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June 16, 2017

Smorgasbord of tasty bites from a perky and intriguing festival menu

Filed under: Archive,Cabaret,Current

Variety Gala Performance
Her Majesty’s Theatre
June 9.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Until June 24. Bookings : bass.net.au or 131 246

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is not its usual self this year. The world at the Festival Centre has been turned upside down by demolition and reconstruction on every side. There has been a strategic retreat to Her Majesty’s Theatre (especially since the Matilda season has taken over the Festival Theatre) but with a new, more snug, location for the Wintergarden, and the addition of the Magic Mirrors spiegeltent, life is still a cabaret and the program as perky and intriguing as ever.

Heralded by the gluteus maximus techno burlesque of the Briefs male troupe – fluttering peacock quill fans along with their tailfeathers – the festival co-directors, Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect, greet the opening Variety Gala audience, spruiking a second year of cabaret programming. “Within the rubble and chaos” Perfect beams, “there are gems”.

Including his opening duet with McGregor – an alleged out-take from his yet to be completed musical, Beetlejuice which he described as “the opening song for a musical about death.” For something more familiar, the Three Mikados- David Collins, Amy G, and the hilariously self-important Colin Lane – provide a Gilbert and Sullivan excerpt, I am so Proud, as cleverly funny as it is vocally precise.

Over its seventeen years the Cabaret Festival has showcased outstanding international talents and this year, in the first weekend alone, we saw a splendidly minimal pop-jazz set from guitarist Bill Frisell (featuring vocalist Petra Haden), the vocal theatrics of Grammy winner Dianne Reeves, and the impish, confessional, outlandish Alan Cumming singing his Sappy Songs. Equally, it has presented new works to keep building the repertoire.

Vigil, written by Steve Vizard with music by Joe Chindamo, is an ambitious new festival commission, a musical monologue about a prodigal daughter returning to Australia and her dying mother. It features the impressive Christie Whelan-Browne who, for the Gala, selected one of Vigil’s highlight songs – Pretty Little Thing, a poignant cameo of regret and expectations unfulfilled.

For some comic gender-bending, New York drag king Murray Hill (aka Buzzbee Gallagher) with a pencil moustache and a Groucho delivery, hits the stage running, mercilessly lampooning and delighting the front rows. “You’re thinking: Is he a man ? Is he a woman ?” the portly Hill challenges. “The answer is : No.” Sydney club veteran Carlotta equally rules the stage, celebrating fifty years as Queen of the Cross with a wickedly re-written version of Sondheim’s Follies classic, I’m Still Here.

Perfect and McGregor return for solos – his, the touchingly pensive, Quiet from Matilda, her’s the spiralling Carousel from next weekend’s Jacques Brel tribute. UK duo Michael Roulston and Sarah-Louise Young sing one of their Songs for Lovers (and Other Idiots), Naomi Price delivers a commanding version of Eleanor Rigby from her show Lady Beatle and Michael Griffiths locomotions his way through a medley from his Songs of Kylie.

The Variety Gala is always a welcome feature of the opening weekend, showcasing the range of performers, ably supported by musical director, Michael Tyack, and the resident cabaret orchestra, introducing the Class of Cabaret choir and- with a mashup finale of Hi NRG pop and Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc”- setting the pace for sixteen days of cabaret spritz.

“Smorgasbord of tasty bites from a perky and intriguing festival menu”, The Australian, June 16, 2017, p.16

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