The Adelaide Cabaret Festival has backed an absolute winner with Eddie Perfect’s Shane Warne the Musical.
Perfect is an astounding talent; not only has he written the music, lyrics and book for the show, he also plays the lead, Shane Warne. His vocal range is impressive and he is equally comfortable with making us laugh, feel and think. Very few people in this country will not be aware of Warne’s cricketing prowess and off-field antics, and this show cleverly appeals to a wide-ranging audience, be it young or old, cricket lovers or haters.
Director Simon Phillips’ staging is superb – a few rows of seats, featuring the brilliant Adelaide Art Orchestra seated prominently high up-stage, with the occasional prop wheeled on by actors. Along with Geoff Cobham’s lighting, which creates mood, atmosphere, settings and the feel of a rock concert, it’s all you need for a great production.
The cast members, dressed in cricket whites, cable-knit jumpers and blazers, each have their moments of glory when playing characters but their strength is in their combined work: moving, acting, miming, constantly complementing the central action, and using cricket bats and minimal props to set the scenes.
There are many terrific songs in the show, but the re-enactment of “That Ball” (the one that bowled Mike Gatting) captures the reverence and awe that sports lovers have for significant sporting moments, just as the Australian love and adoration of liquid amber is realised in “We’re Going There”.
The story takes us from Warne’s rebellious, non-conformist early days of cricket training, (is he an exceptional talent or just a lazy party animal?) through to his meteoric rise. And along the journey, we witness his marriage to Simone, scandals, media deals, divorce, and his marriage to Elizabeth Hurley, who claims it is “amore” that has created a new Shane Warne image and not any other kind of chemical treatment. Christie Whelan Browne is fabulous as the media-savvy, domineering Hurley.
Eddie Perfect likes to test the boundaries and comfort zones of his audience
There is a liberal use of the vernacular and colourful language, as you would expect with a show about Australian cricket identities. Perfect’s lyrics are witty and bold, capturing the wry Australian sense of humour – such as in “What an S-M-Mess I’m In”, which shows the dangers of expressing one’s inner desires for another in a much-too-blatant manner in a telephone text (or series of them).
Shane Jacobson appears twice as Terry Jenner, a successful cricketer who lost his fame and fortune through gambling, and he cuts a lonely figure when he advises Warne as a youngster then offers his support years later when he is demoted. Lisa McCune, as wife Simone, initially provides some comedy as an attractive waitress and then as the dreary wife relentlessly chatting about children while shopping with her husband in a supermarket, but finally explodes when she can’t take any more of her husband’s infidelity. Both Jacobsen and McCune provide poignant moments in the show, without being too sentimental, giving it some depth so that it is more than just a sporting satire.
Perfect’s healthy irreverence is seen in the start to act two, when “We Never Cross The Line” gives a taste of the sledging Australian cricketers dished out to opponents in their attempts to mess with their minds and put them off their game. He likes to test the boundaries and comfort zones of his audience, and, while providing a total entertainment, he sends down a little bomb just to check we’re listening and paying attention.
Throughout Shane Warne the Musical, there are clever plays on words, particularly the variations on “spin”, and it seems a pretty fair and balanced presentation of the ups and downs, skills, rise to fame and not-so-smart decisions and actions of one of Australia’s best-known sportsmen. It probably helps to know about Warne and his life, but it is not essential and I think the general public will love this production despite their feelings for or against its protagonist.
Shane Warne The Musical is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until June 9 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
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