Keating! is fast becoming an Australian classic. Or perhaps more accurately, Keating! is fast becoming a ‘classic Australian’, with a style and charisma that rivals the man himself. Back for another season, audiences around the country are again treated to a seamless performance of pop/rock numbers that couldn’t lose their appeal if an election depended on it.
This passionate and deftly cast tribute to former Prime Minister Paul Keating, written and composed by Casey Bennetto, is so utterly charming that it’s a challenge to exit the theatre without shamelessly singing ‘Who da man?’. It is undoubtedly a comic genius who envisions Paul Keating jiving to some cool reggae beats and announcing that ‘Yes I am…the Ruler of the Land’.
Few other productions could touch the little-musical-that-could since Company B brought this piercing political satire to the stage in 2005. After adapting it from the more modest version, first performed at Melbourne’s Trades Hall, Keating! has impressed the public and peers alike, taking out Best Musical in the industry nominated Helpmann Awards for Australia’s finest live talent, ahead of The Boy from Oz, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and Miss Saigon.
Though it is hard to single out what is most impressive about Keating! the raw energy created by the ensemble, which includes a five-piece band involved in the vain of a Greek chorus, is key to the show’s success. The minimalist set leaves the actors responsible for creating spectacle and the songs are left to breathe without a hint of pretence. Carrying this energy throughout is the versatile Mike McLeish as Paul Keating. His entrance into the story is akin to a Raymond Chandler sequence; spot-lit and sultry in the corner he says, eyes twinkling, ‘Hi, I’m Paul’.
Director Neil Armfield and McLeish clearly have a special relationship, as together they imbue Keating with all the satire, compassion, and tenacity necessary to bring to life Bennetto’s “conventional musical theatre hero”. McLeish’s voice is stunning and his enthusiasm; contagious. He is obviously having a ball on stage and his thanks to the standing ovation at the night’s end are nothing but genuine.
So too is Bennetto’s engagement with Australian politics. This season of Keating! opened on the historic day when Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations, and Bennetto’s nod to the belated event was subtly expressed through the band’s introductory piece: a ska arrangement of Nirvana’s All Apologies. Keating! is the most engaging and relevant musical Australia has seen in a long time, and this performance is as slick as they come.
Company B proudly presents
by Casey Bennetto
Venue: Comedy Theatre
Dates: from Wednesday February 13
Times: Tuesday - Saturday @ 8.00pm, Sunday @ 5.00pm; Matinee Saturday @ 2.00pm
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849 www.ticketek.com