shows: Todd McKenney shakes his marac­cas

Todd McKenney hits a new note in the Peter Allen story, writes Vic­to­ria Han­naford

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

ASKED what he’s been up to in the morn­ing, Todd McKenney pulls a funny face. ‘‘Just talk­ing about my­self . . . which gets a bit bor­ing. I just feel like I get less in­ter­est­ing by about 11am,’’ he says and crosses his eyes.

It’s 11am al­ready, but McKenney can’t help be­ing en­ter­tain­ing – even when he’s pro­fess­ing to be dull.

In the past 12 months, he’s com­pleted a stint on stage in An­nie The Mu­si­cal and reprised his role as a judge on Danc­ing

With The Stars – McKenney is clearly a show­biz grafter. He’s put this work ethic into a new show, Songs and Sto­ries of

Peter Allen, which is tour­ing the coun­try. ‘‘I don’t want to put a show to­gether that no one comes to watch,’’ he says.

‘‘I could put a show on in my lounge­room if that’s what I wanted to do, but I love what I do, so I’m happy to talk about it.’’

The show is McKenney’s homage to Allen. Their stars be­came en­twined af­ter McKenney played him in The Boy From

Oz, but Songs and Sto­ries of Peter Allen is a new pro­duc­tion.

‘‘I didn’t want to do my own per­sonal one-man ver­sion of (bi­o­graph­i­cal mu­si­cal) The Boy From Oz. I went back to re­search him again, and I re­alised there were ma­jor in­flu­ences in his life, like Judy Gar­land, Al Jol­son, Fats Waller, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lit­tle Richard and Liza Minelli,’’ McKenney says.

‘‘So I get to sing songs from those artists and his hits as well.’’ McKenney cred­its his role in The Boy

From Oz with rais­ing his pro­file to house­hold-name sta­tus. ‘‘I wouldn’t have gone on Danc­ing

With The Stars if The Boy From Oz hadn’t given me a pub­lic pro­file. So it’s my story I’m telling, rather than Peter’s story,’’ he says.

McKenney says his con­nec­tion with Allen is per­sonal.

‘‘I’ve got a story about meet­ing him and his fam­ily and ac­ci­den­tally meet­ing his sis­ter, Lynne, in Bondi. My dogs would play with hers and we got talk­ing and I told her how much I loved him.’’

McKenney be­came friends with Lynne in 1996 and their re­la­tion­ship was piv­otal when the chance came to play Allen in The Boy From Oz.

Allen’s fam­ily found the idea of the mu­si­cal painful and were un­sure.

‘‘Lynne called when I had to do the au­di­tion and asked if I could come to the house,’’ McKenney says.

‘‘His mum had packed up three of his se­quined shirts and Lynne told me, ‘Mum said we would pre­fer the show didn’t hap­pen, but if any­one’s go­ing to play Peter, we hope it’s you’.

‘‘I took them and I got the role and I’ve al­ways felt in­cred­i­bly en­dorsed by the fam­ily . . . I feel like I give weight to singing Peter Allen’s ma­te­rial.’’

Todd McKenney: Songs and

Sto­ries of Peter Allen plays Jupiters The­atre to­mor­row and the QPAC Concert Hall, Bris­bane, on Satur­day.

Todd McKenney

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