Highly Recommended **** Peter Allen! A name that many have heard of ! Some people recall his short marriage to Liza Minnelli and others his marvelous songs. The Chicago premiere of “The Boy From Oz”, now being produced by Pride Films and Plays at Stage 773, takes us on his journey from the outback of Australia to the bright lights of New York and beyond. It is his “journey” through his music with a book written by Martin Sherman and Nick Enright. The music is of course the work of the main character in this trip, Peter Allen (played to perfection by Chris Logan). We meet him as he narrates the tale with “All The Lives Of Me” as he takes us to his little town of Tenterfield in Australia. Acting as our story teller allows us to have the adult him and the youthful “Petey” (Garrett Hershey, who is quite the tap dancer). Peter loved to perform and only wanted to live his dream- to land in a world of magical performance (perhaps landing there would be for him, his Oz).
Peter teams up with another singer and create an act as brothers, but when his path crosses that of Judy Garland (amazingly played by Nancy Hays) in Hong Kong, his life is changed. She takes him back to the states and New York, where he meets Liza (Michelle Lauto truly defines the character in both vocal ability and looks- in fact, looking better than the original), who he marries, despite being “gay”.This is indeed a story of a man’s dream and how it comes to be real instead of fantasy. Directed by David Zak who uses the stage in the Pro Theatre at Stage 773 to its best use, with a set designed by Katie-Bell Springmann and solid lighting by Cat Wilson, the two and a half hour production rolls by very quickly. There is never a slow spot, which keeps the audience in focus from start to finale. The video design by G. “Max” Maxin IV and the sound by Kallie Noelle Rolison work well. The costumes are amazing for a lower budget theater (very impressive work by John Nasca). The choreography by Cameron Turner is wonderful, again using the limited space to its best advantage . When we have the Radio City Music Hall scene, the mix of the lighting, sound, choreography and costumes is stunning.
I must admit, I never really cared much for Peter Allen, although I did like a few of his songs, but watching this production truly changed my feelings about the man and his music. I am sure that a part of this was due to the lovingly way that Zak put his heart and soul into his direction and I know that a great deal of it came from the superb performances of his cast, in particular one Chris Logan who wowed me from the “get-go”. Just watching him is worth the price of admission and I know that the Jeff people will reward him with at least a nomination for this special performance (perhaps a once in a lifetime role).
The musical part of this show is very important, as it is about a man and his music. Robert Ollis and his five musicians are astounding, never overpowering the voices of this terrific cast; Liz Bollars, Gilbert Domally, Zach Drane, Kiersten Frumkin, David Kaplinsky, Luke Meirdierks (who plays Greg, Peter’s lover), Cassie Nelson, Elissa Newcorn, Amanda Newman, James Osborne, Brad Senffner, Sydney Sarah Stier, Wade Tischhauser and Michelle McKenzie-Voight, as his mother Marion. Most of these players handle numerous roles and lots of costume changes as well as help with set changes to keep the flow where Zak wants it- smooth as silk.
If you don’t know Peter Allen’s music, you are wrong! You DO!”Rio”, “Once Before I Go”, “Every Old Is New Again”, “Not The Boy Next Door”, “When I Get My Name In Lights”, “Come Save Me” and of course “Best That You Can Do”! There are many more wonderful songs in this solid production that will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. It is a heart-warming story of a little boy with a dream who is able to see that one can make a dream come true, without the need of ruby slippers, “The Boy From Oz” will continue at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont through August 30th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $25 (Wednesday)- $30 (Thursday) and $40 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Seniors save $5 per ticket.
Parking in the area is fairly easy- metered and not, with valet parking available. Public transportation is available as well.
To see what others are saying about this show, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Boy From Oz”!