Cabaret Festival Review: My Vagabond Boat

Cabaret Festival Review: My Vagabond Boat

‘My Vagabond Boat’ is both a joyful and bubbly voyage through music history and a solemn tribute to all those forced to make tough voyages to survive.



Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon (Blueprint Studios)
Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon (Blueprint Studios)

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 05 June 2015

Humour and heartache really are the two things that punctuate My Vagabond Boat. Both a joyful and bubbly voyage through music history and a solemn tribute to all those forced to make tough voyages to survive, My Vagabond Boat definitely deserves its near top billing on the opening night of 2015’s Cabaret Festival.

Directed by Andrew Ross and musically directed by the talented hand of Nigel Ubrihien, My Vagabond Boat is a bit of an eclectic production. Throughout the show you’ll here songs by Kiss, Queen, Cyndi Lauper and even Carly Rae Jepsen alongside classic Cabaret tunes by Kurt Weill and Friedrich Hollaender. Throw some quirky comedy songs like “Party Hat” by Joe Iconis (my favourite number from the whole show), a bit of character comedy and some historical drama into the mix and you’ve got yourself a really fun night out.

Ubrihien’s musical direction and arrangements are superb. The mixing of rock, pop and show tunes is masterfully accomplished to the point where I don’t think I could ever listen to “Call Me Maybe” without thinking of Cabaret again. The music of vastly different eras is mashed together with an almost folk-punk aesthetic for that little added indie grittiness that serves to spice things up while preserving the fun.

Ubrihien is also a talented musician, very talented indeed! He’s even rocks an accordion, which I’m sure is a lot harder than it looks. Gillian Cosgriff is another prodigious musician, with a great voice and an off-kilter charm, making here the perfect singer for “Party Hat” (ah, I can’t get it out of my head!). Mitchell Butel, the third crew member on the boat, seems like he’s stepped straight out of Weimar-era Europe and onto the Adelaide stage, bringing with him the flamboyant and energetic stylings of the time. These three vagabonds compliment each other really well on stage, even if their individual styles would normally seem to clash.

There were, of course, a few teething problems in this first show; a bit of cut-off sound here and there, and a few dropped lines at points. For the most part though, My Vagabond Boat is fairly seamless. I did, however, find the quieter songs to be a little boring and lacklustre, if only because they were compared to the explosive rock and roll ballads that  precede and follow them. I must also admit to cringing a few times at some overly-exerted jokes, but that comes with the territory, doesn’t it?

Though My Vagabond Boat is a rip-roaring adventure for the most part, it also delves into sadder waters. The show serves as a reminder that even if the waters of life seem stormy at times, you still have to cross them, and many people are facing harsher waves than us. My Vagabond Boat is thus a call for compassion as well a fun-filled party. There’s enough musical joy to go around in this city!

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating (out of 5): 3.5

Venue: Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William St
Season: 5-7 June
Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
Tickets: $29.90 – $44.90
Bookings: Book online through or phone BASS on 131 246


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