For the latest ( and, sad to say, last in the season for the moment ) Cabaret In the Day at Mosman Art Gallery, under the terrific direction of Melvyn Morrow we had a superb POISONING PIGEONS IN THE PARK, a deliciously witty, subversive performance celebrating the wondrous talents of singer/songwriter/social satirist Tom Lehrer.
Lehrer, now retired, was a mathematics and musical theatre lecturer and has a massive cult following. His songs often parody popular song forms although often creating original melodies while doing so. He is best known for the darkly humorous songs he recorded in the 1950s and ’60s.
In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs dealing with social and political issues of the day, particularly when he wrote for the U.S. version of the television show That Was the Week That Was. He has also translated The Wizard of OZ into Latin and this is still regarded as the standard Latin version today. Despite their topical subjects and references, his songs are still enormously popular. Especially close attention must be paid to his acerbic , witty , subversive lyrics .The shows transports us back to his Australian tour of 1960 via the scintillating talents of maestro Glenn Amer on piano and the dashing , enormously talented up and coming performer Zach Selmes Young. The versatile, very expressive Selmes is a very exciting discovery who performs with great panache. His performance enthralled the audience.
The show opened with Amer on piano delivering a spectacular medley of Lehrer songs. The duo placed Lehrer’s work in context and shared friendly banter throughout.
We heard the eponymous song of this concert and then the risqué, Be Prepared.
There was a delightful version of the Wiener Schnitzel Waltz which was followed by a hot, almost jazz version of Oedipus Rex Next followed Bright College Days about his alma mater and university professors. Then there was the mind bending tongue twisting New Mathematics song .
It was then Elements at twenty paces as Amer launched into a terrific , blistering fast version of the Periodic table of elements song ( to the melody of the Major General’s Song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance) that had the audience gasping with delight . Afterwards, as at a Wharf Revue, Amer added some political element comments of his own that had the audience chuckling. Next came a grammar and spelling lesson with Silent E.
Things became fiery as Harvard’s football team were encouraged to ‘fight, fight ‘
We then turned to rather intimate matters with I got it from Agnes ( ahem ) a complicated roundelay ( where ‘it’ is an std ) which was followed by the ironic love song ‘She’s My Girl. This was followed by the biting When You Are Old and Grey about old age and the breaking up of relationships.
We then danced a fiery, dramatic Masochism Tango ( ouch) which was followed by the rather bizarre macabre Gothic like horror of I hold your hand in mine, rather appropriate really for Halloween eve! Next came the folksy Irish Ballad also rather grisly..
We then jumped to Lehrer’s version of A Christmas Carol which was followed by the syncopated jazz of Selling Out, both again comments on society and rampant commercialism.
Bright and bouncy Smut followed and then we heard My Hometown.
Lehrer’s concerns about morals the environment and the major political threat of the time The Atom Bomb was heard in Pollution and So Long Mom.
Then was the bright, bubbly ( or is it really ? ) We’ll All Go Together which can be rather scary if you listen attentively.
Then for all misanthropes came the ironic National Brotherhood Week a plea for tolerance .Or is it ?
The audience roared its approval and for an encore we heard The Vatican Rag.
We wanted more please!
Running time – roughly 80 minutes no interval.
The concert, CABARET IN THE DAY – POISONING PIGEONS IN THE PARK, was performed the Mosman Art Gallery on 30th October, 2016.