Review: More Than A Game: The Unauthorized Footy Show Musical

A brilliantly creative, utterly hilarious telling of The Footy Show’s greatest scandal. (Image source: More Than A Game: The Unauthorized Footy Show Musical Adelaide Fringe)

By Michelle Wakim | @MichelleWakim

More Than A Game: The Unauthorized Footy Show Musical premiers at The Jade as one of the most imaginative Fringe shows of 2021. Combining the extravagance of musical theatre with an infamous AFL personality scandal, audiences revel in the comedy, intelligence, and spectacle of this hour-long production.

This original show is a retelling of the real-life feud between The Footy Show personalities and long-standing best mates Billy Brownless and Garry Lyon. The friendship was severed when Brownless’ ex-wife Nicky began a relationship with Lyon. More Than A Game draws specifically from the The Footy Show episode “Billy Speaks”, where the iconic line, “You wouldn’t touch a man’s wallet, you wouldn’t touch his wife,” first made its mark.

More Than A Game is not a tunnel-visioned tribute to the “out of shape and out of touch men” at the heart of this narrative. Instead, the show impressively balances characteristics of parody with conventional approaches to on-stage storytelling: the spoof is found in the writing, costumes and characterisation, while the storytelling subtly touches on the challenges footballers encounter post-retirement.

The small cast of six give strong performances across the board, with not one weak link within the ensemble. The performers’ notable vocal capabilities, sharp and well-rehearsed choreography, and comedic characterisations keep audiences completely captivated.

Walter Buckley demonstrates his range of talent, as the South Australian performer not only stars in the role of Billy but also wrote the score – an astounding feat for the young performer. Ned Baulderstone contributed to writing lyrics and offers a thoroughly entertaining depiction of Lyon.

Harry Fiedler plays the controversial Footy Show host Sam Newman, nailing the portrayal and heightening the subtleties of Newman’s character – even down to the tilt of his head when asking a question.

The large on-screen personalities that are Brownless, Lyon and Newman translate seamlessly to the stage, as actors perceptively amplify their mannerisms for the genre, generating continuous humour and absurdity.

Nicky Brownless’ character is included throughout the production, her character portrayed with sass and confidence by the talented Erin Sowerby. Nicky’s inclusion provides a nice and well-needed contrast to the boisterous, perpetually drunk male characters.

Five musicians, decorated in their footy team’s colours, form the live band which sit at the audiences left throughout the production. Live music showcases further South Australian talent, while contributing to the musical theatre experience enhancing the emulation of the live set of The Footy Show.

Applying a musical theatre lens to a football scandal is an unconventional yet ingenious idea, particularly in a country where footballers often sit at the pinnacle of political, social, and cultural hierarchy. More Than A Game shows how our sporting stars offer valuable material which should be challenged and revisited in various formats, including musical theatre.

A story of traditional hyper-masculinity meshed with jazz hands, quirky characters, and catchy tunes makes More Than A Game an unforgettable and wildly hilarious production.

More Than A Game is playing at The Jade on various dates until Sunday, March 21 2021.

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