Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich NR3 4BB               Box office: 01603 626414                   Sewell Barn Trust: Registered Charity No 277724

The Sewell Barn Company

Flare Path

TOMFOOLERY - The words and music of Tom Lehrer

Adapted by Cameron Mackintosh and Robin Ray

Musical Arrangements by Chris Walker and Robert Fisher

Director: Cassie Tillett (Musical Director: Selwyn Tillett)

Contact: / 07802 475110

Performance dates: July 12-14 & 18-21 2018 (matinée 21 July)


A revue of the witty, wicked and thoroughly twisted world of famed satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer.

The Harvard-educated professor of mathematics delighted millions of fans during the 1950s and 1960s with his dry, cynical but good-humoured attacks on the A-bomb, racism, pollution, pornography, the military, the boy scouts and, of course, mathematics. He retired from performing in 1972 but his legendary satire has achieved cult status. As Lehrer himself enjoyed recounting, a review from the New York Times in 1958 observed "Mr. Lehrer's muse [is] not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste." That may be so; but it is also exceptionally funny, intelligent, observant and thought-provoking - and resonates, sometimes painfully, half a century later, proving how little we have learned.

The show consists of songs with linking narrative; there are no spoken sketches. As such, all performers need to have adequate musical skills. However, see note below regarding this.

The songs are sometimes macabre, sometimes uncomfortable, always observant, extremely funny, generally scathing and satirical, occasionally technically challenging but more often musically straightforward.  The songs pastiche many musical styles, from Irish folk song to American patriotism to Gilbert & Sullivan to nursery rhyme.  Examples include ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, ‘The Masochism Tango’ and ‘I Hold Your Hand in Mine’…

We would add that our approach will be much closer to Lehrer’s own pared-back style, rather than the (in our opinion) rather extravagant ‘Broadway’ approach of the original Robin Ray cast. The show will be accompanied by one piano.


The show is originally scored for 3M and 1F. However, we have checked with the publishers and it is acceptable to have any combination of performers we wish, as long as the material and the flow of the show remains unchanged. In practice, experience tells us that a cast of anywhere between 3M/3F and 5M/5F is possible, in any permutation as long as it’s balanced! A broad range of ages would be useful.


As mentioned above, this show consists entirely of songs and linking narrative. However, a listen to Tom Lehrer himself (there are plenty of examples on YouTube) will demonstrate that this is very much secondary to superb character work, dry humour, clarity of delivery and a strong narrative thread. As such, we need actors who can sing – not the other way round. The show needs to be elegant, seamless and clear, with superb comedy timing.

Movement skills (as opposed to complex dance) will be appropriate; full cast numbers such as the ‘Vatican Rag’ definitely lend themselves to simple but enthusiastic choreography…


Most likely days are Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings, other days negotiated as available and required. A sing through will be arranged as soon as possible after casting.

Rehearsals are likely to begin around the middle of May. As an ensemble show, there will be a great deal of group work; on the other hand, there will be many solos & duets, which will enable us to make best use of your time. Rehearsal calls will start at 2 per week, increasing to 3 and then as usual more in the final fortnight or so.


This will be provided to performers after casting as it is a condition of performance that they are hired, three months in advance, from the publishers.


Friday 9 Mar 2018 at 7.30 pm at the Sewell Barn

You must be able to demonstrate your ability to characterise a song, telling a story and creating a scenario in that 3-4 minute slot. If you already know any of Lehrer’s own songs then yes, come and do that for us, but a song from any similar performer or genre would do perfectly well: Flanders & Swann, Victoria Wood, the world of the music hall; or a song from the shows that tells a story in its own right, especially from the likes of Sondheim. Please bring music with you to audtions, or email us  to see  if  we have  a  copy  available  in our  own  library. We  will  also  ask  you to  read  a  short section from the linking narrative at audition.

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