It's about time! Many of the initial reviews of the just-opened Broadway musical "The Boy from Oz" were nothing less than vicious. Over the past few days, I have pondered the items — especially a thoroughly cruel one by the New York Times' Ben Brantley that gave me the impression that the critic was deliberately trying to kill the show. Now, that is only my suspicion. I don't know Brantley or the workings of his mind. But after reading his meanspirited hatchet job, that is the only conclusion this admittedly biased observer (who is quite knowledgeable about how the show was put together from its original Australian production to the present) could draw.
My only comfort was that every review I saw — the nasty ones, the mixed ones, and the glowing ones — gave raves to star Hugh Jackman, who by all accounts, makes a phenomenal Great White Way debut in the role of the flamboyant singer, dancer, songwriter, and showman Peter Allen.
The main criticism from the sniping critics: "BFO" is all flash and very little substance. Obviously, they didn't get the point. The show is supposed to be twinkly razzle dazzle and a rollicking good time. Hell, that's what the late Peter Allen was all about. Yes, he had his dark side, and that is alluded to in the play, but Allen — Mr. "Don't Cry Out Loud" — wanted to spread joy and fun. And that is precisely what "BFO"'s creative team set out to give Broadway audiences. What a shame that a number of the critics just didn't get that.
Too bad for them — theatergoers do get it. And so does the Hollywood Reporter's Robert Osborne, who offers a joyous, enthusiastically positive review of both "The Boy from Oz" and its astoundingly versatile and talented star attraction.
Rarely has a roof been lifted off a theater by the kind of thunderous applause that greeted Jackman (as the late Peter Allen) and the sensational "Oz" cast several times throughout the musical's premiere at the Imperial Theatre, rising to a crescendo during the show's knockout finale: Jackman descending a glitzy Robin Wagner-designed staircase to a sea of Ziegfeldian-dressed (by William Ivey Long) showgirls and dancing boys, shaking shoulders and delivering a slam-bang version of one of Allen's signature songs, "I Go to Rio." (The house erupted.) ...