Bob Downe, the smooth-haired, safari-suited comedy creation of Mark Trevorrow, is back in town for this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Downe and pal Anne “Willsy” Wills were a hit last year with their recreation of Adelaide Tonight, the South Australian TV production (on air from 1959 to 1976) that gave local performers a leg-up to the big-time.

Willsy’s status as beloved SA entertainer (she won 19 Logie awards for Most Popular State Personality) and as co-host of the original Adelaide Tonight shows makes her the perfect partner for Downe in this high-energy reboot.

As the audience settled in, vintage advertisements played on a large screen: SA Gas Company, Yo-Yo biscuits, Halls lemonade, Scott Bonnar mowers, Pattie and Bert Newton’s “SAFCOL tuna ideas” (anyone for tuna and banana salad?) and a Ken Eustice Datsun commercial featuring a very young Anne Wills.

Occupying one side of the stage is the four-piece Adelaide Tonight band (Sam Leske, Bev Kennedy, Chris Neale and Nick Sinclair). On the other, a retro quilted bar, a pair of bar stools and an old NWS9 TV camera – a visual link to tonight’s show’s namesake.

Bob, in the first of many costumes, leapt into action in a puff-sleeved Crimplene suit (made by his mum using Butterick pattern number 5439, he reveals) with velvet lapels. Anne was resplendent in sequinned leggings and cloak of feathers and tinsel. Their “Just the Two of Us” duet is all awkward choreography, slurred lyrics and easy camaraderie. Sue Wills, Anne’s younger sister, appeared wearing a matching outfit for the Connie Francis track “Among My Souvenirs”. On the screen, archival footage brought back memories of the sisters performing for Australian troops in Vietnam.

The variety show features a bucketload of witty banter and a changing line-up of celebrity guests. On opening night, dreadlocked “hippy bogan” comedian Fabien Clark gave us a brutal but hilarious takedown of kids’ craft projects (discarded recyclables coming back to you as “art”, and his harsh approach for dealing with it) and children’s dance recitals (why dance costumes are like IKEA furniture, and the dangers of clapping too early).

Next up was Pastel Vespa, the “international recording artist and comedienne who sings your favourite songs but not as you’ve heard them”. Rocking an impressive ponytail, the “world’s most beautiful barrel girl” cooed her way through a bossa-nova accented version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” before joining Bob for “Paperback Writer”, giving the Beatles classic a Sergio Mendes vibe.

In yet another nod to the Adelaide Festival Centre’s 50th anniversary celebrations (the Cabaret Festival has done a great job of acknowledging this milestone), we see a clip from March 1973 showing Adelaide Tonight live at the Festival Theatre. Fun fact: Anne Wills and Ernie Sigley were the first performers on stage at the new venue when it opened.

The show is a riot of colour and sparkle with some brave and blinding costume choices (highlights included a corset and negligée combo, a gold lamé leisure suit and more sequins than the school formal section at DK Fabrics).

Hans made an appearance as special guest, brandishing his Cabaret Icon award as he teamed up with Bob for an aggressively enthusiastic rendition of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”. A polka medley followed, with Hans giving Aussie hits such as “Treaty”, “Howzat” and “Beds Are Burning” the accordion treatment.

The final number – “Happy Together” – closed the extravaganza with all performers taking the stage. It was a fitting end to an hour of good old-fashioned fun.

Adelaide Tonight runs until June 18 at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.

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