Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: The 2023 Variety Gala

A glamorous Gala to commence the 2023 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

A glamorous Gala to commence the 2023 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
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Presented by: Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed: 9 June, 2023

One of the most anticipated events on Adelaide’s arts calendar is finally here: The Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The 23rd year of the Cabaret Festival opened with its highly celebrated Variety Gala, and the magnificent selection of artists from across the three week festival certainly whet the audience’s appetite for what is to come over the course of the festival.

Following the Welcome To Country, the host for this year’s Gala, Virginia Gay, opened proceedings with a rousing rendition of the much loved Razzle Dazzle from Chicago. Gay set the pace for the evening with humour and charisma. Her banter with the audience was great and her liquid vocals were a perfect match to her opening number.

Throughout the evening, seven of the nine 2023 Cabaret Festival Artistic Directors, who have joined forces this year to bring us a luscious program, brought insight into their selections as well as memories of their time in the driving seat. The line up featured Julia Holt (2001 – 2008), David and Lisa Campbell (2009 – 2011), Kate Ceberano (2012 – 2014), Eddie Perfect (2016 – 2017), Ali McGregor (2016 – 2018) and Julia Zemiro (2019 – 2020).

The first half boasted an impressive selection of acts including Paris Combo, Kate Ceberano, Mark Trevorrow, Thndo, Eddie Perfect and Sarah-Louise Young. Each act brought their own spin to the Cabaret genre: Paris Combo highlighted that music is a language that unites everyone with a toe-tapping number in French; Ceberano’s powerful, re-imagined performance of her 1989 hit Brave; Trevorrow reminded audiences that there is so much more to the person behind the loveable Bob Downe with a moving cover of Burt Bacharach’s Alfie; Perfect had the audience in fits of laughter with a new work Death To A Critic (thankfully he did point out it wasn’t aimed at any of the critics in the venue!); Young gave audiences a glimpse into her hysterical show An Evening Without Kate Bush; and Thndo left audiences spell-bound with her effortless vocals.

The second half opened with a surprising and delightful performance from the one and only Hans. With a power-house rendition of Proud Mary in honour of Tina Turner, Hans dazzled the crowd in his usual trade-mark flair. Could it be the Adelaide Cabaret Festival without Hans popping up somewhere? The Cabaret Festival certainly doesn’t think it could be, as at the end of his uplifting performance, he was awarded the 2023 Cabaret Festival Icon Award – much to Hans’ surprise. A very fitting and well deserved accolade to a brilliant artist.

Following Hans’ performance, the second half featured Philimon Araya, Ali McGregor, Vince Jones and Nina Ferro, Bob Downe and Anne ‘Willsy’ Wills, Meow Meow and David Campbell. Like the acts in the first half, this list of artists did their own part to make the Variety Gala the premiere red carpet event. Philimon Araya highlighted the wonderful success of the Class Of Cabaret Program that was first introduced by David and Lisa Campbell; McGregor impressed the audience with her phenomenal vocal technique; Jones and Ferro brought nostalgia with the stunning rendition of the classic I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Bob Downe and Willsy gave a snippet of their return season of Adelaide Tonight and Campbell closed the night with a great mashup of hits, finishing with the Sia classic Chandelier. Meow Meow gave an incredibly moving tribute to the late great Barry Humphries that was full of heart and certainly pulled at the audience’s heart strings.

The incredible Mark Simeon Ferguson led a on-point nine piece band that weaved seamlessly through the multitude of numbers. Ferguson is one of Adelaide’s most in-demand music directors, and the Variety Gala is another shining example of why.

The Variety Gala once again highlighted that the Adelaide Cabaret Festival brings in the best of the best artists from around the world. This premiere red-carpet event is certainly the best way to open your Cabaret Festival every year. 

Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff

Photo credit: Kelly Carpenter

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Season: Ended
Duration: 2.5 hours

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