At the THE BOY FROM OZ Opening-Night Party...
The searchlights outside command attention from miles away. The silver foil palm leaves catch the lights like frost and create, in the entryway of the Copacabana Club, the illusion of a steamy Rio night right here in the increasingly cool West 30's. Well, illusions are only too appropriate tonight. It's the opening-night party for THE BOY FROM OZ, starring Hugh Jackman as Australia's wild composer/performer Peter Allen, and stars from all over the world have come to witness not only the Broadway baptism of a major Hollywood star, but the first Australian musical to grace the Great White Way.
The flashbulbs begin to sparkle as gossip guru Liz Smith sweeps in, declaring the show "Excellent!" Fashion royalty Calvin Klein and OZ's Tony-winning costume designer William Ivey Long enter within moments of each other, and dancer Tommy Tune praises Joey McKneely's "authentic" choreography. Other celebrities, like Marissa Jaret Winokur, Rosie Perez, and Alan Cumming, laud the show as they pass through the doors. Movie star Karen Allen excitedly gushes that she knew the show would be a hit when she first saw the workshops, and Lili Taylor declares the production "amazing" and Hugh Jackman the "sexiest man alive."
Indeed, there is nothing but praise for Mr. Jackman. Television's Anthony Edwards says that "Hugh wouldn't have done [the show] if he didn't think he could do it better than anyone else." Bruce Cudd, Peter Allen's long-time assistant, smiles proudly as he says that "Hugh did a wonderful job. He's done his homework," even incorporating Allen's hand gestures and mannerisms into his performance.
The cast and crew begin to arrive. Flashbulbs explode again, and camera lights focus on the lovely Carole Bayer Sager, who co-wrote nine of the production's songs with Allen. "Tonight was electric," she says with a gentle smile. "The show was easy to love." Ms. Sager also served as a musical consultant on the show, a credit that she finds "very touching," and she describes her contribution as "making sure that the music stayed honest."
Tony-winner Jarrod Emick, who plays Peter Allen's lover, bounds in, and grins broadly as the crowd greets him. "Put on a Hawaiian shirt," he laughs when asked for a quote, and admits that he spends the first act of the show, during which he is not onstage, watching baseball in his dressing room. (Apropos, since he won his Tony award for his performance in DAMN YANKEES.) The show, he says in a moment of seriousness, "is about freedom." Handsome John Hill, Mr. Jackman's understudy, describes his experience as "amazing," and jokes that he "lives in perpetual Rio."
Most nightclubs have a strict under-21 policy, but tonight an exception is made for rising star Mitchel David Federan, who plays young Peter with enough energy to power the searchlights outside. Tonight was his first opening on Broadway, and he is enjoying every moment of it. "It's great!" he cheers over and over about his experience in the show, and adds, "It's Hugh Jackman! How can it not be great?"
And speaking of the star, he has finally arrived, greeting his admirers individually and with great attention. "This is the pinnacle," he says with a contented smile. "Everyone says you have to do Broadway. Now I understand why. It's the greatest thrill of my life to be on Broadway!" The audiences, he adds, are very supportive. And how does he feel to be headlining the first Australian musical to be produced on The Great White Way? "It's an honor," he says, and smiles again.
The flashbulbs have slowed, but multicolored lights in the main party room are keeping beat with the pounding music. One gets the feeling that in this glitzy, gaudy club filled with the royalty of Broadway, Peter Allen is somehow watching, and he is as ecstatic as the rest of the crowd.