More than a Game: The Unauthorised Footy Show Musical (Chapel Off Chapel) – theatre review

In 2016, the footy world was stunned when good mates Billy Brownless and Garry Lyon became involved in scandal. It was all do with the fact that the Geelong champion’s wife – Nicky – from whom he separated a year earlier was now in a relationship with the former Melbourne captain. Brownless was blindsided. To make matters worse, he and Lyon were both heavily featured on Channel 9’s The Footy Show, with Lyon the host and Brownless the resident clown.

Photos by Frank Lynch

Now an enterprising group of youngsters have taken those events and turned them into a musical spoof … and a lot of fun it is too. It is the work of writers Jacob Buckley and Michael Whyntie, with music and lyrics by Walter Buckley. Accompanied by a four-piece band, a six strong cast dissect the tumult of those dark days.

It all starts with Sam Newman (Harry Fielder) grilling an all but incomprehensible Billy (Walter Buckley) soon after the story breaks. Newman tries to find out how Billy is feeling, but the latter can barely string two words together. Next, we step back in time to when Billy and Garry (Ned Baulderstone) were at the top of their game. They were best mates, downing tinnies and jive talking about their appeal to the fairer sex.

As this unauthorised tale tells it, the duo ended up competing – back in the day – for the affection of Nicky (Erin Sowerby). Mind you, it was a “no contest” when Garry didn’t cover himself in glory. So, Billy won out. Marriage followed, but 10 years on things were nowhere near as rosy. Separation, divorce and a financial settlement followed – all of which feature in this production. Billy hardly helps himself in court, despite the valiant efforts of his lawyer (Amelia Hender). Thereafter, he lets himself go, leaving his agent (Sahra Cresshull) to try to pick up the pieces.

More than a Game also features an appearance by another of The Footy Show stalwarts, former Hawks’ skipper Shane Crawford (Ned Baulderstone). Evocative screen shots, among them the The Footy Show dressing room and a graffiti-riddled toilet, set the scene. There is significant talent involved in the piece. You can see a lot of work has gone into perfecting it. Vocally, Ned Baulderstone is a standout, while the cast harmonises well to several ear pleasing tunes. The comic sensibilities of Walter Buckley – who paints Billy as a village idiot – are on show throughout.

In fact, there is much to enjoy and laugh about, but never in a vindictive way. The writers have taken significant poetic and comedic license in crafting the work, which features 12 original songs. It brings back vivid memories of what a big deal the story was when it came to light. In any case, I was engaged and entertained by the romp that is More than a Game: The Unauthorised Footy Show Musical. The hour-long musical is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 28th August.

Alex First

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