Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Festival Theatre. 8 Jun 2018. One night only
Oh, what a night.
Such is the draw of Adelaide’s winter festival that the massive Festival Theatre was packed to the rafters with excited cabaret fans. And, boy, did they get their money’s worth.
For her final Adelaide Cabaret Festival, artistic director Ali McGregor pulled out all the stops emceeing a glittering production to showcase the stars of her 15 day program. If their shows weren’t booked out before this shimmering sampler, they will be now.
“Welcome Home” she sang in a big opening number complete with Jack Buckskin’s "Welcome to Country" ritual and some eloquent indigenous bonding with the Modern Maori Quartet.
A fabulous orchestra of Michael Tyack’s Variety Gala Musicians flanked the stage to whirl flawlessly from one musical style to another throughout the ensuing performances while Wendy Todd’s amazing curtains of changing colour sparkled as a glamorous backdrop.
And they came and came in a show which ran like clockwork under Zac Tyler’s direction.
Perchance this was the slickest Gala production of them all.
The adored Todd McKenny did gospel, of all things, backed by the Class of Cabaret 2018, the mentored student artistes all straining to be noticed.
Todd is programmed in a "Bosom Buddies" show with the also adored living showbiz legend, Nancye Hayes, who was to make her Gala appearance singing I am My Own Best Friend, sleek and stylishly expert as ever and in an exquisitely tailored white jacket.
Antoinette Halloran, in a fluffy confection of pink tulle and glitter top, performed Verdi, er, well, a superbly executed Rigoletto aria with lyrics read from the book Fifty Shades of Grey. ’Twas an aria of innuendo, so incongruously naughty, audience members creased with laughter. "Taking it Up an Octave" is her CabFest show.
American Amber Martin came out in red thigh boots, Afro frizz and 60s mini kaftan to belt out a heart full of Janis Joplin before the magical Maori four returned with haka and war songs. If they were conservative in their grey suits, Adelaide’s own Hans brought the bedazzle back to the stage in a blinding bling of silver bodysuit. It was The Loveboat he belted out; a gorgeous cringe of corn. The audience loved him. As ever.
Yma Sumac, the mysterious 1950s Peruvian beauty, one of the headliners of the “Eyes Open” themed CabFest 2018, materialised backlit in a vivid rapture of theatricality. This exotic legend sang and trilled and thrilled with immense authority. Her voice ran up and down and around a seeming boundless vocal range. If there is a note higher than High C, she hit it. But, “Eyes Open” everyone; this exotic cabaret star was none other than Ali McGregor doing a snatch from her "Peruvian Songbird" show.
The Carnation Kid is long since grown up. Mark Holden brings a circus-themed "Greatest Show on Earth" happening to the festival. To that end, he appeared in a red ringmaster’s jacket and performed Nothing Lasts Forever. Ironic, really. The Aussie rock star turned barrister sings as well as ever if not better. He brought the house down.
Matthew Floyd Jones from the UK gave a sampler of his Edinburgh Fringe smash hit satirical show “Richard Carpenter is Close to You”. It was a peek into the Carpenter’s story with a very sharp edge about litigious stars and how to plagiarise for the sake of comedy. Very clever and very “Eyes Open” funny.
As if the show could get any better, Liza Minelli’s voice suddenly rang out from the floor of the auditorium. And there was the inimitable imitator, Christine Bianco. And there was another phenomenon of vocal range and deadly ear. She sang Life is a Cabaret in the voices of Liza, Barbra, Bernadette, Judy, Celine and, oh, wow, Julie Andrews. Vocal acrobatics. Breathtaking.
Ali McGregor’s next appearance was to introduce Em Rusciano, the hell-raising “Difficult Woman” here for a one-night show. She did stand-up on her childhood fixation with Johnny Farnham. More laughter. Wonderful singing.
McGregor topped her off with I am Woman and reminded the audience that the next 15 days and more than 50 shows of CabFest were an excuse to dress up. She presented an Icon Award to the Spiegeltent’s David Bates and then, after some rubber man whimsy from Captain Fredo, the stage erupted in a grand finale of epic proportions with an invasion of the neo-cabaret circus folk, the Glorious Misfits, flesh and feathers and glamorous weirdness.
CabFest 2018 is here.
When: 9 Jun
Where: Festival Theatre
Full Program: adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au
Edit: In response to feedback from one of the performers mentioned herein, and at the request of the reviewer, the content of this review was altered on the 12th of June.