Review by Matthew Hocter
As if walking into the 100 year old Famous Spiegeltent wasn’t nostalgic enough, being greeted by a slew of vintage commercials ranging from Pattie & Bert hocking Safcol tuna to Halls Stoney Ginger Beer and the pride of South Australian chocolate, Fruchocs from a massive screen certainly brought home what this show was all about. With so much nostalgia on show, it’s easy to see how the Adelaide Cabaret’s break out star, Adelaide Tonight, pays homage to the South Australian variety show of the same name that ran from 1959 – 1973. The same show that discovered a then unknown Anne Wills and not only gave her, her first big break, but made Anne “Willsy” Wills a bona fide TV icon.
Joining Wills on this sojourn down memory lane is long-time friend, the Prince of Polyester, Bob Downe. Opening the show in a Gold sequin tracksuit, which can supposedly pick up SBS via its multitude of sequins, launched into a cover of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Backed by Sam Leske and his band, Downe moved from music to his signature quick witted one liners that had the audience in stitches.
It wasn’t long before Wills joined Downe on stage for another musical number and stories of her time on Adelaide Tonight with host Ernie Sigley. In fact, it was Sigley who coined the nickname “Willsy,” something that has stayed with the much loved star of the small screen ever since.
With three special guests lined up for the show, first to take to the stage was Zimbabwean born, Melbourne local, Thando. Opening her two song with the Chaka Khan classic, “I’m Every Woman” and then Jill Scott’s “He Loves Me,” it was crystal clear that a star was had taken over the Spiegeltent. With a voice full of power and soul, even the most ardent of music lovers would be humbled by Thando’s enormous talent. A truly stunning performance.
Long-time friend of Downe and rumoured love interest, Pastel Vespa took to the stage next singinging two gorgeous tracks with the latter culminating in a duet with Downe that even Babs and Andy would be proud of (see the show to get the reference). The only down side to the duet was that it added fuel to the fire of the rumoured love affair between the two. Fate just can’t be fought.
The third and final guest was the Cabaret legend, iOTA. Opening his two song set with Queens “Killer Queen,” the glam rocker quickly showed why he has been awarded four Helpmann Awards. Looking like a mixture of Frank-n-Furter and Hedwig, iOTA continued his beautifully dark cabaret into a mashup of Prince’s “Kiss” with a blackened pinch of the band KISS’s spirit. Again, needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Both Downe and Wills achieved what they set out to do and then some. A gorgeous and ever so camp walk down memory lane, coupled with acts that a firmly set in the present. A variety show done to perfection with all the delicious elements of what cabaret is all about; sequins, sparkles and satire. As the duo closed out the show with The Everly Brothers “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” I realised that this trip down memory lane was one of the best I have been on in a long time, if not the best.
The power of polyester and sequins.