Interview: Dahling, Dahling. It’s Dahl all round.

Dahlesque Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2017Suddenly, Adelaide feels like the world headquarters of Roald Dahl.

For young and old, the musical based on his novel Matilda is wowing them on the big stage of the Festival Centre.

But outside that traditional mainstream, there is Dahl just for grownups. A new delight of Dahl arises at the Cabaret Festival.


Elise McCann, fresh from her multi award-winning performances in the role of Miss Honey in the Australian Production of Matilda, is appearing in Adelaide at the same time as the blockbuster stage show, with a new cabaret show which was inspired by her experience in Matilda The Musical on the big stage.

The more of Dahl she has experienced, the more she delights in it.


Her Adelaide Cabaret Festival show, which is part of a national tour, is called Dahlesque. And, she reveals, there’s a joyful piece of serendipity in the name which thrills her to bits.


She had no sooner conceived of a performance piece devoted to the many and varied songs inspired by Dahl writings than she heard that the word “Dahlesque” was being officially added to the English dictionary. 

“Oh, my gosh. It means 'in the style of Dahl',” she enthuses. “Immediately I said 'there’s the name for my show’.”


The next piece of serendipity was finding that Matilda The Musical is on in Adelaide at the same time as Dahlesque.

“It is a co-incidence,” she laughs.

“But For one thing, it means I can get to see Matilda. I’m stoked. I never got to see it when I was in it.

“Everyone should see it. It is the best musical - definitely the best one I have been in.

“Doing it was a massive gift. I know it sounds cliché but it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

McCann believes the two shows will inform each other.


Dahlesque is a collection of diverse songs from diverse Dahl stories - Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Revolting Rhymes, James and the Giant Peach

“This new show comes back to all that makes Dahl special,” she declares.

He has been special to McCann since she was a little girl.


Dahl, Enid Blyton and CS Lewis, these were the authors of her childhood, she says.

She recalls her parents reading Dahl stories to her by night and, when she was able to read, having her read the stories back to them.

“Then Matilda came along and it was a special moment which brought all those childhood memories back,” she recalls.

“Oh, The Witches. I remember how I was terrified but I loved it at the same time.

“So, I went back and looked at Dahl’s works. All his colour and flavour make him so captivating and at the same time he is teaching beautiful lessons to children and adults.

“My new show comes back to that, to what makes Dahl so special. He reminds us to be brave and to stand up for what is right and to believe that good things can happen if you take action. He is never too saccharine.

“He is empowering.”


McCann has co-written this new show with Richard Carroll and has Michael Tyack as musical director. Her musical arranger is Stephen Amos. This is the fifth project she has worked on with Amos who was the original musical director of Matilda The Musical. Noted is their Everybody Loves Lucy hit show for which McCann was nominated for Best Cabaret Production at the 2015 Sydney Theatre Awards.


McCann is a NIDA graduate and her professional history includes a wealth of stage shows including Fiddler on the Roof and Mamma Mia as well as the Channel 7 miniseries, Peter Allen - Not The Boy Next Door.


She thinks her Dahlesque cabaret show should please audiences of all ages.

“It has adult energy but there is no inappropriate language,” she says.

“The music is colourful and represents all the different elements of his stories, his life and what he liked.

“Actually, he is the most fascinating man.”


The show will touch upon the Dahl life story, including the extraordinary battle to help his wife, Patricia Neal, when she was severely afflicted by stroke and lost the ability to speak.

“He went through a lot in his life but he made a choice not to be a victim but to grow from things,” explains McCann.

"Interestingly, after the experience with Patricia Neal, his next book was the BFG who, of course, makes up language.


It is still relevant today in a world filled with so much fear and misunderstanding of other cultures. He tells us that as a global community, we need to step out of ourselves, to understand each other, to have the ability to learn from others.”


Samela Harris


Dahlesque with Elise McCann

When: 17 & 18 Jun

Where: Space Theatre


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