For years, Australians have filled theatres fighting to see musicals written and developed by overseas creative teams – Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard and, more recently, Billy Elliott, Mamma Mia and Wicked. But when it comes to musicals written and developed by Australian creative teams, audiences have run a mile, scared of being bored to tears by contrived, pretentious, try-hard theatre that takes itself far too seriously.
So it’s perfect (and I mean that word literally) that a writer/composer who hates musicals, Eddie Perfect, and an executive producer who hates musicals, Kevin Whyte, should present a musical which heralds a new era of musical theatre in this country.
Musicals were the populist form of theatre in the twentieth century, pulling crowds like never before, some running for years (and still running). They were for the people, pure entertainment without any excuse or hidden agenda. Shane Warne the Musical is exactly that: a musical celebrating the life of one of Australia’s living legends. Love him or hate him, Shane Warne is as close to Australian royalty as you'll get, cricket's most adored and maligned hero. Shane always said his life was a soap opera – fame, fortune, failure, fidelity and forever battling the ferocious Australian media – perfect material for musical theatre.
The story is thin, the songs are wordy and the sound wasn’t great, so many of the lyrics were lost. There are certainly a few show-stopping numbers, such as ‘The S.M.S I’m In”, but many songs are forgettable. When 'Shane' sings, the style and clever rhymes sound more like Eddie than anything that would ever come out of Shane’s mouth. There are several disclaimers throughout the show drawing unnecessary attention to Eddie’s (or Shane’s) cynicism or sheer hatred of musical theatre. Without wanting to cut down a tall poppy, there are certainly holes in the script and score.
But who cares!?
The performances by the ensemble cast are brilliant, the packed audience loved it, the upfront ‘this-is-what-I-am-and-who-gives-a-shit-what-you-think-about-me’ attitude (reflecting Shane’s own character) is refreshing, the show will bring in thousands of audience-goers who love sport and Shane, but rarely go to the theatre (which is fantastic), so what more can a new Australian musical do?
There are two rules to the success of any show – get them in the door and once they’re in, make them love it so much they go tell their friends to see it too.
Shane Warne the Musical is currently doing well on both counts. With Eddie Perfect (creator), Casey Bennetto (dramaturge and writer of Keating the Musical, which Eddie performed in) and Neil Armfield (director) building a formidable team around them, Australian audiences can look forward to more daring work created for the people, designed to entertain, excite and surprise. Thank god. It’s about time.
SHANE WARNE THE MUSICAL
Written & Composed by Eddie Perfect
Director Neil Armfield
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne
Season: from Wednesday 10 December 2008
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au , 1300 723 038 or through the venue on 03 9650 1500
More information: www.shanewarnethemusical.com.au
READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH EDDIE PERFECT»