Warne's life flashes before his eyes - to music

Cringes and chuckles for cricketer at premiere of Shane Warne: The Musical
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The Independent Online

It was one of the hardest matches: Shane Warne versus the cast of a musical. "I am suddenly nervous,” the Australian cricketer admitted as he waited to see one of Melbourne's strangest new theatre shows based on a life that he himself has described as a soap opera.

But, persuaded into a packed premiere of Shane Warne: The Musical on Wednesday night, the spin bowler began to see the funny side. "There are a few more chuckles and the odd cringe - but not too many, I must admit. Then it's over," Warne explained afterwards. "My life in two hours has just flashed before my eyes. Again I felt weird but, in a strange way, proud of what I'd just witnessed. Enjoy it, I say."

It must have been a relief to Eddie Perfect, the composer, writer and on-stage version of Warnie, who hopes the show might eventually be invited to London's West End.

"Truth is tricky, isn't it...depends on how you spin it," begins the fourteenth unauthorised biography of Australian leg spin bowler. Of course, this spin is a musical one where "Warnie" is the Australian Everyman - and one whose private life was as eventful as his professional one from the moment he pitched the Ball of the Century to bowl out Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes.

It is an ambitious attempt to get cricket audiences into the theatre, and tempt musical audiences to a topic that doesn't pull at the heart strings in quite the same way as a destitute orphan. Still, the mid-field marriage of a likeable star, fake bowling, plenty of sporting puns, and a moderate raunch factor had the crowds chuckling and clapping along.

Warne's initial reluctance about the unusual project enters stage front as the stage character - who affects not to know what is going on in this weird musical world - says: "You should have permission to write an unauthorised biography. I've had 13 unauthorised biographies and, as for these jokers, I shudder to think what they are going to do.”

What they do is make his life an appealingly debauched song and dance, playing with musical styles from nicely-harmonized gospel to gangsta rap. The first half of the show charts Warne's disappointment at not becoming an Australian Football League (AFL) player up to his triumph and sudden celebrity. Along the way, he rescues the faith of his coach and marries Simone Callahan.

The second half takes a downward swing with Warne banned for taking a prohibited diuretic (a diet pill from his mum), allegedly cheating on Simone, and agreeing to trade pitch and weather information for cash from an Indian bookmaker (complete with Bollywood-style backing dancers). This downfall is fleshed out in glorious technicolour boxer shorts, a dream orgy scene with women and a giant, inflatable dildo, and a knicker-flashing nurse sending saucy text messages in "What an SMS I'm in" (Warne was allegedly caught out sending an accidental response to his wife).

There is hard-core swearing, some eye-boggling sexual descriptions, and gratuitous insults of everyone from Diana and Dodi to Oskar Schindler - "Once a swindler/Until he packed his factory with Jews,” according to the score. The real Warne did comment that not everything was entirely accurate.

Tammy O'Connor, a Melbourne resident who watched the show, was entertained, if sometimes perplexed. "It was really good," she said. "I don't know that much about cricket, but I know about the text messaging so the second half worked better for me! I'm sure I didn't get all of the jokes.”

"Everyone's a little bit like Shane," the final jolly chorus asserts. Some of the ballads are a bit musically wimpy and it's hardly an advert for Australian men - but Shane Warne the Musical certainly hits a six for a fun night out.