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Tomfoolery (tour - Frinton, McGrigor Hall)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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In some ways, Tom Lehrer’s witty cabaret songs are a lineal descendent of those of Nöel Coward. Coward had the measure of “Mad dogs and Englishmen” and “The stately homes of England”. The American Lehrer has demolished with equal wit the autumn hunting frenzy of the North and the ante-bellum nostalgia of the South. The Tomfoolery compilation by Cameron Macintosh and Robin Ray is given a smart new airing by Connaught Productions at Frinton and on an East Anglian tour.

Our four performers are Tom Attwood, who has great fun with the variation on the Major-General’s patter song from The Pirates of Penzance (the periodic tables of elements), [Madeleine Joseph, who delivers her mock folk ballad with panache in a white wig, Matthew Townsend, a Scout leader and transvestite nun par excellence, and Ben Stock, a matador with attitude and a briskly tap-dancing cardinal. "The Vatican rag" makes its usual show-stopper impact, but that's not to belittle the other numbers or the way in which they are presented.

Tom Littler directs it all with a light touch. The choreography is by Duncan Royce and the black-and-white Art Deco-inspired set, fronted by a white piano and cocktail bar, of Martin Robinson evokes both the period of the songs and the sophistication of a New York milieu. The linking narrative reminds us that these pieces were all composed between the 1950s and 1980s. They also remind us that nothing much has changed in the world since then.


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