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Singing with Shane Warne

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Author Topic: Singing with Shane Warne  (Read 58 times)
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If music be the food of love, play on

« on: January 28, 2009, 10:48:40 am »

The accidental beginnings and unexpected greatness of Shane Warne’s cricketing career are aptly summed up in the publicity for the musical that bears his name; Warne, it claims, “fell arse backwards into the Australian dream”. Yet to be a great bowler or batsman is not enough. It is Warne’s larrikin exploits off the field as much as his spin bowling on it that have kept the tabloid fires stoked for eighteen years.

Cricketing websites have been buzzing with suggestions for further musical treatments – “Oh What a Lovely Waugh” and “Hello D’Oliveira” are just two other projects in fantasy development – but Steve and Basil lacked the devil-may-care attitude and anti-authoritarianism of Warney. It is interesting to note that the only other comedy show about a cricketer, Botham: The musical, a Cambridge Footlights revue that toured Australia in 1981, featured another iconoclast with a disdain for sporting protocol and abstemiousness.

When Shane Warne: The musical opened in Melbourne last month, Warne himself made a surprise appearance during the curtain call and then wrote an approving review in a local paper. For cricket fans and the producers this was wonderful publicity – fuel for the show’s crossover appeal and great news at the box office, although possibly a disappointment to defamation lawyers. For the creator, Eddie Perfect (his real name), it risked blunting the edge of the show’s satirical thrust, edging him and his creative team closer to the mainstream of musical theatre, a genre they are at pains to subvert.

The parodying nature of the evening is established with a razzamatazz opening as a bevy of glittering dancers and the assembled cast sing “The Tale of Warne” – a story, they claim, that can only properly be told with the full armoury of musical showbiz. This conceit is immediately pricked by the appearance of the hero, played by a peroxide-quiffed Perfect, who ambles into the footlights. “What the fuck are you doing here?”, he asks mildly, but with an air of genuine puzzlement. There are other shows in town he tells us, musicals about coalminers’ sons in tutus and witches in Munchkinland that might have greater appeal than a musical about a washed-up cricketer. Having accepted that his story will out, and that its structure is a series of flashbacks and dream sequences in a variety of musical pastiches, the show proper begins.

Its twenty-two songs over two acts cover his career and personal life, starting with his early forays into Australian football (“Run”) and his life-defining admittance to the Australian Institute of Sport (“How do you Spell Success? AIS”). Numbers such as “Get off the Couch” sung by Warne’s mother Brigitte (Kaye Tuckerman) and “Piss It All Away”, a musical admonishment from bowling coach and early mentor Terry Jenner (Robert Grubb) attest to Warne’s well-documented love of fast food, beer and idleness, while “The Ball” and “Paying Attention Now” review highlights in his career, including the leg-break delivery to dismiss Mike Gatting during the 1993 Ashes Test at Old Trafford, often referred to by journalists and commentators as the ball of the twentieth century.

A scatological sledging lyric (“We Never Cross the Line”) segues into one about the psychological devastation wrought by Warne on the South African batsman Daryll Cullinan (“Bunny in the Headlights”). There are also songs about bribery and the use of banned diuretics (“Take the Pill”) but the show’s real clout comes in its treatment of Warne’s messy personal life. Rosemarie Harriss plays Warne’s wife, Simone, and is rewarded with two solos about his various infidelities. Warne’s priapic exploits and their repeated intrusion into the domestic sphere are summed up by a scene set in a supermarket, and the song “What an SMS I’m in”. The media’s favourite bad-boy clown enjoys “an erection in the food section”, and tells us that “sex is the best thing, the next best is texting”.

Despite its cricketing theme, tailor-made for a nation obsessed with glory through sporting victory, the evening’s antecedents are surely in the musical Keating (2006), about Australia’s machiavellian former Labor prime minister. That too grew out of a satirical revue, the writer and performer of which, Casey Bennetto, also acted as dramaturg on Shane Warne: The musical. Both comedies share a director, Neil Armfield, better known as a director of opera and film, and both employ driving rhythms, witty lyrics and outrageous scenarios to tell anti-establishment stories of light and dark and the lust for fame and power.

Eddie Perfect
Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne

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