I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love: Hugh Jackman Bids Broadway Goodbye as The Boy From Oz Closes
By Ernio Hernandez
Concluding one of the biggest Broadway debuts in recent history, Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman will sing "I Go To Rio" one last time to audiences at the Imperial Theatre, Sept. 12 as The Boy From Oz ends its run.
Previews began Sept. 16, 2003, at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway prior to an Oct. 16 opening night. Martin Sherman (Bent) provided the libretto for the score, which features the music and lyrics of the pop music and theatre star. The show closes after playing 32 previews and 365 regular performances.
Set in bars, nightclubs and concerts across the globe, including Allen's homeland of Australia, The Boy from Oz is "a musical true story" of the late entertainer Peter Allen who was a protege of Judy Garland, and was briefly married to her daughter Liza Minnelli. Allen died of complications from AIDS in 1992.
Joining Jackman (as Peter Allen) in The Boy From Oz are Stephanie J. Block (as Liza Minnelli), Beth Fowler (as mother Marion Woolnough), Isabel Keating (as Allen's mentor and mother-in-law, Judy Garland), Jarrod Emick (as Allen's companion, Greg Connell), Mitchel Federan (as the young Peter) and Michael Mulheren (as father, Dick Woolnough, and the manager-promoter Dee Anthony).
Allen narrates his life story, talking directly to the audience, and often interacting with the actor who plays the child Peter. The production recreates Allen's early successes in Australia and Hong Kong as part of the act, The Allen Brothers. The second act finds Allen at some of his more famous engagements at the clubs Reno Sweeney and Copacabana as well as the singer's famous sold-out stint at Radio City Music Hall. Throughout, Jackman goes through nearly two dozen sequined and Hawaiian print shirts.
The Tony Award win for Jackman (thought a sure thing by most pundits) solidified the actor as one of Broadway's most beloved leading men. Though his performance was given across-the-board raves, the musical itself was not a critical success. Lackluster reviews coupled with the decision to shut down the show when the busy star took days off for vacation and other commitments (Tony Awards night included) led many to question the show's future once Jackman's one year contract expired.
Though many actors were rumored to be following Jackman in the part of Allen, in the end, producers decided to close the show with Jackman's departure.
Jackman's bankability and charm were proven during the run. The show drew over $10 million in advance sales, attendance rarely dipped below 90 percent, and house records at the Imperial Theatre were regularly broken. Jackman's curtain-call antics (strip teases and auctioned-off smooches) bolstered The Boy From Oz's contribution to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights (for both fundraising periods prior to the Gypsy of the Year and Easter Bonnet events) to a record-breaking $1,073,522.
Sydney-born Jackman began his stage career in his homeland, appearing in the Australian productions of Beauty and the Beast as Gaston and Sunset Boulevard as Joe Gillis before his Olivier Award-nominated turn in the London staging of Oklahoma! The actor is known to film audiences for his roles in the "X Men" films, "Kate & Leopold," "Swordfish" and the recent film "Van Helsing."
Philip Wm. McKinley directed the Broadway musical with choreography provided by Joey McKneely. Patrick Vaccariello served as music director. Orchestrations are by Michael Gibson. Nick Enright is credited with the original book.
Ben Gannon and Robert Fox presented the Broadway run of the musical which was capitalized at $9 million. The Australian production opened March 5, 1998, at Her Majesty's Theatre Sydney and ran for two years.
The show was recorded for posterity Oct. 20, 2003 by Decca Broadway, with producer Phil Ramone. The original cast recording of The Boy From Oz was then released Nov. 18, 2003.
The song list includes "Overture," "The Lives of Me," "When I Get My Name in Lights," "Love Crazy," "Waltzing Matilda," "All I Wanted Was the Dream," "Only an Older Woman," "Best That You Can Do," "Donï¿½t Wish Too Hard," "Come Save Me," "She Loves to Hear the Music," "Quiet Please, Thereï¿½s a Lady On Stage," "Iï¿½d Rather Leave While Iï¿½m in Love," "Continental American," "Not the Boy Next Door," "Bi-Coastal," "If You Were Wondering," "Sure Thing Baby," "Everything Old Is New Again," "Love Donï¿½t Need a Reason," "I Honestly Love You," "You and Me," "I Still Call Australia Home," "Donï¿½t Cry Out Loud," "Once Before I Go" and "I Go to Rio."
Allen's collaborating songwriters represented in the score include Adrienne Anderson, Burt Bacharach, Jeff Barry, Michael Callen, Christopher Cross, Tom Keane, Marsha Malamet, Dean Pitchford and Carol Bayer Sager.
The design team includes Robin Wagner (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting), Paul Huntley (wig and hair) and Acme Sound Partners (sound).
The Boy From Oz performs at the Imperial, located at 249 West 45 Street. For more information, visit the show's website at www.theboyfromoz.com.
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