Presented by Kathryn McGowan and Markus Hamence
Reviewed 16 October 2020
With the continued relaxation of restrictions, the Arts is gradually making a comeback here in South Australia. Several performing arts venues have used this lockdown time to refurbish and complete restorations, such as Her Majesty’s Theatre, and now the Regal Theatre has reopened after an extensive facelift.
Mayor Anne Monceaux is part of the driving force that, along with the Burnside Council, has invested a great deal to bring the Regal Theatre back to its art deco glory. The venue now will play host to cabaret events as well as movies.
In her opening night speech, Mayor Monceaux shared her passion for the theatre and her own life-long connection to this majestic building.
Originally, the delightful Rhonda Burchmore was booked to be the opening performance for the Regal Theatre’s series of A Grand Night At The Regal. However, due to the current lockdown restrictions in Victoria, she sadly wasn’t granted a travel permit. Although this did throw the producers into a spin, they were rescued when Australia’s own boy from Oz, Todd McKenney, graciously stepped in.
In his first public, live performance since March this year, you could clearly see that McKenney has missed performing for audiences. From the moment he sprang onto the stage, the audience was swept up in his showmanship. For over two hours McKenney treated us with numbers from artists and shows such as Bette Middler, Pippin The Musical, Helen Reddy, and of course Peter Allen. The second half of the show was completely dedicated to the music of Peter Allen, unsurprisingly as McKenney portrayed this legendary Australian singer, songwriter and performer in the first production of The Boy From Oz twenty years ago. There is something completely magical about the music of Peter Allen, and when you add McKenney’s unique spin, it is captivating. Singing, dancing and storytelling his way through the night, McKenney’s two standing ovations were a true testament as to why he is one of Australia’s most sought-after leading men of theatre.
Just prior to intermission, McKenney was joined on stage by the larger than life cabaret super-star, Trevor Ashley. Ashley is most known for his Liza Minnelli shows, and for portraying the role of Edna in the first Australian production of Hairspray The Musical.
Trevor Ashley is magnetic. When he smiles, you smile with him. McKenney and Ashley performed two duets, one of which showcased Ashley’s skills at the piano.
I cannot go any further without mentioning and praising McKenney’s phenomenal four-piece band. Ralph Marshall (bass, synth and backing vocals with some truly impressive multitasking), Glenn Wilson (drums), Michael Rohanek (piano) and Lisa Callingham (backing vocals) never missed a beat. Together they are probably one of the tightest bands I’ve seen supporting an artist.
If you follow Todd on social media, you may be aware of “Todd Masks”, an initiative that he started to help out-of-work costume designers and creators to design and sell masks, with all proceeds going directly back to the designers. With the need for masks beginning to ease (at least in Australia), Todd has now expanded this platform into “Todd Creates”, where artists can sell a wide range of handmade products, giving them some much-needed income during this difficult time for creators. This is a fabulous initiative to help our struggling artists. To check out the online store, visit toddcreates.shop .
Upon arrival into the venue, the audiences were entertained with a pre-show by Adelaide icon DJ Vonni (Vonni Brit Watkins). Vonni mixed for audiences a selection of show tunes, overtures and other nostalgic songs that were fitting for a grand venue such as the Regal.
Special kudos must go to producers Kathryn McGowan and Markus Hamence, who have joined forces to present this series of cabaret performances at the Regal Theatre. Keep an eye out for upcoming performances by Trevor Ashley, the legendary Carlotta, and hopefully many more. It’s no easy feat to bring together productions like this, especially during a pandemic.
While the average age of the audience was well above my age, Todd McKenney knows how to capture his whole audience. Even my 5year old daughter was bopping her way through the night in her seat.
Get out there Adelaide and support the Arts.
Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff
Rating out of 5: 5