Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre & The Advertiser
Reviewed 19 January 2018
On Friday 19 January, the star-studded walkway overlooking the River Torrens and connecting Adelaide Festival Centre venues was launched to the world. Featuring more than 130 names representing a critics’ choice, Adelaide Festival Centre Trust’s annual award and a public vote, the walk of fame has three stars for each year since the Festival Theatre opened in 1973. But what’s truly inspiring is that three more will continue to be added each year into the future.
The opening Gala was the event to officially launch the walkway, however, it was far more than that. Hosted by iconic singer, dancer and theatre performer extraordinaire, Todd McKenney, the Gala had to be one of the most moving productions to ever grace the stage of the Festival Theatre. Reasons for this include the stellar line-up of talent in the three-hour show, but more than this it celebrated the rich history of the Festival Centre. When forty-five years of world-class talent is presented in a two-minute showreel on a forty-foot screen, it’s an overwhelming and emotional experience. And not just moving, it was also surprising (for someone not yet born in 1973) to see some stars who have performed at the Festival Theatre, including the likes of Julie Anthony, Eartha Kitt and Roy Orbison.
As for the Gala itself, the diversity and indescribable talent was a fitting tribute to all those who’ve come before and an incredibly high bar for those who will follow. The line-up included a wonderful welcome to country via a traditional dance performed by Jamie Goldsmith and Taikurtinna. The opening operatic number was delivered by South Australian soprano, Greta Bradman, accompanied by the live, ten-piece band which continued to support all artists throughout the night under the musical directorship of Mark Simeon Ferguson.
After Greta’s performance, Todd McKenney cracked a few jokes about Adelaide’s heat wave (“Is Adelaide going through menopause?”) and got the crowd revved up for a fun night at the theatre. Queen of the B&S Ball scene, Becky Cole, sang about parts of Australia where the men are men, and so are the women, before performing her iconic beer sculling solo. Mr Clickety Cane, Peter Combe, reminded all of their childhoods, or the children at home they were attempting to escape for the night and Nancy Hayes AM proved she’s lost none of the fabulous talent that she displayed in the opening night of Guys and Dolls in 1985.
Niki Vasilakis and Slava Grigoryan demonstrated their extreme violin and guitar playing prowess in a tango duet before Rhonda Burchmore OAM brought some real class to the event with her mash-up of Miley Cirus’ Wrecking Ball and Prince’s Nothing Compares to You. Australian Dance Theatre (Garry Stewart choreographer) performed an excerpt from their upcoming July show, Beginning of Nature, which was captivating and astounding. Four long-haired men with two women performing moves that experienced yogis would be hard-pushed to match. A definite one for the dance lovers to watch out for. Actor Paul Blackwell performed a skit as one of his best-loved characters and James Morrison AM taught everyone that it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.
Saving the much-loved Tim Minchin till last, the crowd went nuts for the composer, musician, actor and all-round talented man. Minchin debuted a new song, sang one from his Matilda musical, and then talked some about his “political rant” on the marriage equality vote and what he did to an iconic song. His way of “healing” I still call Australia Home, was to play the original version, accompanied by Todd McKenney. The pair go back a long way, with McKenney responsible for Minchin’s first professional break, and for the last number of the evening the two rocked out to Peter Allan’s I go to Rio. It was the perfect closer, with McKenney giving it his absolute all by mimicking what he’d once seen Peter Allan do atop a grand piano—he got down on his back to perform about twenty leg-extender sit-ups without dropping a beat. Ah-mazing stuff, Mr McKenney.
I have been reviewing arts shows in Adelaide for over a decade now, and rarely do I insert myself into the review. I’m making an exception for this one because, as someone who had her first visit to the Festival Theatre while still in utero and who has continued to love the place and its offerings all her life, guys, this show had me in tears. South Australia is so fortunate that such importance is placed on the Arts. We have world-class talent and shows, and I was so utterly proud to be an arts-loving South Australian on Friday night. Please be proud too, support it whenever you can so our beautiful Festival Centre and arts culture continues. Future generations should get to experience the even more fabulous, life-changing events that are on the horizon. I lack the words to convey how moving The Walk of Fame Gala was, and I know this is just the beginning of an Arts future in South Australia.
Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Venue: Festival Theatre
Season: 19 January 2018
Photo Credit: Kelly Carpenter