Thursday, 19 January 2006

Keating! The Musical, Jan 19, 2006

Keating!  by Casey Bennetto  
Drowsy Drivers & Li’l Gem Productions
Trades Hall New Ballroom,  Jan 19 to 28, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

(See also in this blog, review of later production Feb 13, 2008)
Has nobody noticed that we finally have the totally original, cunningly written and scored new Australian rock opera just begging to be taken to the main stage? Where are all the big producers?

Keating! is an inspired musical and political satire. Writer, Casey Bennetto, is not only a big-voiced rock singer, but he constructs an intelligent narrative based on the rise to Prime Ministership of Paul Keating and memorable tunes with devilishly clever lyrics.

Of course, there could be some resistance to a production that so clearly depicts Keating a social and cultural hero and John Howard as a manipulative megalomaniac.

The accomplished and versatile five-piece band plays fifteen songs ranging from ballads through reggae, blues, rap, rock and country. There is even a dark tango in which a villainous Howard (Bennetto) sings I Want Power.

A commanding Bennetto opens the show as Bob Hawke, the people’s PM, singing, “ I like beer and boots, not wine and suits.”

Mike McLeish enters singing cool jazz. I Do It In Style captures the essence of Keating’s charm, culture and Zegna suits. He even includes a Fred Astaire tap routine.

In Remember Kirribilli, a ballad of love’s betrayal, McLeish laments Hawke’s broken promise relinquish the leadership. But Keating takes Hawke’s Caesarian laurel wreath in It’s Time, a driving rock duet with Bennetto, then segues into a laid-back reggae Republican anthem, I Am the Leader of the Land.

McLeish and Bennetto rap as Keating and hapless Liberal leader, John Hewson. Bennetto incorporates scads of scathing Keatingisms, lifted directly from Hansard. I Wanna Do You Slowly is a sleazy song promising to beat Hewson in the election.

Alexander Downer appears in Frankenfurter drag in the hilarious I’m Too Freaky and Gareth Evans sings a gypsy prophet of doom then a love duet with Cheryl Curnow.

Choose Me is a funky blues duet between Keating and Howard who promises the electorate with lies and bribes that he “will make the pain go away”. Keating awaits the election result singing I’m Dreaming of the Light on the Hill.

Bennetto’s ingenious lyrics capture the fearful tenor of the country both now and then: “Give us back our bloody country, Nothing alien or scary, La di da or fairy, Just put it back the way it was before.”

Keating! is slick, exhilarating political satire. Imagine this show with a full chorus and band, choreography, a set and more actor-singers.

By Kate Herbert

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