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Boy from Oz who never tires of singing Peter Allen's hits

Date

Julieanne Strachan

As a 14-year-old boy looking up at Peter Allen on the stage in 1977, Todd McKenney was enthralled.

His mother had been given tickets for the Perth Festival and she decided to take along her teenage son, who had never heard of Allen.

By the end of the concert Allen had a new fan.

''I was transfixed, I didn't want it to end,'' McKenney said.

''It was almost the first live show I had ever seen. He has been such a big influence on me.''

Nobody could have anticipated the adolescent boy in the audience would go on to become one of the most recognisable performers of Allen's work, starting with The Boy From Oz in 1998 and now with a new show, Songs and Stories of Peter Allen, which arrives in Canberra tonight.

McKenney has been touring the country, with a run in Perth and an appearance in Toowoomba before stopping in the ACT, followed by more stops in Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

McKenney's new show delves into not only Allen's work, but McKenney's long association with the songs and some backstage insights.

The production has been billed as a ''two-hour extravaganza featuring an eight-piece band with singers and dancers''.

It is a different take on Allen's life and career that will showcase the classics, some new songs and untold stories of McKenney's time in Allen's sequins.

McKenney, who has been a controversial judge on the television program Dancing with the Stars, first performed the role of Allen in The Boy From Oz in 1998.

He did nearly 800 shows to a collective audience of 1.2 million people.

The role made him a household name and earned him a string of awards including two Mo awards, the Variety Club Heart award, Green Room award, the Australian Dance Award and two coveted Helpmann awards.

''To be totally honest I feel like I have been living with Peter Allen since 1998 and we get on really well,'' he said.

''I love the man and I love his music.''

The show isn't easy though, with songs like Rio, I Still Call Australia Home and The More I See You not being an easy task.

''Peter Allen had a lot of energy and the songs require a lot of energy - it's basically exhausting,'' he said.

''But it's what I do and I love it.

''I think I've sung I Still Call Australia Home 2000 times, but I never get tired of singing it.''

The show is on at the Canberra Theatre tonight.

Details and tickets: www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au or call 6275 2700.

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