Todd McKenney -- otherwise known as the Boy from Oz -- has big, big
plans. Indeed, you'd have to say this 35-year-old "boy" is altogether unstoppable.
Next week McKenney will meet three keen producers to pitch his
long-held dream; a "one-man splashy mega-show that will blow people's heads off".
The $500,000 extravaganza -- and yes, he's confident of raising the
money -- will be a McKenney showcase, featuring a 30-piece orchestra, street performers,
ballroom dancers, illusionists, and back-from-the-dead video duets with his hero and
alter-ego, the late Peter Allen.
After that, McKenney -- who recently won a Mo Award for his role as
Allen in the hit musical The Boy from Oz -- plans to do not much.
Indeed, he jokes that he'll sell macadamia nuts in Byron Bay to chill out
before his next step, the biggest challenge yet -- Broadway.
The Melbourne-based entertainer scored a coup last year when the
vigilantly protective US actors' union allowed him a temporary green card to play Allen
when The Boy from Oz opens on Broadway next year.
McKenney, a born entertainer and traditional song and dance man, became
the first Australian musical performer to get the US green light after producers Ben
Gannon and Robert Fox argued that only an Australian could play Allen in the biographical
The two producers of the home-grown and wildly successful musical -- it
grossed more than $60 million during a two-year tour of Australia -- are trying to secure
a theatre and hope to open on Broadway late next year.
When he finally stands on that New York stage singing I Still Call
Australia Home, McKenney's journey from Perth to Broadway will mirror Allen's odyssey
from the small town of Tenterfield, NSW, to Radio City.
"The idea of taking an Australian show in an American style and selling
it back to the Americans is really thrilling to me ... They loved Peter Allen there, and
it will be great to go back and do it waving the Australian flag, if you like," the
cheeky McKenney says.
But for now, it's time Todd and Peter had a little break. They're
not getting divorced -- McKenney still loves him and appreciates that he's the source of
his glittering success -- but after 766 performances as Allen and endless comparisons
made between the two men, something's got to give.
"I'll always be married to him, in a way," says McKenney. "That
suits me fine ... But I want people to see the real me, to see the man behind the boy."
Hence the entertainer's recent sold-out month of cabaret at Capers in
Hawthorn (he's taking his show to Sydney next week and will be back in Melbourne on 12
Peter Allen still features in that show, but it was more about Todd
McKenney as a well-rounded entertainer, a man who hasn't got a perfect voice, but likes to
make people laugh.
And it was more intimate. For the first time in two years,
McKenney could hear his audience sneeze and cough. "In cabaret, people are so close
to you they can look right up your nose," he says.
McKenney is having a fine time. "I'm having an absolute ball at
the moment," he says. And that alone is worth having a song and dance about.