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June 25, 2017

Songs of Love and Revolution

Filed under: Archive,Cabaret,Current

Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Songs of Love and Revolution
Closing Variety Gala
Her Majesty’s Theatre
June 24.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival always begins, and concludes, with a Variety Gala. It has been a feature of the event since it began seventeen years ago and it highlights one of the Festival’s most endearing aspects – which is that, temporarily at least, it creates a community of artists.

This is much remarked upon by internationals and out-of-towners. It is a very hospitable festival, they say, and it gathers its performers close. Even New Yorkers remark that they feel part of something unusually busy and vibrant. For once, cabaret is not some marginal activity in out of the way venues. It has critical mass – and everyone has a good time.

The closing event, Songs of Love and Revolution captures that sense of collective endeavour. Artists pitch in with items, most often drawn from their solo shows and everyone sings their socks off. These are one-off shows, not much prep, but anchored by the excellent house band (this time under the direction of Mark Ferguson). They are adroitly organised (this year by director Zac Tyler) and the audience is primed to have a good time.

Proceedings begin with Ali McGregor and Cameron Goodall announcing that The Revolution Will Not be Televised. Gil Scott-Heron’s mordant lyrics have been updated for even greater topicality. Eddie Perfect, co-director of the festival with McGregor, joins the fray and a medley emerges – Sunday Bloody Sunday, Beds are Burning and Children of the Revolution.

One third of Tripod, Simon Hall takes the stage with a memorable version of Going to a Town, Rufus Wainwright’s prophetic depiction of all things Trump- “I am going to a town that has already been burnt down/ I am going to a place that has already been disgraced/ I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down/ I’m so tired of America.”

For some laughs Peter and Bambi Heaven (Asher Treleaven and Gypsy Wood) husband and wife 70s retro-kitsch magic and dance act hilariously unravel into a bump and grind version of Abracadabra “want to reach out and grab ya” which would leave the Steve Miller Band wondering what they had unleashed. Also offering some sexual revolution are Strange Bedfellows (aka Kanen Breen and Jacqueline Dark) and their punk-burlesque homage to auto-erotic dexterity. It is all in the name of Jesus but the take-home message is “the clitoris is the devil’s doorbell.”

The Cyrens- Amanda Harrison, Chelsea Renton-Gibb and Melissa Laughton – sang It’s Not Where You Start from their show dedicated to the songs of Cy Coleman, the neophyte Class of Cabaret 2017 presented The Beatles’ two bob each way Revolution and, just for something neither about love or revolution, Eddie Perfect sang I Gotta Get Out of this House, ghost-written, you might say, for his forth-coming musical Beetlejuice.

New York singer and musical polymath, Michael Feinstein, whose own show Sinatra and Friends had wowed audiences on Friday, lit up the stage again with Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s song from the 1978 musical BallroomFifty Percent, updated and poignantly transformed to reference same-sex marriage and its resistance.

In what seemed like a mega version of The Voice, the big vocals followed one after another – the fabulously pregnant Catherine Alcorn sang from her show Cathartic, Ali McGregor nearly peeled the plaster off Her Majesty’s elderly ceiling with a near-excessive version of the INXS hit Never Tear Us Apart and Cameron Goodall repeated his terrific performance from the festival hit, The Sound of Falling Stars, with a splendid return to Sam Cooke’s soul anthem A Change is Gonna Come.

Reuben Kaye, whose wittily named solo show, Journey to the Centre of Attention drew strong praise, literally dazzled the audience as he entered from a door at the back of the stage bathed in stage fog and backlit by a stack of blinding headlights. I am Going to Break into You Heart he roars, like a glam Nosferatu. Iggy Pop would have been very pleased.

American singer Lady Rizo, who featured her suckling child in her show Multiplied, describes herself as being on a “continual apology tour” referring to current political events in Washington. Being part of the Cabaret Festival she describes as “just what the doctor ordered” and bursts into Song of Freedom as a way, perhaps, of reclaiming the First Amendment.

The closing Variety Gala is also an opportunity for speeches, thanks and presentations. The Cabaret Festival Icon award which has been awarded since 2013 ( previous recipients are Reg Livermore, Rhonda Burchmore, Frank Ford and Robyn Archer). In 2017 it was given to Debra Byrne, who due to a medical emergency could not attend. She was making an excellent recovery, Ali McGregor reassured us and Vika Bull graciously accepted on her behalf.

In other news, it was announced that Eddie Perfect was standing down as co-director to move to New York to work not only on his Beetlejuice musical, but another on King Kong as well. He and Ali McGregor have delivered two excellent festivals. They inherited an event in good order and invigorated and rejuvenated it as well. It is very pleasing that Ali McGregor will continue as sole Artistic Director. She has been an excellent leader both from the stage and behind the scenes. Perfect will continue to participate in the commissioning aspect of the festival, a welcome patronage for encouraging new Australian music theatre.

For the finale, Eddy Perfect led the troops with another of his new songs. It was entitled The Light. Whether it promised revolution is unclear, but like the Adelaide Cabaret Festival itself, it provided a beacon. And, judging from the audience response to the Variety Gala (and to the sixteen days of festivities) there was plenty of love in the room as well.

FOUR stars

Daily Review, June 26, 2017.

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