore Melbourne and Melbourne audiences.  It's got such style and it's more grown-up than anywhere else!"