Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Keating! The Musical, Feb 13, 2008

 Keating! The Musical
music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto

Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, Feb 14 to March 8, 2008

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Seeing Keating! The Musical for the third time is still an invigorating theatrical experience. 

For my guest, Casey Bennetto’s dazzlingly clever musical evocation of Keating’s (Mike McLeish) rise to the Prime Ministership was all new, glossy and surprising. Meanwhile, I was anticipating my favourite songs, laughing at caricatures and political references and singing along (embarrassingly) as if it were a Wiggles concert.

In the week of Rudd’s parliamentary apology, the songs about Mabo and Keating’s 1992 Redfern speech about historical injustices against aborigines, assume a celebratory quality.

Bennetto writes both a farce and a scathing political satire about the period from 1990 when Hawke (Terry Serio) won his fourth term, until Keating’s unwinnable victory in 1993. Bennetto writes songs in eclectic styles ranging from reggae to bossa nova, sultry blues to cool jazz, and the on-stage band, under musical director Enio Pozzebon, is deliciously versatile.

But it is Bennetto’s hilariously incisive lyrics and inventive rhymes that captivate us. On The Floor depicts the parliamentary face-off between Keating and John Hewson (Brendan Coustley). It is a rap littered with Keating’s infamous verbal gymnastics and vitriolic attacks on opponents. Hewson collapses under such inspired insults as “like being flogged with warm lettuce” and is decimated in the ensuing slow, suggestive love duet, I Want to Do You Slowly.

McLeish is almost edible as Keating: sleek, smug, stylish, snake-hipped and seductive. His reggae vanity song, I Am the Ruler of the Land (“Who Da Man? You da man, Yes I am.”), sends the crowd wild.

Terry Serio is super in several roles, capturing both Hawkie’s blokey appeal and Howard’s 100-pound weakling facade and cunning political manipulation. Howard’s song, The Mateship, is achingly funny as Serio dons the ex-PM’s gold and green tracksuit. New cast member, Coustley, in fishnets and corset, eats up the role of Alexander Downer singing, “I’m so freaky.”

Keating! is such a witty and rollicking ride that it deserves a fourth viewing.

By Kate Herbert

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