Melbourne Fringe: Tomfoolery – The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer

Tomfoolery - photo by Kate ArnottEverything old is sort of new again… whether or not you are familiar with the works of Tom Lehrer, Loaded Productions presentation of Tomfoolery, currently playing at the Gasworks Theatre, as part of the 2018 Melbourne Fringe, is a great introduction, or an opportunity to acquaint yourself once more with the works of this master satirist.

A child prodigy, Lehrer who turned 90 earlier this year, was a Harvard-trained mathematician and a master satirist, addressing issues like pollution, nuclear proliferation, World War III and race relations. Nearly 60 years since many of these songs were composed, his songs are surprisingly timely and still relevant.

Ferociously smart with a deliciously cynical mind, his brilliance with language and word-play stands him out from his peers, his humour running the gamut from innocence to bawdy to gruesome – his songs often falling foul of the authorities. His wonderful oeuvre is his lasting legacy.

Tomfoolery, adapted by Cameron Mackintosh and Robin Ray in the early 80s, pays tribute to the man and his music. This truncated version under the sprightly direction of Theresa Borg, stars Michael Dalton, Peter Hurley, Susan-ann Walker, and Sean Weatherly.

All are notable talents with stunning vocals and great comedic energy, they keep the show feeling vibrant as they present 21 songs including the classics Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, The Masochism Tango, and The Vatican Rag. While some of the lyrics may offend modern audiences, National Brotherhood Week brought plenty of chortle from the audience, and considering the current politics of the world stage, Who’s Next? is still relatively timely.

Additional highlights include Sean Weatherly’s precise rendition of The Elements – where he recites the elements of the Periodic Table to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Major General ‘patter song’ from The Pirates of Penzance, through to Peter Hurley’s delicious rendition of I Got It from Agnes. Not to be out done, Susan-ann Walker delighted with The Irish Ballad, while Michael Dalton offers a reflective ode in My Home Town.

Providing an evening of joyous satire and plenty of irreverence, Tomfoolery – The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer, offered those of a certain age, just for a moment, a return to a time where individuals and audiences had the ability to be not outraged and collectively laugh at, and with one another.


Tomfoolery – The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer
Theatre – Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park
Performance: Thursday 13 September 2018 – 9.30pm
Season continues to 22 September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au

Image: Susan-ann Walker, Peter Hurley, Sean Weatherly and Michael Dalton star in Tomfoolery – photo by Kate Arnott

Review: Rohan Shearn

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