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An Evening With the Humour of Bob Newhart and Tom Lehrer (tour – Colchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The theory is excellent. Take the creative output of two iconic mid-20th century American creative performers and sew a selection from each into a cabaret-style entertainment. I’m just not so sure that it works in practice.

There’s already been at least one successful compilation from Tom Lehrer’s satiric songs. Bob Newhart’s sketches may be less familiar to a British audience and, not having that universal language which is music attached to them, perhaps seem more of their period and place. We relate to the characters’ dilemmas, but they seem to stay at one remove.

The two performers are pianist and vocalist Peter Gill and actor Andrew Meller. The set is simple – chairs, a desk, a grand piano decorated with the odd prop or two – so it’s all up to Gill and Mellor to keep our attention engaged. I have to say that Gill has the audience hanging on every note and word, while the laughter which Meller earned seems at times more due to his delivery than to the lines themselves.

“I got it from Agnes”, “Poisoning pigeons”, “The masochism tango” and – of course – “The Vatican rag” (given as an encore) all come over as fresh and witty as ever. Lehrer had a marvellous gift for rhymes in words as well as musical pastiche. “USS Codfish” about to go down with all hands, “The driving instructor” and Edison’s failed demonstration are all enjoyable but perhaps not memorable.


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