Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Ziegfeld Boy

A light-hearted and visually-indulgent performance at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival

A light-hearted and visually-indulgent performance at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival

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

The beautiful, indulgently decorated, and scantily-dressed Ziegfeld’s showgirls receive a (just as lavish) queer-revision, with the show instead created with the intent of a gay male gaze, to the delights of all sexual-preferences in this light-hearted cabaret show.

Josh Sanders as the Ziegfeld Boy – ‘A Boylesque in Salacious Colour’ provides the glitz, the glamour and the impressive glutes, which are proudly utilised to tease and tantalise the audience as Sanders shows off plenty of perfectly tanned skin and Michelangelo-sculpted muscles. Sanders found inspiration in the Folies Bergère and Ziegfeld Follies which were filled with flashy cabaret entertainment, but instead of a parade of beautiful chorus girls, like the Ziegfeld Girls. He has reimagined the acts for a gay male gaze and used this self-objectification for his own queer empowerment as a Ziegfeld Boy.

The show is packed full of well-known and well-loved diva songs from the 20th century, such as Judy Garland’s sassy The Man That Got Away, Motown Queens Martha & The Vandellas’ Heat Wave, and the classic up-beat 1982 song from the musical film Victor/Victoria, Le Jazz Hot. Most tunes are backed by sleek piano introductions and loud trumpet solos, paired with the femininely airy vocals from Sanders, with bolder notes filtered throughout.

With over twenty different costume-changes throughout the show, Ziegfeld Boy is definitely a diamanté-covered, texture-filled, and multi-coloured feast for the eyes. Outfits include giant feather fans, glittering nipple-pasties centred on sculpted pecs, elbow-high glamorous gloves, extravagant jewellery, large head and shoulder-pieces, and a full nude bodysuit with splashes of red diamanté’s. These are the typical ‘feminine’ costume-ware that were used by the chorus girls to create a sexual allure for the straight male gaze, but are now proudly and confidently worn (and taken off) by a homosexual male, enjoyably flipping the typical risqué cabaret gender-roles on their head.

The set includes flowing curtains in the background, split in the middle to create space for bold and dramatic entrances by Sanders down a small array of steps. This space is also utilised for a moving projector screen, presenting an array of supporting imagery throughout the show, from various magazine covers of half-naked celebrity men to a pre-recorded shadow of Sanders, creating a choreographed illusion for the audience.

Another great addition is the enthusiastic and scantily-dressed back-up dancers accompanying and interacting with Sanders on-stage. Their choreographed duo and trio routines, which include gym-located performances and Pierrot-dressed pantomime clowns, are enjoyable while still allowing Sanders to be the star of the stage, though at some points they are out of synch disrupting the flow a tad, though this isn’t a major issue.

A light-hearted and visually-indulgent performance at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Ziegfeld Boy flips the risqué cabaret dance-comedy of Ziegfeld showgirls on its head with a delightful camp twist, producing a gloriously camp show filled to the brim with a feast of costumes, fun and flirty choreography, classic diva tunes, and plenty of lively colour.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

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

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