Review Scene: The Boy from Oz, National Theatre, St Kilda, 6th July 2024 by Karen Dean

On a cold night in Melbourne, The National Theatre sprang to life with the opening night of the stellar autobiographical musical, ‘The Boy from Oz’. The evening was a game changer for someone like me, whose knowledge of Peter Allen was somewhat vague.  The interplay of storytelling combined with song and dance began with the story of the young, talented Peter Allen from Tenterfield, New South Wales, whose passion for performance was realised as a young boy.  

Reuben Koronczyk, as the younger Peter Allen, provided a pleasant introduction to the main character with a solid performance. Complementing Reuben’s performance was Maureen Andrew who portrayed Allen’s loving and supportive mother.  Her performance was commendable, suitably portraying a stoic and protective woman who strived to protect her son from the challenges posed by family influences, including a problematic husband, played by Mark Eather.

Allen, portrayed by Mathew Hadgraft, emerges as a man of character, talent, energy, and passion. Accolades go to Hadgraft, who so aptly portrayed Allen. His ability to fluently engage the audience, weave compelling stories and perform throughout the evening was praiseworthy. He managed to authentically immerse himself in the character, embodying Allen’s emotions, experiences, and personal traits. His considered portrayal demonstrated a complete understanding of the character, making every scene believable and engaging. 

Complementing Hadgraft’s performance was Sarah Monteaux’s portrayal of Liza Minnelli. Well-cast, she delivered a strong and consistent performance throughout with her powerful voice, seamless dancing, and the deep sense of authenticity she brought to the role. Monteaux managed to portray Minnelli’s charisma and energy with precision. Her stage presence was commanding, and her ability to embody Minnelli’s unique blend of vulnerability and strength made her performance memorable.  Furthermore, Saskia Penn‘s heartfelt portrayal of Judy Garland also shone through. She captured the essence of Garland’s iconic voice and mannerisms, bringing authenticity to the character with her accurate accent and intonation.

The overall highlight of the evening was Hadgraft’s renditions of Peter Allen’s compositions including ‘I Honestly Love You’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’, ‘Tenterfield Saddler’, ‘I Still Call Australia Home’, and the showstopper, ‘I Go to Rio’.  The audience couldn’t resist singing along to these much-loved songs, familiar melodies and memorable lyrics. Anyone seeking a retreat from the cold, windy Melbourne evenings should consider spending an evening at the National Theatre, immersing themselves in the world of the iconic Peter Allen.