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
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!"