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Riverside Theatres Digital presents An Evening with Todd McKenney
Photograph: SuppliedRiverside Theatres Digital presents An Evening with Todd McKenney

Musical star Todd McKenney is ready to showtune up your Sunday, with a little help from Bette Midler and Peter Allen

Pay what you think for this Riverside Theatres Digital razzmatazz extravaganza

Written by
Stephen A Russell

Showtune superstar Todd McKenny promises plenty of razzle dazzle when he takes to the Riverside Theatre stage in Parramatta this Sunday afternoon, for the first streamable show from the theatre's second digital concert series. He'll be packing tracks from his leading turn in The Boy from Oz, but Peter Allen won’t be the only big gun he brings.

“I’ve recently rediscovered Bette Midler, so we’ll do songs like ‘Delta Dawn’, and ‘Hurry on Down’, which is fabulous in the real Midler style, frantic and up-tempo,” he says. “And we’ll probably do ‘Beauty School Dropout’ from Grease, because I did steal that costume at the end of the show, so it’ll give me an opportunity to wear it again.”

He fills us in on his plans for An Evening With Todd McKenney while he waits for a plane back to Sydney after a quick dash to catch up with him mum in Coolangatta, and it sounds like we’re in for a real treat. He’s certainly itching to get back on stage, even if it is minus an IRL audience.

For a performer used to getting up in front of thousands, what have the last few months cooped up at home while theatres lie empty been like?

You know what? The last job I did was playing Lord Farquaad in Shrek, and so I was on my knees for almost three months in that role. So initially my body was going, ‘Thank you’. I needed the break. My back and my neck were wrecked. But once that sorted itself out, I was pretty bored. I’m used to always having something to work on in the back of my head, and now I’m so sick of spending time with myself.

So you can’t wait to get up on the Riverside stage?

When the Riverside contacted me, the first thing I did was actually ring my band, because I’ve been touring with the same group of musicians for the last four or five years and we’re really tight. We’ve missed each other. I let them make the decision, because it’s a different beast, having no audience. And they all jumped at the chance to make some money and get us back together again.

How are rehearsals going?

We’ve done a couple on Zoom, but we’re going into the studio on Wednesday morning and just talking to them all again about something artistic has been a godsend, really. We jumped straight back in, so I’m kind of doing it for us, and then hopefully the audience will enjoy coming along for our ride.

How will the empty seats affect your performance?

When I do my shows, there’s a lot of banter with the audience. So we’re trying to work out creative ways of getting around that, because I don’t think the songs will be hard. So when I get back to Sydney, I’m going to put a video up on my Facebook and we’re gonna ask my followers if they’ve got any questions we can answer on the night. Hopefully they’ll get really personal and so that will be our linking moments. Whenever the band and I get together, we just laugh, so I want to give each of them a microphone and we’re going to run it like one of our crazy rehearsals, and I think the audience will pick up on the vibe of our friendship.

Goodness knows we all need a laugh right now.

Absolutely, more than anything. And the other great thing is, if the audience at home aren’t laughing along with us, I wouldn’t have a clue. I’m just gonna pretend they’re all standing on their sofas cheering.

Book tickets to the one-night-only An Evening With Todd McKenney here. It will stream live on Sunday, July 26 at 5pm. You can pay what you think, starting from $18, with all proceeds supporting the venue, its workers and the band.  

Need more music in your life? You can stage a classical concert in your own home.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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