Keating – The Musical

A couple of friends and I went to see “Keating – The Musical” last night at Sydney’s Seymour Centre, and I can’t stop raving about it. Funny, thoughtful, and very entertaining.

Mike McLeish was terrific as Keating. From the moment he entered the stage from stage-left, with all of the cool of a member of the Hollywood Rat-pack, to the more physical moments of an energetic performance, he was totally believable as “Keating”. As well as the physical similarity, I also got the impression he understood Keating, meaning he portrayed the bravado, the frailty, the arrogance, all of the many elements that make up Keating’s obviously complex character.

On the other hand, Terry Serio played Hawke and Howard as caricatures: the ever-grinning, ear-tugging Hawke and the buffoon-like war-mongering Howard. There’s a particularly memorable scene as Howard takes on a variety of costumes, including jogger’s outfit, army fatigues, and moleskins. There’s also a moment when Howard and Keating come into the audience to shake hands… and while the audience can’t wait to shake hands with Keating, they recoiled in touching Howard.

But that shouldn’t surprise. This was, after all, an audience which I assume was made up largely of Keating supporters, the so-called “intellectual elite”. I spotted, for example, former ALP numbers man, Stephen Loosely in the audience. But that shouldn’t be a bad thing, as I thought the play had something for everyone.

A shot from interval during "Keating - The Musical" at Sydney's Seymour Centre, Australia
A shot from interval during Keating – The Musical at Sydney’s Seymour Centre, Australia

And while Keating emerges as a “hero”, there are lots of political jibes from both the left and right. There’s a love song, for example, between Gareth Evans and Cheryl Kernot that had everyone in stitches. Eddie Perfect was hillarious as a Rocky Horror-like Alexander Downer in drag.

There were also some wonderfully tender moments, such as the song Keating sang based on his famous Redfern speech, acknowleding the Aboriginal history of Australia.

It was a hugely entertaining, funny, and well-acted and performed show by a very talented cast, and if you have more than a passing interest in Australian politics you’re bound to enjoy it.

P.S. The SMH has confirmed what we thought: Andrew Peacock was in the audience.

13 Replies to “Keating – The Musical”

  1. “Intellectual Elite”, or “Champagne Socialist” ? I would call them the latter.

    Sounds like an interesting musical… I would definately pay to see a caricature of Downer in drag!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it. My 12 year old loves the CD even though he hasn’t seen the stage show. Best musical I’ve seen in a long time. CB x

  3. Tyson – If you can, I’d really suggest making the trip to Sydney as I think it’s pretty special.

    Gus Says – Nice to meet you. I’ve read your blog a couple of times and you seem v. interesting.

    Cellobella – Yes, such great fun. See you in May I hope?

  4. Desperate measures! I have read all the reviews, but stuck in Europe with my job (!) I cannot get to see the show… And I can’t find the CD either. Any clues will be greatly appreciated…


  5. Totally loved this musical – I saw it a few days ago at The Regal in Perth – and really enjoyed your review.
    Although it was a hit of last year’s Perth Festival, I can’t actually imagine watching it while still under Howard.
    I found the end – esp The Light on the Hill – unimaginably poignant, given that at that moment in time we were poised on the brink of 11 years of Liberal governing.
    *sigh* the sweetest victory of all – indeed…

  6. Can anyone tell me who the faces are in the (beautifully executed) 1993 election coverage? I know Kerrie (of course) and figured Antony Green from the track title. Other faces are familiar but names not known. Anyone?
    Ta in antici….. pation (in honour of the cringingly well done Downer/Frankenfurter :) ).

  7. I saw Keating the Musical on l7th Feb in Melbourne. Is it coming to Sydney as I would like to book tickets for friends who live there. Thank you Denise Pratt

  8. Konja: It’s Kerry O’Brien flanked by Robert Ray (on the left) and Michael Kroger (on the right).

  9. Thanks for the info “Antony”. By the way, I know Antony and I asked and know this wasn’t a post from him. Thanks anyway.

  10. Now that Keating the Musical has been screened on national TV, where all can appreciate its’ comic brilliance, I sense it is apposite that we consider the logical sequel. This is particularly cogent when Keating, like all good epics tales ends in a triumph of stage effect over historical fact. As a lot of the key events in the sorry tale that followed revolve around nautical incidents it seemed appropriate to make it a farce to follow in the footsteps of the recent string of Pirate movies, with due deference to Gilbert and Sullivan.

    Many prospective titles sprang to mind but the one that resonated was:

    The Corsairs of Canberra 3.3: From Kirribilli to K.Rudd. – A tour-de-farce in 3 acts.


