Cabaret Festival Review: Opening Event, The House is Live

Adelaide, your 2019 Cabaret Festival is officially launched! And with quite the bang (glitter dousing from the rafters, anyone) it must be said.


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre

Reviewed 7 June 2019

Adelaide, your 2019 Cabaret Festival is officially launched! And with quite the bang (glitter dousing from the rafters, anyone) it must be said.

Artistic Director of the 2019 Cabaret Festival, Julia Zemiro, welcomed a sold-out show at the Thebarton Theatre Friday night. Even before the formal festivities began, the atmosphere was set with a red carpet leading to the ‘celebrity snaps’ area where all ticket holders were photographed, some alongside the glamorously adorned show performers. Seeing that make-up up close was a spectacle in itself.

Onto the extravaganza that was the opening event, Zemiro’s remit appeared to be ‘something for everyone’. For while there was plenty of the traditional stuff—drag queens, glitter and gorgeous voices—the line up was by far the most diverse Adelaide Cabaret Fest audiences have had to date.

After a traditional welcome to country, Zemiro treated the audience to a rendition of What a Swell Party, complete with localised references inserted. The first official act of the night was by Cabaret Fest favourite, Reuben Kaye. His astounding eye-makeup, fluoro pink feather boa, and microphone with its own pink ponytail were attention-grabbing enough, but his beautifully bitchy brand of humour set the fun tone for the evening.

Flamboyant Kaye was followed by newcomer, Almar Zygier, whose particular talent is 1930’s pre-war jazz. Her kitchy act was followed by the glamorous Nkechi Anele who wowed with her big voice and bright sparkles. Next was an extract from stage show, The Swell Mob, which appears on the ads for the 2019 Cabaret Festival. From the brief performance Friday, this certainly looks like a must-see for this year’s festival. Dark and dangerous characters from Victorian England appeared alongside frock-coated gents, ladies in corsets and curls, likely lads alongside lovely ladies before the whole thing moved into macabre madness.

The second half of the show featured cabaret veteran, Queenie Van De Zandt, who entertained with stories of her internet dating adventures before belting out some big tunes. The ever-expanding boundaries of what constitutes cabaret were excellently demonstrated by a performance from award-winning newcomer, Omar Musa. Sold as spoken word, this really did blur the boundaries of singing and rap, focusing on his experiences as a Muslim Australian.

Paul Capsis is another festival fav who has one of the most original singing voices of all. Beautiful, soulful and haunting about sums it up. Another comedic helping was served up by Maude Davey who appeared in a skimpy Vegas-inspired outfit made of yellow feathers and stick-on stars to remind everyone about the 1980s with her version of the Angels’ Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?. The audience responded as only Aussie audiences can with the informal, but well known, response chorus.

Recipient of the 2019 Icon Award was the amazing Meow Meow. This lady had the moves, the humour, and the voice. A little audience recognisance saw six pulled onto the stage to assist her theatrics upon which she noted that, “When I scream at people in German, they just sort of do things.” An amazing professional, it was easy to see why she was selected as the winner of this year’s award.

Following repeat appearances by several of the night’s performers, the show closed with a tribute to Frank Ford, a pioneer of this festival. Then, not to end on a sad note, the rafters exploded showering the audience in gold glitter.

It’s hard to summarise an event that was such a smorgasbord of all the Cabaret Fest has to offer but talented, funny, fun and classy about covers all of it. Get excited about your Cabaret Fest, people, ‘cause it certainly looks like you’re in for a treat!

Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Twitter: @SamStraceyBond

Rating out of 5: 5

One Night Only – season ended

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

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