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Theatre / Keating! The Musical

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The musical we had to have.

Hey, good evening, I’m Paul
Pleased to meet you all
You had some dinner to eat, now you got a good seat
See, there’s nothing wrong with being inner-city elite
Do it in Style

Let's go back to 1990, it's not so far away... Bob Hawke is Prime Minister of Australia, an incredibly popular figure known for his blokeishness. However his "right-hand man" is Paul Keating, the treasurer, with whom Hawke has a deal to transfer the Prime Ministership. Hawke reneges on the deal, but Keating isn't stopped; he obtains the Prime Ministership from Hawke. He then sets about dealing with the policy issues that form his "Big Picture" — Aboriginal reconciliation, republicanism, and furthering ties with Asia — as well as three Leaders of the Opposition: Dr. John Hewson, Alexander Downer, and John Howard.

Keating! the Musical was written in 2004 by Casey Bennetto following the 2004 Australian election, and first performed in 2005. He describes the show as "ridiculously pro-Paul Keating", as it satirises the political events of the time and often criticises the (at the time the musical was written, current) Howard government. It began as a one act low budget show, but was reworked into two acts in 2006 during a production by director Neil Armfield, adding 6 new songs. A performance of the second, two-act version of the show is available on DVD.

The show has received endorsements by Paul Keating himself, who has attended it multiple times, and former Opposition Leader Alexander Downer (portrayed in the show as a fishnet-wearing transvestite), who said: "Keating! the Musical was far better than Keating the prime minister."

