The Mothers From Oz: Fowler and Keating Vie For Tony and Stage Time with Their Boy

Tony Awards   The Mothers From Oz: Fowler and Keating Vie For Tony and Stage Time with Their Boy Actresses Beth Fowler and Isabel Keating—who play the beloved stage mothers in the Tony Award nominated musical The Boy From Oz—are competing with each other this year for the Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony.

Beth Fowler (top) and Isabel Keating (bottom)
Beth Fowler (top) and Isabel Keating (bottom)

Fowler plays Marion Woolnough, mother to the The Boy From Oz's central character Peter Allen, though she almost didn't accept the role. "I refused the audition for the part," revealed Fowler to Playbill On-Line. "It wasn't that it was difficult, it was just that I felt the song didn't suit me because in my ear I heard this pop song and Melissa Manchester's voice."

When the actress expressed her concerns about audiences' expectations, director Philip Wm. McKinley replied "I don't want to hear Melissa Manchester, I want to hear Beth Fowler sing it," according to Fowler. "He said sing it in whatever key you want, so I sing it in a higher key. It's a more storytelling way. In the pop version, it's more like an anthem. This has more meaning in the context of the show and it has much more impact."

Keating has a comparable challenge, the task of portraying Allen's legendary mentor and eventual mother-in-law Judy Garland. "It's huge! So, in a way, I have to stay in denial," the actress laughingly explained. "Because if not, I think I would either self-destruct or just go 'What am I thinking?'

"If I think about that, I'm never going to do it," rationalized Keating. "So, you just have to throw caution to the wind and just think of her in the context of the show, think of her as a character as any other I would create. Granted, I have so much raw material to work with because she existed—not only that, she was the be-all and end-all of performers."

Though the actresses share no stage time with each other, both expressed their adoration of their stage son and Broadway's newest beau, the Tony Award nominee Hugh Jackman. "I think the main thing is the incredible talent that's on the stage with me," Keating offered. "My favorite moments are when Peter (Hugh) and I sit at the kitchen table, they seem very real to me," said Fowler. "I'm staying [with the show] as long as Hugh is, I don't want to miss a moment of playing this role with him."