Arts / Buddies step into the spotlight together

“Bosom Buddies”… Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney.

NANCYE Hayes and Todd McKenney have been bosom buddies both on and off stage for years, and now they’ve got their own show of the same name, coming here soon.
When “CityNews” catches up with the effervescent duo by phone to Geelong during a tour that extends from Toowoomba to Hobart, it’s one laugh after another as we all swap showbiz stories.

It’s hardly surprising when you know that both Hayes and McKenney began as hoofers but soon enough moved to centre stage, where they discovered how to tell a hilarious story with a good punchline.

They’ll be playing at The Playhouse, a venue they know well and where they performed together during 2007 in Richard Alfieri’s play “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks”.

That worked. McKenney, known to the general public as one of the judges on Channel 7’s “Dancing with the Stars” had serious ballroom cred, having learnt how to glide around the dance floor at his mum’s dance school.

But Hayes, equally famous for her legs, had started out in the chorus line, later becoming one of Australia’s greatest musical stars, famous for roles in everything from “Sweet Charity” to “Chicago”.

“We genuinely are bosom buddies,” Hayes says to the obvious question.

“We have been since ‘42nd Street’ in 1989 – my first featured role,” McKenney cuts in.

“Our careers have concertinaed in and out and for ‘Six Dance Lessons’ we were two years in a car on the road and we cemented our friendship.”

She and McKenney both came up the hard way.

McKenney may have appeared in “42nd Street” in 1989, but his big break didn’t come until 1997 when he replaced injured American dancer Jim Walton in “Crazy For You” and came to the attention of agents who cast him to create the role of Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz”.

The audiences in “Bosom Buddies” will hear much of this as the pair reminisce, reflect, sing and dance.

One of the stories McKenney is bound to tell is about how, at age 19, he met Peter Allen at a Bondi backyard barbecue. Immediately star struck, he went on to meet Allen four times before playing the great singer songwriter on stage.

“And we have questions and answers in the second half of the show,” Hayes says.

“The audiences ask wonderful questions about our careers and personal life.”

They don’t get too nervous about it because, as McKenney points out, they have each other to bounce off “if there are any curly questions”.

Once an audience member asked Hayes if she would marry him. Husband, musician Bob Bertles, wasn’t there that night, but he will join her for the Melbourne leg of the tour.

“Bosom Buddies” is divided into little parts, such as the childhood section where McKenney appears in dance outfits from his mum’s school. A favourite moment for Hayes is where she sings along with her young 1967 self on screen.

Both describe the show as very family-oriented and say: “It’s a great little expose for students wanting to go into musical theatre, you learn what it takes to survive.”

They hope to educate audiences about some of the great names of musical theatre in the past, like Jill Perryman and Betty Pounder – “there is so much Australian talent and we try to keep those names alive,” Hayes says.

As for the songs, although Hayes is a leading light in a movement to put new Australian musicals on stage, she is very clear: “We pretty well do all the old numbers the people want to hear.”

“Bosom Buddies”, The Playhouse, 7pm, May 21 and 1pm, May 22. Bookings to canberrratheatre.com.au or 6275 2700.

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