Cabaret Festival

Theatre Review: Adelaide Cabaret Festival – The 2022 Variety Gala Season Programme Launch

Presented by Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Reviewed 25 March 2022

From the moment Isaac Hannam, a proud Kaurna Aboriginal man, walked on stage in traditional indigenous dress and created magic with his digeridoo before welcoming the audience of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Gala audience to Country, in both Language and English, the Festival Theatre came to life in spectacular fashion. The Welcome to Country has, at last, become traditional in our creative and more aware work places throughout Australia. This man has the spirit of the land running through his being and his breath, and he set the scene for an evening showcasing some of the incredible talents that will be gracing stages in, and around, Adelaide throughout this annual event created by the late great Frank Ford.

Tina Arena has picked up the baton from Alan Cumming and has led into battle a very interesting and diverse group of performers who are all using the Cabaret Festival to showcase their diverse, and inspiring, array of skills and insights.

This opening Gala reminded me of successful, and varied, variety shows of the 60’s and 70’s. Shows led by a famous entertainer who invited a variety (see what I did there) of talent to join them in an evening of varied entertainment that offered something for everyone.

Mitchell Butel put together an eclectic selection of available performers for the Gala who will be bringing their vastly different skills to play to help make this, as Paul McDermott (our famous entertainer and host for the night) described it, “the best Cabaret Festival Adelaide has ever seen”!

From Tina Arena’s sensational opening number to Marcia Hines’ closing rousing gospel number we were treated to some exciting, challenging and very entertaining slices of what to expect. Arena is a phenomenal performer who has honed her skills over the years to embrace an audience from the moment she steps onto a stage. Her presence is felt from the minute she lets you into her world, and she opened the show with a force of energy that drove the night singing Church and Burn from Songs My Mother Taught Me, the show she will be hosting and appearing in herself during the Festival joined by Lior, Thando, Jess Hitchcock, Wendy Matthews and Sophie Koh. A must see!

Gary Pinto sang Feel It Don’t Fight It, a slice of his show Songs and Times of Sam Cook to kick off the showcase of talent. He brought Sam Cook alive for us, gyrating around the stage in a provocative interpretation guaranteed to get an audience in the mood. Carla Lippis gave us a look at what it might be like in How to Kill your Husband, based on Kathy Lette’s book of the same name, State Opera’s foray into cabaret this year. It had the feel of the marriage of Janacek to Weill in style and substance and promises to be very exciting.

Kieran Beasley from this year’s Class of Cabaret, got a taste of just what it’s like to experience a problem with a microphone at the beginning of your gig. He handled it with style and good humour and showed the class that won him the award of representing Class of Cabaret at the Gala. Well done, Kieran. His rendition of Just the Way You Are assures us that when this young man grows into his paws we will be seeing a lot more of him.

Catherine Alcorn and Michael Griffiths, (impersonating Phil Scott) could have done with a completely different theatre to stage their excerpt from 30 Something. It has the feel of an intimate piece that needs an intimate space to get the most out of the witty dialogue, but it didn’t stop Alcorn raising the roof with her rendition of In The Air Tonight.

Mitchell Butel, as well as directing the evening, gave us a new arrangement of Something’s Coming from West Side Story which will feature in the Sondheim tribute show Moments in the Woods – Songs & Stories of Sondheim, he’ll be appearing in with a raft of other singers, including Geraldine Turner and Philip Quast. If those names don’t break the Box Office nothing will.

Libby O’Donovan followed hot on his heels with a beautifully arranged selection of songs from her show Sister Elizabeth based on songs sung by nuns and wowed us. This woman can sing and she knows how to blind an audience with sequins too – that fantastic mirror cut sequined dress turned her into a human mirror ball. In a good way! And winning the Cabaret Icon Award was the crowning glory of the night. O’Donovan is a local legend in the cabaret world and is fast becoming internationally recognised as something very special. A popular choice supported by a tumultuous reaction from the Gala night audience.

Sophie Koh was a lesson in how to engage and hold an audience in the palm of your hand, moving from Chinese to English to Chinese and holding our attention with her breathtaking performance of Creep from her show Shanghai Mimi/SMMTM. Her dress made her appear to hover above the stage; fascinating to watch and listen to.

A real highlight was Victoria Falconer’s excerpt from her show And Then You Go – The Vali Myers Project, ably assisted by Parvyn, Erin Fowler Jared Payne and Flick Freeman. The show is this year’s Frank Ford Commissioning Award recipient and is as interesting as it is quirky.

Amelia Ryan, Michael Griffiths and Michaela Burger’s excerpt from Simply Brill got the audience tapping their toes again and singing along to some old favourites leaving us all gasping to take our masks off. This was a real class cabaret act and well worth spending your money on.

After doing a sterling job of hosting the evening’s events, Paul McDermott got to sing a song all on his own, Jenny, with his plus-one, the mega talented Glenn Moorhouse (you had to be there). He gave us a teaser earlier but it was just the right time in the evening for a bit of a lift. Paul’s inimitable style allows him to insult a theatre full of patrons, call them names, insult their intelligence and provoke their political bias only to end up singing a very risky song about political ineptitude and religious bigotry while still getting the audience to like him. Now that’s talent! His wit, drive and unbelievable ability to engage an audience made the two hours ten minutes of showcase bearable. We were promised an hour and a half of show and got a whole lot more than we bargained for. Bonus! The only downside was by the time the delightful Marcia Hines made it to the stage my bum was numb!

Marcia is an icon of the Australian music industry and her show The Gospel According to Marcia is headlining this year’s diverse and entertaining line up of world class talent (and most of them are Australian). Hurry up and book your seats; they will be selling fast. It’s great to have an Australian icon topping the bill at Adelaide’s own now world famous Cabaret Festival.

The bonus of attending the Gala is a limited time discount on purchasing tickets to all the events showcased at the Gala. The code is – sorry that’s only for those people in the audience who purchased tickets and if I tell you what it is they’ll have to kill me. Just make sure you rock up to the Gala next year.

Mention must be made of the incredibly talented crew of musicians who so ably supported the many different acts and styles they had to work with. An amazing array of talent under the leadership and baton of Mark Ferguson, congratulations. The unsung heroes of backstage, the lighting crew, sound crew and Stage Management are also in line for a slew of awards. A faultless night of variety (we’ll ignore the broken mic).

There is an amazing array of acts in the Cabaret Festival guide which is scattered around town for you to pick up or go online at:

See what’s available, have a look at the Cabaret Festival extravaganza of shows on offer, max out your credit card and support live theatre; book yourself some tickets and keep cabaret alive.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

One Night Only – Season Ended

Photo Credit: Sia Duff

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