Review by Matthew Hocter
Bob Downe, The Prince of Polyester & High Camp has been a mainstay for many Australians and across nearly four decades of performing, not just here, but around the world. His comedy is sharp and quick witted, but it is also his musical ability, many times overlooked in seriousness given Downe’s overt and camp character. There have been numerous moments over the years that I have seen Downe perform and wondered what all that would be like sans polyester and goofy antics. Well now we know.
Having finally brought his show and alter ego to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Mark Trevorrow left Downe in the green room for a night that focused firmly on him and the songs that have inspired both him and Downe over the years. Stepping out of the security blanket that a well-loved character such as Downe can all too often provide, the audience was given a somewhat rare insight into the genius and artist that is Trevorrow.
There is no doubt that music is a passion of Trevorrows and one he knows a lot about. With each song he sang, there were back stories and name drops from an incredibly storied career. Standing on the stage at the Banquet Room in the Adelaide Festival Theatre to a packed room, and joined on stage by the divine pianist & musical director, Bev Kennedy, along with Nick Sinclair on the Base, Trevorrow ambitiously launched into the Burt Bacharach classic, “Alfie.”
As Trevorrow took a walk down memory lane, it became clear that his choice of song was as varied as it was complex. Covering everyone from the aforementioned Bacharach through to Paul McCartney, Anthony Newley, Noel Coward and a very clear adoration for Stephen Sondheim, Trevorrow knows his audience to a tee and doesn’t fail in playing into their pop culture references. On songs like “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me,” the camp and cheesieness of the song leant right into the show’s title, but didn’t get stuck there. Trevorrow is a brilliant story teller and given that the Cabaret festival has been severely lacking in classic cabaret over the last few years, this show embodied everything that cabaret is: music with substance and panache, along with solid story telling that is unaffected and littered with smatterings of comedy and high campery.
There were moments of audible greatness too. As Trevorrow sang “If You Go Away,” a beautiful ballad that gave way for a moment of seriousness allowing for his talents to truly take centre stage. Whilst Trevorrow’s Singing Straight may be new to the Cabaret Festival, it has had a longstanding home at the iconic Claire’s Kitchen in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. Given this, it seemed only fitting that one of Trevorrow’s regular guests at Claire’s Kitchen, Rupert Noffs and his delectable voice, should join him for a Sondheim singalong, culminating in the stunning duet, “Old Friends.”
Singing Straight was a beautiful look at the man behind one of Australia’s most love characters and how his musical influences have played heavily into the creation of Trevorrow’s alter ego. If there is one thing to take away from this show, it’s a message for Broadway. Broadway producers, if you are reading this, give the man a show already!