Edinburgh Fringe 2019
John Rowe is an Australian entertainer. A singer, dancer, raconteur and ex kids TV star, he chucks in some comedy too. He treads a fine line between kitsch and kool, there is plenty of silliness and groovy live music. The only lounge room show at the fringe featuring live donuts!
Front and centre, this show is meant to be fun and it is.
The driving force behind the show is John himself. He’s a human dynamo, never being still. A constant flurry of movement he sings, dances and chats away. Everything is done with a beaming smile and a playful, friendly tone. He’s infectious and extremely likeable.
The premise is that we are sitting in his lounge, having a bit of a party, perhaps after a few glasses of Prosecco. John wants to create an inclusive, party atmosphere where even the most reluctant house guests find themselves having a bit of a wriggle on the dancefloor, tap a beat and singalong, and they do.
Everyone joined in, to varying degrees. The show as helped along by the ladies from The Rock Choir who loved it, fully embracing the spirit of the evening. This encouraged others and if they didn’t John did.
Mr Rowe can sing and dance. The selection of songs fit the mood and tone of the show and the two piece band played on.
One audience member told me they felt he had a good voice but the backing music was a smidge too loud. I’m not sure that I’ve a good enough ear to say I was aware of it. The reaction of the crowd suggests they didn’t think so.
We learned that John was particularly proud of the shows sponsor, The Kilted Donut, who deliver fresh samples before every show. Whilst he was not allowed to give them out, the audience enjoyed some petty pilfering.
The musical numbers were broken up with some hit and miss interludes. As he sits on a lumpy sofa, slides from the internet are presented to augment his tale. These are amusing enough, the provide a segue to the chat show part of the evening.
Each night John introduces a different guest. Tonight, it was the anonymous star of a show called West End Producer. They chatted amiably on the lounge sofa and the West End Producer plugged his show. It was predictable enough. Matters improved when the West End Producer took to the keyboard and performed some interactive songs from his show, we were back to the audience joining in, this time as dolphins. It turns out the guest was well chosen.
This is a high energy song and dance show built around fun. John works hard to involve the crowd. He brings them on stage, joins them in the audience, choreographs dance routines, at one point he gives a little dance class. The audience become as much part of the show as he is.
The chat show element flattens the mood a little, in this show it picked up again when the West End Producer turned us into dolphins.
It was also notable that not everything appeared to go to plan. It never derailed the performance, often the reverse, adding to the friendliness and charm.
In an environment like Edinburgh it would be easy for an educated arts based audience to be smugly superior about a show like this. Such comments do it a disservice. This is not meant to be intellectually insightful or loaded with deep meaning. No, this show is meant to be light and frothy fun, that provides an hour of escape from everyday life. It has its place and The John Rowe Show is an excellent example of its type.
So, if you like well performed songs, dancing to a disco beat, donuts and a bit of light chat with celebrity guests hosted a warm, friendly and engaging host, this would be a show to see. It’s fun, lots and lots of fun.