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It's not over until the fat boy spins

By Nick Bryant
BBC News Sydney correspondent

Shane Warne
Shane Warne did not give his permission for the musical to be released

We have seen Shane Warne the scourge of English batsmen. We have seen Shane Warne the victim of the British tabloids.

Now we have Shane Warne: the Musical - though it could easily have been entitled Shane Warne and his Amazing Technicolour Life.

This most operatic of cricketing careers has been the inspiration for 24 songs, chronicling his on - and off - the field exploits.

What An SMS I'm In makes musical reference to the stray text messages that sometimes landed him in hot water with his former wife, Simone.

Take The Pill deals with another unhappy episode in his life: his use of a banned diuretic which led to a one-year suspension from cricket and blocked him from playing in the 2003 World Cup.

In Melbourne, I was given a sneak preview of two of the songs, and found both hilarious.

The first chronicled how a chubby suburban schoolboy became a slightly less chubby international sportsman. It begins with the sound off-stage of his adoring mother, Brigitte, leaving a message on the answer machine of his coach or spin doctor, the former Australian spinner, Terry Jenner.

"He's jogging," she says, with genuine astonishment. "He's actually jogging."

Hush little Shane. When you grow up you are gong to destroy the English. Do you hear me? DESTROY THE POMS!
Shane Warne: The Musical

The lights then go up on our corpulent hero, resplendent in a shell-suit and sporting an extravagant bleach-blonde mullet. He is pounding the pavements in an attempt to get fit, much to the shock of a group of friends.

"Look, look at young Shane, jogging whether its sunshine, hail or rain," sings one, in Wagnerian style. "Now he's doing crunches," sings another friend. "Wow, look at him doing crunches," echoes the chorus.

As the song continues, we get a flashback, with Mrs Warne walking behind cradling baby Shane in her arms. "Hush little Shane," she whispers. "When you grow up you are gong to destroy the English," her voice rising in volume with each word. "Do you hear me? DESTROY THE POMS!"

Pucker accent

Then we see two bowler-hatted City types enter from stage left. "Look at that frighteningly blonde man from the colonies," says one in a pucker English accent.

"Does he seriously think he has the mustard to take on the motherland?" the other responds. They collapse into maniacal laughter when one lands the cheap shot: "It's not over until the fat boy spins."

By the end of the song, the shell-suit has come off, replaced with a pristine set of cricket whites. The mullet is cast aside and we see for the first time the trademark shock of peroxide blonde hair.

There are no cheap shots. Our shots are very expensive
Eddie Perfect

The transformation is complete when those golden locks are adorned with the famed Baggy Green, the cap that Australian cricketers wear with such pride. "Warnie Warnie" is spelt out in bright lights. After all, this tonsils-in-cheek stage show is also a musical tribute.

The show's creator, writer, and Warnie look-a-like star is Eddie Perfect, who has been working on it for three years. He describes his subject as the gift that never stops giving. "It's about what you leave out rather than what you put in," he says.

"I did a lot of research and if I'd put in everything we would have had Wagner's Ring and have been here for three nights."

Perfect is an admirer of Shane Warne, and there's reverence in the musical along with all the ridicule. "It's about how someone can be so innately gifted and an incredible performer on the pitch, and have this fraught disastrous life off it. That's what we play with. He's a very human hero," says Perfect. "He's not pretentious. He's very approachable and likeable.

"We spent three years developing this show, and we found very early on was that cheap shots weren't going to cut it. There are no cheap shots. Our shots are very expensive."

The musical is now playing to Warnie's hometown audience in Melbourne. But, like the man it celebrates, it looks destined to dazzle on a much grander stage.




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