June 12, 2016

Far from a Weimar museum, cabaret undergoes a youthful makeover

Filed under: 2016,Archive,Cabaret

Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Variety Gala Performance
Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
June 10.

It’s that time again. Defying the mid-June wintry blast, the Adelaide Festival Centre opens every door and available performance space for thirteen nights of the best of burlesque, Broadway, music theatre and punk satire. Now in its sixteenth year the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has consolidated a reputation that has attracted legends and innovators from Europe, the UK and the Big Apple itself.

On the Festival Theatre stage to introduce excerpts from their 2016 program in the Variety Gala Performance are artistic co-conspirators Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect. Jumping two generations from Barry Humphries’ Edna-fest last year, McGregor and Perfect bring a flair and brash energy that makes clear that cabaret is not a museum in Weimar and is being very capably re-fashioned – as set designer Wendy Todd illustrates with all manner of cultural glitter and detritus – by young Australians.

First on the bill, after the directors’ intro and spruik, is the deadpan Frank Woodley, (guided onstage by Hew Parham’s amusingly dithery technician Rudi) singing a strange little song about a boy with an enormous head; Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood followed, belting barrelhouse blues from their show Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin.

Rhonda Burchmore in a face-covering wig with a giant black bow, raised the roof with a wicked version of Sia’s YouTube hit, Chandelier. In flesh coloured tights and a platinum wig, her Twins co-star Trevor Ashley provided the hilarious ingénue choreography.

UK culture-jammer Miss Behave, and her unpredictable assistant Harriet, led the audience in iPhone games and other manic competition, while Otto and Astrid, aka Die Roten Punke, mugged their way through Drink Drink Drink. Andrew Strano sang a disturbingly comic tribute to his identical twin sister, Tripod sampled an item from their show with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and Cabaret Festival favourite, English singer Barb Jungr sang a jazzy rendering of Things have Changed from her Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen tribute show, Hard Rain.

Robyn Archer, accompanied by Michael Morley and George Butrumlis, reminded us that she is the gold standard for Brecht and Weill with her brilliantly delivered Bilbao Song, and it seemed utterly fitting, that no sooner had she finished, Ali and Eddie presented her with the festival’s Icon Award for 2016. Other highlights included Bobby Fox‘s splendid Frankie Valli tribute, Stay and US chanteuse, Amy G’s fetchingly attired singing chicken.

McGregor and Perfect, accompanied by the young Cabaret Class of 2016 and the excellent house band, Vanessa Scammell and the Scammers, closed the night with Old Friends from Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. With the full cast finale the two directors beamed with evident pleasure at the rapturous applause. This is proving an excellent baton change, and the Gala, ably directed by Andy Packer, a boisterous new beginning.

The Cabaret Festival runs until June 25.
Bookings at BASS 131 246 or

“Far from a Weimar museum, cabaret undergoes a youthful makeover”, The Australian, June 13, 2016, p.16.

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