An Unwasted Evening – The Genius Of Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer adelaide fringe 2023

Adelaide Fringe. The Jade. 19 Feb 2023


If you’ve heard of Tom Lehrer, go and see this show. If you’ve ever listened to one of Tom Lehrer’s songs, go and see this show. If you’re curious about why someone’s songs would be banned from public performance in Adelaide, go and see this show. Get the message? Just go and see this show – it’s a gem!


An Unwasted Evening - The Genius of Tom Lehrer is piano bar cabaret at its best. The Jade is a comfortable venue replete with quality snacks and beverages, and performer. Nothing dingy here!


Tom Lehrer is an American singer-songwriter who (in the 1950s and 60s) specialised in caustically satirical songs steeped in blackened humour that took aim at almost every sacred cow and brutally slaughtered them! The establishment hated him, and his songs were frequently banned from public performance, even in Australia and especially in Queensland, and in Adelaide during the steel-fisted reign of Thomas Playford, while a young Don Dunstan was on the opposition backbenches! But Lehrer also wrote ditties that were entirely harmless, great fun, and educational to boot, such as the famous song The Elements in which he sets the names of all the chemical elements known at the time (in 1959) to the iconic tune of the Major-General's Song from the G&S operetta Pirates of Penzance. In 1959 there were 102 known elements. Today there are 118, and in today’s show, chanteur Antony Hubmayer adds and extra verse or three to include the additional 16! Great fun!


An Unwasted Evening takes its name from Lehrer’s 1959 album almost of the same name – An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, but this show is anything but a waste of time. It has everything – humour, music making, singing, witty banter, interesting historical perspectives, and … drinking games! Ranging in age from babes-in-arms to grandparents, the capacity audience laps up every minute and doesn’t want it to end. Some audience members clearly know every word to every song that Hubmayer performs and silently sing along, not missing a beat. If the thought of audience participation fills you with dread–especially singing–do not fear. This is so much fun, and … tunefulness, according to Hubmayer, is optional!


Hubmayer is a music educator and musical performer by profession, and his passion for the songs of Tom Lehrer is palpable, and infectious. If he had CDs and other merch for sale, he would have made a killing! Hubmayer has no fear in embellishing Lehrer’s lyrics and sprinkled local and topical references throughout. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park all of a sudden included references to our local Elder and Bonython Parks, and She’s My Girl suddenly is the one you come home for dinner but get ‘…vegemite on toast’ instead of ‘…peanut butter stew’! (The humour gets lost in the telling, because the gag is as much a visual thing as anything else.) The Vatican Rag is a fabulously irreverent song, and Hubmayer gives it an extra sting by making less than oblique references to Cardinal Pell!


Hubmayer is mildly self-deprecating, but he doesn’t need to be. His vocals are perfect for the idiosyncratic material, and his pianistic skills are very fine indeed. Any minor slipups are well and truly downplayed by impressive glissandi and a beaming smile and increased enthusiasm if that were indeed possible!


This show is a total delight. You’ll leave with a smile on your face that will take some time to fade.


Kym Clayton


When: 28 Feb to 8 Mar

Where: The Jade