Singing Straight

Singing Straight Cabaret Festival 2023Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Banquet Room. 11 Jun 2023


Mark Trevorrow trying to sing ‘straight’?  I’d like to see that!  Well I did, and so did hundreds of other punters in the packed Banquet Room at the Adelaide Festival Centre.  (What a fabulous venue for cabaret!). Trevorrow is of course better known as his fabulously outrageous polyester-clad alter-ego Bob Downe.  


The conceit of “Singing Straight” is Trevorrow singing the type of songs that Bob wouldn’t, but early in his performance Trevorrow hints that being ‘straight’ just isn’t in his DNA.  The audience audibly sighs relief at hearing this, and with impish glee some squeal in anticipation!  And true to his word, and to the delight of all, ‘Bob’ edges in and out of the proceedings.


Just before Trevorrow’s entrance, the 1965 classic California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas can be heard over the PA.  It sets the tone for what we are about to hear, and then it all kicks off.  Dressed modestly in a sparkly jacket, printed T-shirt (I couldn’t read the motif but I hope it was risqué) and chinos, Trevorrow bounds on stage and introduces his backing musicians:  Musical Director Bev Kennedy on piano, and Nick Sinclair on double bass (“Are you ready to pluck?” Downe…er…Trevorrow quips with an evil glint in his eye!). Kennedy and Sinclair are superb throughout - consummate musicians.  Trevorrow opens with the Bert Bacharach classic Alfie, and perhaps the bridge lyric “When you walk let your heart lead the way…” could well be a metaphor for Bob?


Trevorrow traverses a broad songbook.  Alfie is followed by the 1932 Harry Warren and Al Dubin hit You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me, which later featured in the classic film 42nd Street.  Then comes the 1931 song Dream a Little Dream of Me with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandgt, and lyrics by Gus Kahn.  The song become most famous in 1968 when it was recorded by the Mamas & The Papas.  Part of Trevorrow’s skill is his ability to seamlessly intrude his own lyrics into songs and to personalise the performance to the moment (including some Bob Downe iconic tremolos and other vocal gymnastics) and he couldn’t resist sneaking “Dream a little dream of Bev…” into his rendition!  Kennedy smiled and the audience laughed. 


And then the name-dropping starts, including Anthony Newley, Noël Coward, Cilla Black, and k.d. Lang - all people Trevorrow has either met, worked with, or knows someone who did, and the oh-so-funny anecdotes (no spoilers!) were quintessentially Bob! The anecdotes serve as introductions to more songs:  Newley’s A Wonderful Day Like Today (from the 1964 Tony Award nominated musical The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd), Coward’s World Weary (from his 1928 musical This Year of Grace).  And the connection to Cilla Black?  Well, Paul McCartney is one of Trevorrow’s favourite composers, and McCartney wrote songs for other singers, including Cilla Black, such as the iconic Step Inside Love, which he sings with gay abandon (insert winking face emoji), and It’s For You. Trevorrow also includes the McCartney songs Another Day (McCartney’s debut single as a solo artist in 1971 following the breakup of The Beatles the year before), and A World Without Love (Peter & Gordon).  And the connection to k.d. Lang?  Well, you need to see the show.


Occasionally Trevorrow would wander from his script and ever reliable Kennedy would corral him back onto the straight and narrow.  “Cabaret is meant to be loose, but not this f**g loose!”, he irreverently remarked, later followed by “Think of this as a very expensive dress rehearsal!”. (Bob is trying to cut loose, but Trevorrow keeps him in check…mostly.)


And then it’s to Sondheim.  From the musical Company, he belts out the patter song Another Hundred People with razor sharp diction and enunciation and follows this with Marry Me a Little.  Then a surprise!  He invites Rupert Noffs on stage, who is a performer of note who has previously  collaborated with Trevorrow and Kennedy in an all-Sondheim cabaret, and they perform enthusiastic renditions of Old Friends (from Sondheim’s 1981musical Merrily We Roll Along), and  You Could Drive a Person Crazy (also from Company), in which to the delight of the audience they replace the last line with “Sondheim his my hobby and I’m givin’ it up!”


The Sondheim homage continues with Together (Wherever We Go) from the 1959 musical Gypsy (music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sondheim) replete with Bob Downe vocal histrionics, which Noffs was able to perfectly harmonise with!  Noffs exits the stage leaving Trevorrow to finish the show with yet more Sondheim, including I Remember and Take Me to the World from Evening Primrose. Trevorrow makes fine work of both these songs, putting to the sword any suggestion that Sondheim can’t write good melodies.  He finishes with Not a Day Goes By, also from Merrily We Roll Along, which is a bit of a shame because the long-sustained notes at the end of phrases were very nasal.  Perhaps Bob was trying to unleash himself, but on the final note Mark was triumphant and the audience rose to its feet and gave him thunderous applause.


Kym Clayton


When: 11 Jun

Where: The Banquet Room

Bookings: Closed