Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Follies Girl, Mama Alto

A glittering performance and a tornado in a tea cup!

A glittering performance and a tornado in a tea cup!

Presented by: Smoke and Mirrors Productions & Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed: 23 June, 2023

The first paragraph of Mama Alto’s bio on her info page describes her as “a jazz singer, cabaret artiste & gender transcendent diva. She is a transgender & queer person of colour, living with disability, who works with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness and power in vulnerability”. You know what? She’s everything it says on the label and then some. Her Cabaret Festival show Follies Girl starts with the reveal one could only expect from a Cabaret Star/Diva and it’s all uphill from there.

Mama Alto delivers song after memorable song ranging from show tunes to Jazz standards to Vera Lynn with a touch of Marilyn thrown in and every song is an experience that ranges from hysterical, over the top, performance to gut wrenching, emotionally integrated truth. This girl can pick an audience up by the scruff of its smutty neck and lead it helpless with laughter into the next engaging moment of this hour spent with the force of nature that is Mama Alto. And oh, that voice! World class. From the giant tea cup, that challenges Dita Von Teese’s famous giant martini glass, to the token naked moon boy to replace the always expected naked moon girl, the ideas are fresh, entertaining and down-right cabaret magic. Extravagant costumes, clever lighting and excellent sound showcase this show at its best and do what all good cabaret should do – it leaves you wanting more. Much more.

Every artist could learn a thing or two from Mama Alto. She clearly identified everyone who works both onstage and off – no-one forgotten. That’s how to ensure you never have to worry about your lights, sound, your back up boys (no she didn’t need to make a joke out of them) or your brilliant, yes I said brilliant Musical director. Mama Alto’s show would have been brilliant anyway but with Alex Wignall on the piano it transcended ordinary and aimed itself at the stratosphere. Mr Wignall should be bottled!

To say it is a crime that there was only one chance to see Mama Alto at this year’s cabaret is an understatement. If you love cabaret, like fresh innovative style and content, love a good laugh and enjoy a really contemporary gender fluid performance by a really talented star of stage screen and a drag show near you, don’t miss the extraordinary talent that is Mama Alto next time she hits town. I haven’t had so much fun at a cabaret show since last week. Seriously worth seeing.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: Ended
Duration: 1 hour

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