11 December 2008

Shane Warne: The Musical

Shane Warne: The Musical
Token Events and TrafficLight
11 December 2008
Athenaeum Theatre

I didn’t care for or about Shane Warne before the musical, and I still don’t, but Eddie Perfect can SMS me any time.

Perfect wrote this great Aussie musical and stars as its fallen hero. Being as Aussie as beetroot on a burger, Shane Warne: The Musical might not make a Broadway away tour, and it’s no good taking it to the West End, cos the poms will just whinge about it – but every Australian state, city and medium-sized country town deserves a leg of the tour.

We all know Warnie – he’s either the greatest spin bowler Australia’s yet to produce (don’t worry if you’re cricket illiterate, there’s a scene that explains that stuff) or he’s that twat who cheated on his missus, couldn’t give up smoking and was tempted by Indian bribes. Shane eventually grasps that these two parts of himself are connected, and is forced to accept, “I’ll never be captain, so I guess that’s that then”. He helped bring back the ashes, but his personal life ruined any chance he had of being a real hero.

Warnie’s the archetypal anti-hero, with his larrikin faults and inability to say no to temptation.  If Perfect and Co had pulverised him, it wouldn’t be fair to Shane; if they’d ignored his foibles, it wouldn’t be fair to us. Shane Warne: The Musical keeps hitting sixes with a remarkable balance of satire and celebration.

And, to be fair, it also takes the piss out of musical theatre, with numbers reminiscent of stage and screen favourites from Fame to Godspell to Sweeney Todd (it was “fucking beautiful” ) – and who knew AIS was even more fan to dance-spell than YMCA.

Warnie in song works so well because ultimately the jokes on us. Perfect makes us look at ourselves and how we all supported and created the spin around the spin. As the marketing chorus sing, “Everyone’s a little bit like Shane”. We can’t blame him for being just like us.

With a such an impressive creative team around Perfect – director Neil Armfield (demi-god of Australian directing), dramaturge Casey Benneto (Keating), choreographer Gideon Obarzanek (Chunky Move) and designer Brian Thomson (shows too numerous to mention, but this the design is reminiscent of his original Rocky Horror set) –  it would have been disappointing if Shane Warne: The Musical wasn’t this good. It proves that sometimes it’s a damn good idea to let those arty-farty types loose on a commercial show.

Perfect lives up to his name as Warne and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when he’s had enough, as the show is very dependent on his appeal. The rest of the on-stage team are bonza, with Rosemarie Harris a standout as Simone.

Shane Warne: The Musical will become as legendary as its namesake. It’s not a celebration of Warne the cricketer or a gut-punch to Shane the man. It lets you laugh at him, laugh with him and ultimately cack yourself because his ridiculous, media-controlled, fame-driven life led to a Melbourne-based cabaret performer writing a musical all about it.

A note for patrons more used to stadiums
Last night there were a number of Warnie fans in the audience who didn’t get the concept of live theatre. It’s not like the MCG. Getting up in the middle of the first half (or “act”) and coming back into the theatre with beer for your mates isn’t acceptable “theatre” behaviour – and it just encouraged other blokes to do the same. Please wait for half time (or “interval”) and don’t do it again in the second half. Or, at least, come back with enough beers for the people sitting near you!

 This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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