Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Wednesday, September 27

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Fantastic Four, The Gift, Shaun the Sheep Movie, The End of the Tour, Dark Places, Ricki and the Flash, A LEGO Brickumentary, Best of Enemies & More Prime is Now Comin' to Town »

Theater Tue Aug 11 2015

The Boy From Oz: Pride Films & Plays Stages a Splashy Musical from a Disco-Era Songbook

The Boy from Oz
Photo courtesy Pride Films & Plays.

Pride Films and Plays' new production of The Boy From Oz is an exuberant, splashy musical based on the songs and story of Peter Allen, the Australian songwriter and entertainer, whose life became intertwined with Judy Garland's and Liza Minnelli's.

Chris Logan plays Allen (he's onstage constantly for the two-and-a-half-hour show) and heads a cast of 18 actors, singers and dancers. David Zak's skillful direction of this sort-of-bioplay is greatly enhanced by well-choreographed dance numbers and great costumes, courtesy of Cameron Turner (choreography) and John Nasca (costume design). A six-member band makes the music come alive.

The performances and production values of The Boy From Oz provide a pleasant evening's entertainment. It's too bad that all that talent and energy isn't based on better underlying raw material. The book by Martin Sherman and Nick Enright is lackluster. The storyline moves methodically and chronologically as if we were reading from Allen's diary.

Few of Allen's disco-era songs are memorable or hummable. I didn't leave the show with a melodic refrain stuck in my head. (To be fair, however, a number of his songs were successful when covered by other artists.)

We meet Allen as a dance-obsessed kid (played by Garrett Hershey) growing up in rural Australia, then forming a duo and performing in clubs. A chance meeting with Judy Garland (Nancy Hays) results in Allen opening for Garland in London and the U.S. and marrying her daughter, Liza Minnelli (Michelle Lauto). The marriage lasts seven years with both partners occasionally straying; Peter is in denial about being gay. Later he comes out and forms a long-term relationship with Greg (Luke Meierdiercks), who becomes producer and designer of Allen's shows. In act two, Greg dies of AIDS, as Allen did in 1992. Many interludes tie Allen back to his life in Australia and his relationship with his mother Marion (warmly played by Michelle McKenzie-Voigt).

The ensemble dance numbers are some of the best moments of the play, especially the glitzy version of "Everything Old Is New Again" In Allen's 1981 show at Radio City Music Hall, and the finale, "Rio."

The Boy From Oz benefits from some excellent performances. Logan as Peter Allen is a slender, wiry song-and-dance man and flirtatiously relates to other performers and to the audience in some of his diary commentary. Both Hays and Lauto become their mother-daughter characters by suggesting their personas, rather than trying to imitate them.

Katie-Bel Springmann's set design is simple and workable, with the requisite dancers' stairs on the left and a large screen that projects images and continuity to carry out the plot. The piano keyboard graphic over the proscenium is a clever visual touch.

The six-member band led by music director and arranger Robert Ollis is excellent and really revs up the quality of the production. Derek Fitting on trumpet and flugelhorn and Adam DeGroot on alto sax and clarinet are especially fine.

The Boy From Oz is staged by Pride Films & Plays at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, through August 30. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets are $25-40 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-372-5252.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15