Tony Hawks is best known as a successful radio comedian and author of quirky novels such as Round Ireland With a Fridge.
Midlife Cowboy sees Hawks take on several roles including author, director and producer in this country and western musical set in Swindon. He plays Stuart, a music-loving bank clerk facing a midlife crisis alongside his wife Jane. Together they are trying to boost their ailing country and western club when two new members arrive to shake things up.
Hawks may be multi-talented but musical comedy doesn’t appear to be one of those talents. His script is facile, lacking energy and surprisingly short on laughs considering the pedigree. His direction is jarringly old-fashioned and while some of the songs land, the pace is painfully slow in places.
Along with comedy chums Debra Stephenson and Duncan Wisbey, Hawks shifts awkwardly from one middle-class cliche to the next. Stephenson gets the lion’s share of the musical numbers and while she may have a sweet voice, there’s no projection.
Thankfully Georgina Field as enthusiastic hairdresser Penny and James Thackeray as carpet-cleaner Dan turn up to show them how it’s done. Thackeray, in particular, has a solid, lyrical baritone and invests his thinly painted character with some sense of self-awareness.
Sadly this crumbles with a crass gay punchline worthy of a 1970s sitcom. Other hands may have lifted the direction, provided much needed amplification or resuscitated the book, but as it stands this looks and sounds like a misguided vanity project.