This show provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: From "The Arse End of the Earth":
    Evans: Another morning in the PMC note 
    We’ve got the latest on the CAD note 
    It’s only four percent of GDP note 
    But it’s causing little tremors at the NAB note 
    You want your funding for the AME? note 
    We’ll have to sneak it past the ERC note 
    And the PMOnote  observers of the GNE note  are nervous
    It’s another day of service in the ALP note 
  • Actually Pretty Funny: One recording of the performance has Cheryl Kernot in the audience; during the song "Heavens, Mister Evans" (which has one of the band members as Kernot singing about her affair with Gareth Evans), Kernot is seen laughing uncontrollably.
  • The Annotated Edition: Online annotations, detailing the political and historical context, can be found here.
  • Artistic License – History: The fact one number is titled "Historical Revisionism" rather gives it away.
  • Battle Rapping: "On The Floor" - Keating and John Hewson debate the GST via rap battle.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Keating himself. He also implies that the audience is this in "Do It In Style" (the phrase 'inner city elite' serves the same purpose in Australian political discourse).
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Ruler of the Land."
    Keating: And they tell me I'm da man!
    Band: Who da man?
    Keating: Who da man?
    Band: You da man!
    Keating: Yes I am.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Alexander Downer (in reference to a famous photo of Downer in fishnights and high-heels for a charity radio competition).
  • Crosscast Role: Cheryl Kernot.
  • Dark Reprise: The melody from "The Beginning Is The End" is played again just before John Howard first appears.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Keating.
  • Decided by One Vote: The 1996 election comes down to this, as "one tiny booth on *whatever street this theatre is on*" wins the election for Keating.note 
  • The Diss Track: It has the song "On The Floor", which takes the form of a rap battle between Paul Keating and John Hewson; most of the insults Keating uses in the song were taken from actual lines he used in Parliament.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: "I Wanna Do You Slowly" note , sung like Barry White would sing it:
    I wanna do you slowly – holy moly
    I wanna turn you inside out, upside down and roundabout
    Roll you round like a cannoli – roly poly
    Then it’ll feel so right
    On election night
  • Fictional Flag: One of Paul Keating's (unrealized) goals was for Australia to have a new flag; during the song "The Arse End Of The Earth" he's shown a series of design proposals ranging from the US flag with an outline of Australia in the blue field, to a yellow circle on a red background with a black kangaroo silhouette, to a drawing of Dame Edna's glasses.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The captioning on the DVD demonstrates a certain... casual attitude to accurately depicting repeated lines.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Which Bennetto cheerfully admits to.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Liberal politicians, which was perhaps inevitable (although there is a scale — Howard is portrayed as far more villainous than either Hewson or Downer). Also Bob Hawke, Keating's predecessor, who is portrayed as relying on Keating to maintain his government while breaking his promise to give him the Prime Ministership — however he does seem to come around in "It's Time."
  • Hurricane of Insults: A truly epic one from "On The Floor" (almost all of which are, fully or in part actual quotes of Keating)
    Oh no! They sent the Doctor to get us!
    It’s like being flogged with warm lettuce and cabbages!
    The feral abacus! Come to savage us!
    He must be ravenous! Ravenous!
    ‘Mister Mediocrity, from the bunyip aristocracy’,
    the Member for Wentworth should be in bed,
    he’s like a lizard on a rock – alive, but lookin’ dead.
    Old Dozy knows when I’ve got ‘im,
    he always turns around when I drop one on ‘im,
    it’s somethin’ he can’t psychologically handle,
    him and his band of constitutional vandals.
    Drones and pansies, frauds and mugs,
    blackguards, harlots, pigs and thugs;
    of you mindless, stupid, foul-mouthed grubs,
    he couldn’t even raffle a chook in a pub!
    Barnyard bullies, crims and ghouls, dullards, dimwits,
    ninnies, clowns and fools and born-to-rules;
    over here we’re born to rule you,
    you dishonest crew, you almost make me spew!
    Loopy intellectual hoboes!
    Brain-damaged dummies and desperadoes!
    Hare-brained hillbilly cheats! cheats! cheats!
    They'll always be cheats! cheats! cheats!
    Useless motley corporate crooks and clots!
    Stunned-mullet rustbucket boxheads!
    Scumbags! And alley cats!
    You wanna fight back?
    Fight back! Fight back from that!
  • "I Am" Song: "My Right Hand Man" for Hawke (although as you can tell by the title, it's also largely about Keating), "Do it in Style" for Keating, the first part of "On the Floor" for Hewson, "Freaky" for Downer, and "Power" for Howard. "Ruler of the Land" is half this and half an "I Want" Song.
  • Ironic Echo: The words "comfy bloody country", which appear in both "My Right Hand Man" (the first song after the overture) and "The Light On The Hill" (the second last song).
  • "I Want" Song: "I Remember Kirribilli", "It's Time" for Keating, as well as the aforementioned "Ruler of the Land." "Power" for Howard.
  • Lame Comeback: Hewson's response to the aforementioned Hurricane Of Insults — "Your mum's a... bitch."
  • Large Ham: Keating, in about half the songs. Hawke, Downer and Evans in all of theirs.
  • Mood Whiplash: Despite being very similar tunes about the same issue (Aboriginal reconciliation), there is a ton of this between "Redfern" and "Ma(m)bo." The former is based off Keating's famous Redfern Speech. The latter is him celebrating the Mabo decision. The change from the upbeat "Ruler Of The Land" to the foreboding "The Beginning Is The End" is another example.
  • Mythology Gag: The Musical is a never-ending series of them. Even the tagline is a play on an infamous remark of Keating's, when he described the Australian recession of the early Nineties as "the recession we had to have."
  • The '90s: The time frame in which all the action takes place (the first song is explicitly set in 1990, the last explicitly in 1996).
  • No Fourth Wall: Keating calls himself "the star of the show", the last ballot booth to return its vote is implied to be the theatre where the show is playing, and the characters frequently interact with the audience (including during "Freaky" Downer giving an audience member a lap dance, at least on the DVD).
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: Casey Bennetto is named as the writer and composer, but not identified for his singing role. (He provides the voice of Gough Whitlam, the 'ghostly voice' in "The Beginning Is The End".)
  • Pun: In "The Beginning is the End", the line "the Bodgie is dislodged" refers both to Hawke being dislodged as leader, but also to being forced to move out of the Prime Minister's official residence, the Lodge.
  • Real-Person Cameo: in the performance seen on the DVD, Paul Keating and Cheryl Kernot were both in the audience. Keating joins the cast onstage after the show (in the special features); Kernot is the bespectacled blonde woman seen laughing at "Heavens, Mr Evans".
  • Rose-Tinted Narrative: The writer himself described it as "ridiculously pro-Keating."
  • Rule of Three: The three opponents that Keating faces - it was realising that there were three that originally inspired the writing of this musical.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "On The Floor":
    • "Arse End of the Earth": The line "With the possible exception of the ABC" is followed by The ABC's three-note station identity theme.
    • "The Mateship": The musical interludes as John Howard changes costumes are the theme from the "Life Be In It" fitness campaign, the 1812 Overture (used in ads for the Australian Army), and a mash-up of "The Road to Gundagai" and "Waltzing Matilda".
    • "It's Time":
    But time is slipping past them every day,
    Just like The Picture of Dorian Gray
    • "Choose Me":
  • Shown Their Work: So, so much.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Bob Hawke is a slob, Paul Keating is a snob, as Hawke's lyrics in "My Right Hand Man" demonstrate:
    Of course, he's quite peculiar
    If that's for me to say,
    A little un-Australian
    In his own endearing way
    I take him to the footynote 
    But his eyes aren't on the ball
    And in his private parlor,
    He plays the works of Mahler
    The strangest sounds cascading down the hall
    It doesn't sound like Billy Thorpe at all!
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only female character is Cheryl Kernot (a Crosscast Role). Lampshaded by John Howard in "The Mateship":
    Why, even now, I look around, I see no women on the stage
  • The Starscream: Keating himself, though portrayed enormously sympathetically.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion:
    Keating: That's why I dress to impress
    When I'm on a road to success
    Hey Bobby J, just get out of my way
    I know the answer is,
    I know the answer is,
    I know the answer is,
    Hawke: Ehhhhhh....
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Historical Revisionism" is one of these for "Ruler of the Land."
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Howard says this of himself.
  • Villain Song: "Power" and "The Mateship", which are John Howard's two songs. "Freaky" would count as this for Alexander Downer if it wasn't such a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • When the Planets Align: Mentioned in "The Light On The Hill":
    But still I dream
    That the stars will be aligning,
    As our fates are inter-twining
  • Your Mom: See Lame Comeback.