The Boy From Oz

Tuesday night we went to see The Boy From Oz (note: that’s an annoying flash site), which is not a particularly good musical. It’s more like a musical review with acting bits thrown in between the numbers in an attempt to make it a cohesive unit. It doesn’t work very well, but I don’t think it’s a lack on the part of the performers. It’s just not much of a story. Ted called it disjointed, and that’s exactly the right word.

The performances were magnificent.

We went to see it primarily because Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men and X2) is playing the lead role of Peter Allen (who is best identified to American audiences as 1. the guy who wrote the theme song for the Dudley Moore film Arthur and 2. Liza Minelli’s first husband), and we wanted to see him perform live on stage. It was the show’s opening preview night — it doesn’t open officially until Oct. 16th and they’ve got a month of live audiences to work out the bugs before the opening night. And there were, indeed, bugs. :)

But Hugh was wonderful. He can certainly sing — I’ll probably get the soundtrack for the sheer joy of listening to him sing ‘Best That You Can Do’ again, even though it was one of the weaker numbers in the show (I think they were trying to be too true to the movie soundtrack version of the song, and that it suffered for it) — and while he’s not a trained dancer (which I surmised by the fact that in the soft-shoe/playing around bits, he did not point his toes), he *can* dance, and in the fully choreographed numbers was wonderful.

Dear *God* has that man got nice long legs.

He’s absolutely lovely to watch. Very comfortable, very full of joy, very showy — Peter Allen (despite being married to Liza Minelli) was gay, and lemme tell you, if you didn’t know the guy up there on stage was married and had two kids, you’d think he was queer as a three dollar bill. He *swished*. In fact *laugh* at curtain call, he’s got an entrance from the top of Vegas-style lit-up stairs, and he swished his way down the stairs so enthusiastically that he lost his balance and nearly fell. *swish swish ACK grab for rail no more swishing big eyes at the audience*!

Aside from the laughter-inducing, overboard foppishness, there were some really wonderful moments of acting, as well. Peter’s lover, Greg, died of AIDS, and there’s a scene after his death where Peter, who isn’t good at expressing himself emotionally to his loved ones, just… falls apart. In a very controlled way. And comparing that to X2 was wonderful (that being the only other time I’ve seen Hugh Jackman play a character who fell apart over someone’s death) was fantastic, because it was absolutely and completely different.

There was, in fact, only once in the entire show where he did something physical that made me say: Ah, Wolverine, and /that/ was an eyebrow lift, and look, if you gotta lift your eyebrows, it just looks like that, right? It wasn’t that he went all Wolvie on stage, but simply that I recognized the expression.

There is no fourth wall worth mentioning in TBFO. Peter begins the show by talking directly to the audience, and not only plays to individuals in the audience, but encourages hooting and hollering and cat-calls and whistles, and the audience was more than happy to oblige. He’s one duecedly attractive man. *Man*! Ahem. :)

However, there’s a scene, mid-song, when he and Greg are just getting together, where there’s a kiss. You know it’s coming, it /has/ to be coming, and it’s a pretty good kiss. To my absolute delight, the audience *didn’t* hoot and cat-call (LOOK, MA, WOLVERINE’S KISSING A BOY!), and that made me really, *really* happy. It would’ve been deeply inappropriate for that moment, but I was really afraid people would anyway. They didn’t. Good audience. I was really pleased with them for that.

We did, however, shriek like mad when they un-and-re-dressed him on stage. *cackle* Shirt first (shrieks ensue), then pants (he’s wearing boxers; shrieks ensue anyway), and then later he’s got another on-stage change where 7 guys surround him and change his clothes while he’s delivering a monologue (“Don’t pretend you don’t know I’m naked here! Aren’t they lovely? Seven men, all for me!”). *hee hee hee*

Let’s see. I think it was partly a miking problem, but when he was singing with his female costars (who were, in character, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli), he wasn’t putting as much voice into it as they were, and that was unfortunate. I suspect it was a directorial thing as much as a miking problem, but it really weakened his songs with Liza, especially ‘Best That You Can Do’, which, like I said, I think they were trying to be true to someone else’s cover of the song and that was a bad idea. Neither Liza nor Judy /needed/ him to step back, vocally, because both of those women could bring down the house.

Isabel Keating, the woman who played Judy Garland, was so good it hurt. She had Garland’s body language down and vocally she sounded very, very much like her. You sort of wanted to gather her into your arms and hold her so she’d stop twitching so damned much. She was amazing. Liza (Stephanie Block) was also terrific — it was just a very well-cast show indeed, so it’s too bad it’s not a very *good* show. Ted and I are convinced there’s a story there, but they hadn’t quite gotten it yet. I’d love to see it in another couple of months to see if they’ve pulled it together.

There’s one, in my opinion, fatal flaw in the way they’ve got the story laid out. ‘I Honestly Love You’, sung by Greg, is performed after his death; it’s done as a ghost song, and I really, *really* wouldn’t have done it that way. I’d put it before Greg’s death, because a big part of Peter’s life was his inability to express himself to the people he loved. In music and on stage he could do it, but what he felt inside was something to be kept private, and he had a really difficult time letting that out. So I think that in the face of that, ‘I Honestly Love You’ would’ve been a much, *much* more powerful and poignant scene if delivered to Peter by a dying Greg, leaving Peter unable to respond appropriately. It could really rip your heart out placed there; all it did for me, placed after his death, was make me think ‘boy, this should’ve been sung before Greg died’.

I insanely want to write the director and tell him this. ’cause, you know, I’m Somebody. :)

There were some really funny flubs. :) One of the ensemble — this wasn’t so much a flub, but it was certainly noticeable — didn’t get his costume zipped up during a quick change, so his unitard was open in the back and kept falling off his shoulders. He handled it with aplomb, though, which is more than Jackman did when he flung his tophat off stage and instead of going into the wings it hit a curtain and flopped down to sit on the lip of the orchestra pit. He didn’t notice for two or three minutes, and ended up stopping dead in the middle of his lines and saying, “Now what’re you doing there, you naughty thing?!” Which wasn’t really breaking character, because Peter’s always talking to the audience and making asides. So he went and got the hat, saying, “Well, *that* was a shitty throw, wasn’t it?” to the audience. He handed it off, then made real big eyes and looked at his wrist (upon which, the costumer in me notes, there was not a watch), and said, “It’s after 10pm, I can say shitty, right?”

The audience laughed, Hugh turned and looked offstage, and I’m reasonably certain he was trying to remember his lines, but the pause got just too long, and the audience began to laugh, and then /he/ began to laugh, so that was great. *laugh* Then he got back into character and the show went on. :)

There were a couple of other flubs where he repeated a line from earlier in the show — it’s like 20 years later, and he says, “So there I was, eighteen and on top of the wo–what am I talking about, I’m not eighteen!” Which I thought was pretty funny, and then there was a bit where I’m pretty sure Greg sang the wrong verse in their love song, because he got this slightly consternated expression and then grinned REAL BIG, although *Hugh* didn’t break, that time. :)

We did not hang around afterwards at the stage door, partly because the crowd was very boisterous and I didn’t think I wanted to be part of a mob, but more because we had to get up at a quarter to five in order to catch our plane in the morning, so staying out another hour or more didn’t seem wise. So no pictures of Mr. Jackman, but boy am I glad we went to the show. *beam*