THE BOY FROM OZ – By Dave
I attended the opening performance on Friday 8 July. It was the debut production for Leading Note Theatre. To quote the producer of Leading Note Theatre, Matthew Hustwaite the mission statement is “To develop and present high quality theatre of a professional standard that enriches the culture and lifestyle of our community”. I find this to be true and Leading Note has raised the bar for excellent theatre quality using a show that is excellent, sassy, humorous, sad in parts, had audience participation and adult themes. This seriously is a show that people can’t miss because of Australian history.
The leading role of Peter Allen was performed by Andrew Ronay-Jenkings. Andrew studied at the Ballarat Arts Academy. He bought the character of Peter alive by singing the songs and wearing Peter’s famous costumes and showed his incredible dancing. Another talented actor was Jess Carbone who played Liza Minnelli. Jess also bought the character alive to the stage with her singing and how much she looked like images of Liza. Sophie Livitsanis who played Judy Garland which I liked even as a ghost appeared with her songbird singing. Other actors included Garth Grainger (Wally Bell), Kate Sanders (Shena), Alex Moroney (Karen) and the outstanding performance of an actor of 12 years of age was Uisce Goriss-Dazely who performed as the young Peter Allen. The combination of the two actors appearing on stage really fitted in with the storyline the way they appeared with flashbacks to Allen’s childhood days. The ensemble beautifully sang “I Still Call Australia Home” with satisfaction and conviction. The director, Stephen O’Neil who has directed many Ballarat performances bought the fun alive with this show by using audience involvement and realistic scenes including Allen playing the piano.
It was pleasing to see that Stephen had made sure that all the stage was being used. The orchestra of 13 was directed by Ian Govan (my favourite choir master) performed without a tune out of beat and were able to play the many famous Peter Allen songs. Carolyn Burnett (Choral Director) had her work cut out but managed to get the actors to sing the way they were meant to be sang. I shut my eyes during the performance and I thought I was listening to the real Peter Allen. Vanessa Sheehan (Choreographer) was behind the energetic dance moves that actors had to undertake. The costume designs resembled the real clothing of the era and also the cabaret look of the dancers in the sparkling bathing suits. The lighting was simple but colourful, very cabaret style. The setting was a two story set with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the musical notes I thought we were on the set of Dancing With The Stars because the staircase was similar.
It was great to see a white grand piano. Finally, apart from Andrew playing Peter there was a bigger star of the show; it was the camel from Baz Luhrmann’s Australia movie. Congratulations Leading Note Theatre on a production that most Australians especially Ballarat people should go and see. If you don’t attend a performance this weekend you will have the knowledge that you had missed out on a special show presented in Ballarat. What is next for Ballarat?