That swinging lounge singer with the Lego man coiffure is back in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and this time he’s straight! Yes, you read it right, the flamboyant crooner has apparently been pulling the wool over our eyes for the last *cough* thirty years and his camper than camp act has all been a ruse.
If you find that implausible, then clearly you know Bob Downe (Mark Trevorrow) quite well, and you’re probably well suited to enjoying this show. For while this ‘coming in’ story adds a certain amount of freshness to the Bob Downe shtick, Bob, Sweat and Tears covers very familiar ground.
With a three piece band (John Thorn, Sam Leske and Holly Thomas), Downe puts his trademark overworked crooner style to play on a number of better known, new “butch” tracks, such as Wanna Be in My Gang, and Twenty Fours Hours from Tulsa (with iconic Victorian towns replacing the eponymous city). Quite a number of other songs given the Downe treatment however were completely unfamiliar to this forty year-old and his parents’ K-Tel record selector. In fact, it was surprising to discover that as a quadragenarian, I still felt too young to identify with many of this show’s songs and pop culture references.
Thankfully though, when not in cocktail lounge mode, all those years of stand-up experience go to creating a pretty entertaining line of jokes that are more approachable for a universal audience, especially the swings at our prime minister and other political figures. His mother’s obsession with Q&A provides stimulus for some rather frighteningly amusing proposed love matches for Amanda Vanstone and Barnaby Joyce!
In trademark style, one safari suit is never enough and Bob parades no less than three garish ensembles across the stage, the third providing an unexpectedly revealing finale.
While at times the Bob Downe technique of crooning without any diction can become a bit wearing, overall a trip down this retro lane is still very easily enjoyable.