In a world rapidly sinking into a grand funk, with nothing going right for overpaid CEOs, for US Auto workers, for the climate, for climate scientists, for denialists, for the US (apart from Obama), for the sales of SUVs and large cars, for the US, UK and Europe, for Afghanistan, for NSW, for Australia the Movie, for your superannuation, its good to know that little ol Melbourne has stepped in to save the day. Little ol Melbourne as represented by two blokes who were both reared in those endless bland Eastern bayside suburbs of Black Rock and Mentone. Its the story of Shane and Eddie.
Black Rock bogan Shane tubby Warne, who pulled himself up by his moccasins to become one of the most celebrated deliverers of spin the world has seen (not that theres anything wrong with that), has had his life, relationships and indiscretions repackaged and presented in a deliciously indulgent and extravagant form in the shape of Shane Warne the Musical – by bayside boy Eddie Perfect.
This, dear reader, is the Musical that will save Australia from recession. It is as close to exceptional as a musical could be without your humble correspondent having the opportunity to make a few refinements in the second half, and it is a dead set certifiable Aussie smash hit.
If you loved Keating the Musical, youll love this. If you didnt love Keating the Musical youll love this. Despite being modelling on the Keating formula, this is not political at all so those despondent rightist who are still moping over the exits of Mr. Howard and Mr. Bush and are presently amusing themselves by picking over graphs of satellite temperatures since 1998 can safely attend in the knowledge that they wont have their shattered fantasy shoved in their face. What they will have shoved in their face however is plenty of low-slung cleavage, wide legged crotch display and chubby men in their undies. Plus as an added bonus a full rendition of the profound on-field utterances known as sledging. No its not political and nor is it politically correct.
Eddie Perfect has apparently spent three years conjuring up this little slice of Melbourne magic, and by Gee it delivers. The first half is a sheer delight as Warnie transforms from bogan to hero, and drops, along the way, some of the corniest dumbest lines ever deployed to impress the pants off chicks. Lines that I wish Id known about when I was just an up-and-coming humble correspondent. The music is terrific.
Be warned though. Eddie Perfect who plays Shane has got a funny singing voice. His normal speaking voice is deep, and to hit those high notes he constricts his larynx in a way that is less resonant, and more redolent of an F1 car accelerating up Brabham straight. Plus to add tonal variety he indulges in that mostly irritating singing style so popular amongst adolescent Australian Idol contestants known as melisma. Eddie Perfect is no Mel Torme, but dont let that put you off because despite this Mr. Perfect brings to the lips of Shane Warne the most hilarious bent-over-double melodious laugharama since for a long time. Its like this all through the first half, and when you exit the Atheneums theatre seeking the bar, you are faced with a decision that you thought was long ago resolved. Do I buy the fancy-pants beer, or get a VB? Even though it tastes crap!
After the break we all plunge back in for the second act, and we are warned, by Mr. Warne himself at the very beginning, that this is where life gets a little tricky. Thered be a few bummers to come, we were told (as if we didnt know), and then we witness the public embarrassments, the temptations and the falling down, fortunately it is still riotously funny.
But it is also in the second half that we witness the poignancy of a wife betrayed. This scene is quite simply excellent. I had to bring out the hanky as a pink velvet tracksuited Simone Warne (played by Rosemary Harris), sings so beautifully, like an animal pining for a mate, about her heartbreak, about betrayal. It is moving.
Like all musicals it must end on a high-note otherwise whats the point in going, and this is where I have perhaps my only serious quibble. Dont panic. It does still end on a high note, and it is still very good, and theres plenty of up-tempo shenanigans in the second half to keep the ol foot tapping and laughing gear cacking, but theres one thing that the second act lacks in my view and that is a good old simple rock number in 4/4 time. One with a rip-snorter of a chorus. Something that makes you want to stand on you seat and wave your arms around before falling with joy de vivre into the comforting bosom of the lady in front and two seats to the right. Im thinking of something like Rocky Horrors Time Warp for example. Something that simply kicks arse and acts as the musical hook for the entire production. There are a few numbers that come close but just not quite.
Of course if Mr. Perfect feels inclined to put the icing on the cake, he could always drop a line to this Melbourne lad. Id be most happy to trawl through my catalogue of self-penned Hummazoo recordings dating back to the 70s when 4/4 reigned supreme for a modest slice of the action. Itd be an honour to help Mr. Perfect be just that.
In the end you leave the Atheneum theatre thinking Geez that was good, and so despite my very minor quibble about one song, Shane Warne the Musical is still a riot with great and varied tunes, with hilarious lyrics and a fun-poking but ultimately caring and honourable representation of its subject. It will appeal to everyone who ever wanted to be just a little bit naughty in their life, and hell, in these dark days and straightened times we need a little bit of naughty now and then.