Peter Allen,
The Boy from Oz
(Decca, 2003)

Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds may fly, and Peter Allen and Judy Garland have finally found a pot of gold. The funny thing is that their pots of gold were right inside them all the time. Both of them lived fast, were enormously talented and burned out way too soon. As friends, and as performers, both Allen and Garland are well served by the talented cast of The Boy from Oz. Hugh Jackman is brilliant and believable in the role of multi-faceted Peter Allen, the composer of this musical of his lifetime, to paraphrase. The musical begins with a poignant overture performed by Jackman on piano and limns his many roles, public and private.

Jackman is a shape-shifter. He sings, he dances, flirts with the oh-so-fashionable Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2003 Tony Awards, which he hosted, and where he accepted the Best Actor for his performance in The Boy from Oz. A brief segment on CNN showed Jackman in character giving audiences a taste of the swash and buckle of the irrepressible Australian he is, and a demonstration of his performance as Peter Allen in this musical. His flirtation with Sarah Jessica was enough to make her blush, the audience roar, and was quite reminiscent of the Allen I remember from the latter part of the 1960s and '70s. The shape-shifter within Jackman is obvious. Here is an actor who has played Wolverine in X-Men, Curly in Oklahoma and a variety of other roles, each demanding the willing suspension of belief that the character he is playing is a regular Joe, rather than an artiste playing someone he is not.

A number of songs on this CD may be familiar to the listener. Those who remember Christopher Cross's version of "Best That You Can Do," which garnered him a Grammy, or as the theme song to Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli's Arthur will know the tune, if not all the words. As sung here, it is a duet between Minelli, Allen's future wife and post-divorce friend, and is effective as a bittersweet love song. Another song, "Everything Old is New Again," and its reprise, evokes Fitzgerald's Gatsby stories and the frailty of the allusions cast by one's inner life.

I am sad we lost Garland and Allen to the demons of their particular muses. This musical is a testimony to their many talents and serves as a glowing tribute to their lives and spirits.

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 2 October 2004

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