SINGIN' IN THE CAVES: CQ's Dale Pengelly with the Underground Opera Company. INSET: In ballet class in Gladstone in 1979
SINGIN' IN THE CAVES: CQ's Dale Pengelly with the Underground Opera Company. INSET: In ballet class in Gladstone in 1979

CQ's Boy from Oz returns to The Caves this weekend

HE WAS the Boy from Oz in 75 performances of the Peter Allen inspired musical and Don Lockwood in the 2002 Asian tour of Singin' in the Rain, but in reality Dale Pengelly is the boy from CQ who had a dream and believed in himself.

This weekend he returns with The Underground Opera Company and a performance he says will make people "laugh, cry and adore”.

Five singers and a pianist come together in an ensemble piece to light up the stage and one Pengelly says is the most unique thing he's done.

He says The Underground Opera finds natural atriums with natural acoustic sounds and takes the concept into these venues. It's clearly been working, playing to standing ovations in south-east Queensland.

At 53, Pengelly considers himself very lucky to be still performing.

It's been a long road since the young dancer from Gladstone left home at 16 for the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne.

"I realised really early on that I loved it. I was 14 when I decided I wanted to make a career of it, but to do that I had to leave the region,” he said.

"I looked at Rudolf Nureyev, a strong and masculine male dancer and that's how I wanted to dance.”

Despite being well-liked and a natural sportsman, Pengelly says he still "copped a bit at school” but learned not to react.

"My murri mates thought it pretty cool that I was a dancer so if anyone said anything, they would have a quiet word to them.

"I learned that if I laughed back, they'd have nowhere to go and it's what I tell my young male students.”

After graduating from the Australian Ballet School, Pengelly spent more than 10 years dancing with the Queensland Ballet, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Sydney Dance Company until a foot injury forced a change in direction.

His first love had been tap dancing but when called to audition for David Atkins' new production, Hot Shoe Shuffle, it had been 15 years since he'd tapped.

"It was like riding a bike,” he said.

"I joined with a bunch of blokes who'd been doing musical theatre for the same amount of time I'd been doing ballet and I fell in love with it.”

From that moment, Pengelly set a goal to play in a starring role within 10 years. That was 1992 and 10 years later, he was on tour in Asia playing one of musical theatre's most coveted roles, Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain.

It was as understudy to Todd McKenney that he performed Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, 75 times.

"My gratitude level is very high... I've grabbed opportunity by the horns and I've been very lucky,” Pengelly said. "At 53 I'm still performing. I love the freelance life and it's variety. It keeps my artistry fresh.”


Underground Opera Company

West End to Broadway

Friday and Saturday 7.30pm at The Caves

Tickets from Ticketmaster $86 adults, $66 conc or groups of 10, $50 15 and under