Glitzy musical razzles and dazzles
I was still on the footpath when ‘the show’ came out to invite me inside. Lights-up revealed a striking monochromatic ‘keyboard’ set-design, making full use of the split-level stage with the orchestra at the rear and a white grand piano mid-stage beside a small riser for the three back-up singers.
This was a demanding role for the lead actor, Paul Farrell, who thankfully didn’t mimic or impersonate, but instead ‘performed’ as Peter Allen would have. He led the cast, energised the room and committed himself to every note until the last. Later, Paul admitted, “Thanks to the audience, I felt like Peter Allen, tonight”.
Occasional flashbacks in the narrative brought nine-year-old Sam Murphy to the stage as young Peter whose high point was “...sitting on the piano and singing ‘my’ song”. Di Ennew gave life to Peter’s mother, Marion Woolnough, initially as the typical Australian small-town mother then as she developed over the years, a continuing touchstone in Peter’s life.
Amanda Isaac and Jude Sweeney connected us emotionally with the characters and songs of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli respectively. Suellen Rath’s costume design was overtly stylised, giving us a clear idea of each character and era. Lighting design from Geoff Marsh created moods with well-chosen colours and manipulated our attention with various lighting techniques.
One of the more moving moments was the audience’s flag-waving response to the entrance of the Ballina Youth Choir singing ‘I Still Call Australia Home’.
It was a team-performance from the cast of 35 characters, dancers and singers, aged from eight to 80, thanks to the direction of Sue and Paul Belsham and accommodating choreography of Jaime Whittingham.