Shane Warne the Musical makes a welcome return to the stage as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until Sunday, this hilarious show follows the notorious cricketer from his directionless late-teens up to his current life with Liz Hurley.
Each chapter in Warne’s life is illustrated by a song and dance, usually raucous and irreverent. The show simultaneously laughs at and with Australian cricketing culture. ‘That Ball’, a song about Warne’s Ball of the Century in the 1993 Ashes, shows as much of the spectators as of the bowler. Much like Bruce Dawe’s Life Cycle, it captures the reverent, almost unhinged way in which many Australians approach sport. The fantastic sledging number ‘We Never Cross the Line’ has the whole audience gasping with laughter right up to the moment when they gasp with shock.
In the words of show creator, Eddie Perfect, “It’s easy to make your mind up about someone, and much harder to look again. Shane Warne has made me look and look and then look again”. This sums up the show, ahem, perfectly. It’s a comedy, and a successful one at that, but where a lot of comedy attacks its subject, this show celebrates it. Not unthinkingly – nobody watching would leave with the impression that Shane Warne is an angel – but not judgmentally either. With this emotional connection at its centre, Shane Warne The Musical makes you grin not just in the theatre but also the next day as you remember the characters over coffee.
It also means that this comedy, which would otherwise be just a series of musical sketches, can carry some weightier questions without feeling bogged down. Where is the line between person and personality? Why does society invest so deeply in some people’s private lives? When did we decide that people who are good at sport had to be good people too?
As well as the funny, clever comedy there are several serious scenes, often of more private moments. These are very effective, made all the more touching by the simple, everyday lyrics. The lines reflect the way that desperation, loneliness or sadness actually comes out in real conversation, and it’s refreshing.
In the leading role, Perfect hits the ground running and looks instantly and completely like a star. Backing him up are a complement of charismatic figures. There’s Mike McLeish (from Keating! The Musical), Shane Jacobson (from Kenny) and Lisa McCune (from everything). The rest of the cast are fantastic too, each performing some demanding solo parts with apparent ease.
The Adelaide Art Orchestra provides an excellent musical accompaniment to proceedings. Shifting styles from stage band to rock group to pit orchestra, they turn in a skilled ensemble performance.
As with so many festival shows in Adelaide, there are some shaky moments at the start. Microphone levels are not quite right and some chorus maneuvers don’t seem to really fit the stage. But when the first big vocal number begins, all these kinks seem to disappear.
Shane Warne The Musical is a very funny show which allows its performers to shine, and it has you thinking a little while you laugh. By my count, that’s a hat trick.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Shane Warne the Musical
Music, Lyrics and Book: Eddie Perfect
Director: Simon Phillips
Musical Director and Orchestrator: Iain Grangdage
Lighting Design: Geoff Cobham
Sound Design: Jane Rosetto
Cast: Eddie Perfect, Lisa McCune, Shane Jacobson, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Christie Whelan Browne, Rohan Nichol, Mike McLeish, Jolyon James, Amy Lehpamer and Andy Conaghan
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide
5 – 9 June
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
20 – 21 June
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
7 – 22 June