Todd McKenney plays to his audience.
Todd McKenney plays to his audience. Contributed

Shake your maracas with Todd

"HI TODD, it's Peter Allen here"

In the 80s if you phoned perennial stage performer Todd McKenney and he didn't answer, that's the message you would hear. And indeed, you were really hearing from THE Peter Allen.

Todd McKenney, currently presenting, Todd McKenney Sings Peter Allen: The Piano Sessions is recalling his first meeting with Peter Allen.

"I was living in a unit block in Sydney," he recalls

"And my neighbour asked me over for a barbecue in the backyard.

"'Come over after work, there's someone here I'd like you to meet'."

They turned out to be the famous last words - as that someone Todd would like to meet, turned out to be Peter Allen.

"I walked in and he was sitting there enjoying the sausage sizzle."

The two got on like a house on fire and Allen invited him to his show the following week at the Hilton.

"We swapped numbers and he said he would get back to me."

Not that McKenney believed that this famous star would really get back to him.

But then OMG, there's a message on his Casio tape recorder.

"Hi Todd, it's Peter Allen here..." was recorded for history and for many years McKenney kept it as his personal answer message.

McKenney was also friends with Allen's sister Lynne and through that, their mother, Marion Allen.

In fact, when McKenney went for the role, Marion gave him three of her son's shirts as a good luck gift.

The shirts worked their magic and Todd McKenney took his part in the brilliant production of "The Boy from Oz".

As he performs in Todd McKenney Sings Peter Allen: The Piano Sessions he renews each show with his own blend of style, but just like Peter Allen, he is there for the audience.

He said he loves to warm up the audience with some titillating chit chat - "Have I got something to tell you," while encouraging them to ask their own questions.

"It's all random," he said.

And there's plenty going on with the iconic maracas.

"I'm married to the maracas," he says with a smile in his voice.

But I gather it's a short-lived marriage with a different maraca every night.

"I throw them to the audience, and I'm spending half my wage buying new ones."

Todd McKenney's exuberant personality, his gifted singing, dancing and humour are shared in bucket loads as he gives audiences another chance to be part of the unique Peter Allen experience.

In a relaxed setting there is just Todd himself, Michael Rohanek on grand piano, Ralph Marshall on bass, additional vocals from the amazing Lisa Callingham, and Allen's fantastic songs. The Piano Sessions recently completed two sold out nights at the Sydney Opera House, with audiences raving about McKenney's performance and showmanship.

McKenney sings all of Allen's biggest hits including Not The Boy Next Door, (I Go to) Rio, I Honestly Love You, Tenterfield Saddler and I Still Call Australia Home,

For performance dates and locations go to:

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