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There’s a swing to ‘Keating!’ as the fun shines through

“Keating!” in full swing at the Belconnen Theatre.

“Keating!”, Queanbeyan Players. Music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto, directed by Sarah Hull. At Belconnen Community Theatre until March 6. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

IF an opening-night audience response is any indicator, the new production of “Keating!” will be very successful, indeed.

A sung-through musical with music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto, its revue-like structure illustrates the political career of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister between 1991 and 1996.

Originating at a Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2005, its tongue-in-cheek, larrikin approach to the story is presented in a mish-mash of musical styles including rock, rap, jazz, hip-hop, tango and everything else you can think of.

Various characters in the story, such as John Howard, Alexander Downer, Gareth Evans and John Hewson, are presented as caricatures, which add to the fun. Keating’s character is fairly straight, but with a knowing wink to the audience.

Director Sarah Hull has produced a bright and breezy production in a simple setting with the small band onstage. Musical director Jenna Hinton has achieved a high standard of musical performance from the cast and band members. She also plays drums for the show.

The young cast is clearly having a great time performing this show. As the tone of the piece is satire, the cast members don’t have to look exactly like the characters they’re portraying. Well-chosen wigs, eyebrows, fishnets and distinctive eyewear take care of that aspect very well.

As Keating, Steven O’Mara has presence, a fine sense of satire in his role and sings well. There is also good work by Matt Greenwood in a deliciously wicked performance as John Howard and Anthony Swadling as a classic Bob Hawke.

Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope uses his strong voice and presence to great effect in his songs “The Beginning of the End” and in the duet “Heavens, Mr Evans”, with Alissa Pearson, who is also in fine voice as a sexy Cheryl Kernot. Everyone else in the 12-member cast gets their moment to shine.

David Santolin, the choreographer, has provided dances that appropriately enhance the mood and intention of the songs. The cast attack the dances with energy and all seem to be having a great time performing them.

Sound balance, particularly in the first act, needs more attention. The satire in this show demands that the audience be able to hear the lyrics clearly. The singers were often drowned out by the band.

This is a good production of a rare, home-grown musical. Queanbeyan Players are to be congratulated for having a go at something different and less mainstream. It deserves to be a success.

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