Latest News

Hit Warne musical pitches up new audience to Australian theatre

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:00 AM

MELBOURNE – As befits a man playing the lead role in "Shane Warne -- The Musical," comedian Eddie Perfect's first action upon arriving for his interview is to light up a cigarette.

After all, his warts-and-all production about the wayward cricketer is billed as "a new breed of Aussie music theatre that smokes, drinks, carries a few extra kilos and still brings home the Ashes."

Hit Warne musical pitches up new audience to Australian theatre A scene from the dress rehearsal performance of "Shane Warne, The Musical" at the Athenaeum

The musical has been a smash hit since it opened in Warne's hometown of Melbourne last month, drawing in a blokey audience of sports lovers who Perfect says would not normally be seen dead at a musical.

Chants of "Warney, Warney" regularly erupt in the normally sedate Athenaeum Theatre as the crowd watch musical numbers such as "What an SMS I'm In" documenting the ups and downs of the legendary spinner's career.

"We're getting guys dragging their girlfriends to the theatre, which is the opposite of how it usually works," Perfect told AFP.

"You see young blokes making their way to their seats carrying armfuls of beers for their mates, just like they do at the cricket.

"It upset a few of the traditional musical theatre people but I think it's great. It's like Reformation theatre when people were buying oranges to throw at the actors -- why shouldn't they have fun?"

Perfect, who admits he is only a casual cricket fan, was previously best known for stand-up comedy and edgy cabaret with titles such as "Angry Eddie" and "Drink Pepsi, Bitch."

He initially encountered scepticism in the theatre world when he canvassed the idea of making a musical about Warne but persisted with the project, convinced the spinner's "operatic" life was naturally suited to the stage.

"He's someone who has fascinated the whole of Australia," Perfect said. "He really transcends sport, it's like he's come to typify the best and worst of Australia.

"Shane Warne represents a maverick in a game that's very mannered.

"That's part of his mythology, the simple everyday guy that didn't want to curb his eating habits or his drinking habits or his smoking to fit in with the game of cricket."

Perfect said writing the musical took three years because he was determined to do justice to the leg spinner while not shying away from the sex, betting, drugs and mobile phone scandals that plagued his stellar career.

"I could have knocked it out in three months and just had Shane Warne on stage in his underpants, with a mobile phone in one hand, an inflatable penis in the other and the Benny Hill musical playing in the background," he said.

"But I didn't want to do that. Warne's flawed, he's made mistakes and I wanted people to suspend their judgement of him and analyse how and why their opinions have been formed."

Warne himself initially lashed out at the unauthorised musical, fearful about how his ex-wife Simone and mother Brigitte would be portrayed.

But he gave it his stamp of approval after seeing it in December, admitting that he squirmed uncomfortably as some of his past controversies were re-enacted on the stage.

"There's an affection for Warne that people pick up on," said Perfect, explaining the difficulties of portraying a character so immensely popular with Australians.

"You can take the mickey out of someone if you do it with respect and a bit of love."

Perfect, who grew up in a Melbourne suburb not far from Warne's home, says he has a physical resemblance to the spinner that helps his depiction of the character.

With his hair dyed blond and teased into a recreation of Warne's spikey coiffure, Perfect does indeed look like a slimline version of the cricketer.

He says he has even been mistaken for Warne on the street, which appeals to his sense of the ridiculous.

"It's always construction workers who do it," he said.

Perfect says there has been interest from Britain in taking the production to London.

"It'd be interesting playing Warne sticking it to the Poms (English) in London," he said. "I don't think we'd have to change too much, they've taken to Warne over there almost as much as Australians have."

Perfect is also excited by suggestions the show could go to cricket-mad India, although he said nothing concrete had yet been arranged.

Currently have 0 comments: