Comedians On Stage Auditioning for Musicals

Comedians On Stage Auditioning for Musicals Cabaret Festival 2024Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Banquet Room. 21 Jun


Michelle Brasier and Ben Russell play a divorced showbiz couple whose luminous careers have descended to casting for the Wagga Wagga Amateur Musical Society. Their CabFest show features the divine Gillian Cosgriff onstage at piano under strict instructions to stick to “plinkyplonk" and not, under any circumstance, upstage those two stars. 

Being an award-winning comedienne, musician, actor and composer, she plays her part as well as she plays the piano and, come the show’s denouement, she plays the audience most charmingly, too. An endearing CabFest star she is.


Brasier is pretty impressive, too. Talk about confidence. She’s so over the top, she’s a flood - so very funny and, of course, talented with capital T’s and an extremely short skirt. Russell is something else. One has never seen an actor with a more actorly face or, indeed, actorly demeanour. The two of them caricature most beautifully the divine arrogance of the very toffy repertory fallen stars who have succumbed to their own myth of stardom, now “resting" in the sticks.


Their shtick is very good fun and there is plenty of ensuring improv as they bring on their auditioning comedian singers. 

First up, Boo Dwyer who, of course, is fabulous and hams it up nicely as the amateur hour discovery. Very Weilley, too. (A bad Kurt pun.)

Broden Kelly turns up as a loudmouth Ocker spouting Adelaide’s unfashionable suburb’s names for cheap, easy and successful laughs. He plays at his dream of being a Gypsy. The audience loves him to bits. It is loving everything.


Jealously, Braiser explains the audience’s enthusiasm with a gag about how it would even laugh at being asked if it liked drinking water. “Yes", it torrents. She and Russell conclude that this is all part of the odd phenomenon of being cabaret performed in a 6.30pm timeslot.  Silly them. The Banquet Room tables are laden with champagne bottles. There’s a bar outside the door. This critic has a pink gin and soda in hand. It’s Adelaide CabFest time. It is Friday after work, for heaven’s sake. The sell-out crowd is happy already.


The next auditioner has a name that is hard to catch. She identifies herself as “the brown one”. She turns out to be fabulous and fearless Leela Vargehese. She sings beautifully, strips off her butch black leather outfit to reveal a white coat and brings the house down with the I’m Your Dentist song from Little Shop of Horrors.


Then Mad Dog Malcolm struts through the audience. What a roughy! He says he’s only here because his old mum wants him to audition. He then sings They Call the Wind Maria. It is so pure and powerful and utterly sublime that the room holds its breath. Dammit. Give him the job. Any job. Can I marry that voice?


Finally, an overly breathless and inept would-be star comes aboard with words and sheet music in hand. She’s been a bit too busy to learn her song, she says. Not surprising. It’s CabFest supremo Virginia Gay. Um, yes, a teeny bit busy. She does the Sweeny Todd pie song and throws ham, ham pie and, indeed, very well-cured gourmet ham into a dauntingly energetic performance. One may mention the voice. She is right at home in that big-musicals genre and her vocal range is very pleasing. She puts out. She’s a team player and it is her team.


The Wagga Wagga pair insists the room stays black so that their “plinkyplonk" pianist won’t show off while they exit to consider their verdict. 


Cosgriff lures a couple of audience members to illuminate her with their iPhones and she gives a spellbinding performance. 


Even she ends up being selected for the Wagga Wagga musical and everyone sings a grand finale of Magical Mr Mistoffelees from Cats. And they sing it and sing it and…er. Everyone’s singing it. Did they say for 20 minutes? They have 20 minutes to fill? The show has run short? Perchance they are one auditioner short.


For an improv show, one wonders why two of the country’s most accomplished improv performers could not have improvised a rabbit out of their hat when they had time to spare.

Oh well. Big deal.  The audience gets back to the bar early.

It’s Cab Fest time. The warmest winter festival in the world. It was a good laugh. Everyone one is plain old-fashioned happy. 


Samela Harris


When: 21 to 22 Jun

Where: Banquet Room

Bookings: Closed