    Capt Short-John Howzat! (aka ‘The Kirribilli Kid’): The Scourge of Lake Barely Grafting.
    Lt Cdr Custard (aka ‘Seaman Smirk’): 2IC
    1st Lt Nelson (aka ‘Stud’ and ‘Capt Flip Flop’): Ship’s surgeon and neophyte martial arts expert.
    1st Lt Turncoat: (aka ‘Bondi BovvaBoy’) Ship’s purser and would-be weather prophet.
    2nd Lt Drowned: In charge of fishing and expert in tying and untying knots
    Petty Officer Redneck: Keeper of the brig and custodian of the plank.
    Boatswain Bishop (aka ‘Blue Eyes’ ) – masquerading as a boy.
    Able Seaman Abort: Sick-bay attendant and de-facto chaplain.
    Able Seaman Android: Escorts prisoners to the brig and pushes them onto the plank.

    Act 1

    With ‘The Kirribilli Kid’ at the helm, PS Born-to Rule is sailing into turbulent waters, but the Captain is banking on his trusty 2IC to navigate them through any shoals and reefs that lie ahead. They manage to divert their pursuers during their long journey by arranging for children to be thrown overboard in a marine disaster and ensuring that a refugee vessel is turned back and sinks without a trace. However Lt Cdr Custard can see that the ship is now in danger of becoming becalmed and accuses the Captain of not following the agreed course. He urges the Captain to stand aside and appoint him as Captain so they can be sure of reaching their destination which will be through increasingly perilous waters. He is rebuffed and the Captain is even more determined to retain command. Meanwhile 1st Lts Nelson and Turncoat, 2nd Lt Drowned, Petty Officer Redneck, Able Seamen Abort and Android approach the captain in the dead of night urging him to reconsider, but to no avail. To maintain morale Able Seaman Android contrives to declare one of the troublesome crewmen as a stowaway, having him thrown in the brig and, in short order, he is told to walk the plank. The Act ends with Capt Howzat! lost overboard when PS Born-to Rule strikes the Skeptics Reef, in the Bin-a-Long-Time archipelago, that was covered by rising sea water levels due to climate change.

    Act 2

    Command of the ship should rightfully have passed to Lt Cdr Custard, but in the chaos that followed the foundering of PS Born-to-Rule, he also jumped ship taking the ship’s nameplate with him and replacing it with one hastily procured in an Asian port of call from a semi-literate free-trade contractor. As the two 1st Lt’s were of equal seniority a ballot was taken amongst the remaining crew (as many were lost along with the Captain) and 1st Lt Nelson is named acting-Captain, as he is regarded by the crew as a bit of a ‘Stud’, and in deference to his famous namesake who won the Battle of Trafalgar against overwhelming odds. He thought he was assuming command of PS Born-to-Rule and would emulate his namesake, but failed to note two things: the ship is still firmly stuck on Skeptics Reef and is now sporting a name plate engraved with PS Boned-my-Role. In the turmoil following the wreck Boatswain ‘Bright Eyes’ is unmasked and ‘Stud’, who knew her secret and was sweet on her, contrived to have her promoted to acting-Lt Cdr to make her his 2IC. This got one over 1st Lt Turncoat and protected her from the predatory seamen. Shortly after Lt Cdr Custard is spotted in a rowboat and brought back to the ship where he is court-martialed and reduced to the ranks to become known by his shipmates as Seaman Smirk.

    Act 3

    In an echo of his namesake Horatio Nelson, the acting-Captain puts his blind eye to the telescope and declares that he ’sees no reefs hidden by rising water levels’, which meant that his popularity with the crew plummeted. The crew began to bicker, he becomes known as Captain ‘Flip Flop’, and they refuse to assist in the recovery of the ship which stays firmly stuck on the reef. To make matters worse 1st Lt Turncoat is constantly sniping at the Acting-Captain, highlighting his indecision, and soon acquires the nickname of ‘Bondi BovvaBoy’ from the crew. Meanwhile Seaman Smirk is weedling his way into the affections of the crew who, unlike the acting-Captain, are aware of the name change and see some prophetic import for the settling of old scores in the corrupted copy of the ship’s name. Soon many are openly calling for him to replace Captain ‘Flip Flop’, as would have been his right by rank at the time, and Seaman Smirk is bought before the Captain to answer charges of inciting insurrection. The final act concludes with a mutiny, with acting Captain ‘Flip Flop’ reduced back to the rank of 1st Lt and being replaced by Seaman Smirk. The ship’s name plate is replaced by a new one with the name PS Begged-to-Return. As the curtain comes down PS Begged-to-Return is still firmly stuck on Skeptics Reef !

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