Review By Tatum Stafford
In a serendipitous way, the Closing Night Gala of the Perth International Cabaret Festival was the perfect night out before Perth was plunged into lockdown just over 24 hours after the curtain fell.
In a similarly serendipitous fashion, the gala was never originally planned, and was pulled together at the last minute to fill the gap (and entertain ticketholders) for cabaret sensation Meow Meow’s performance, which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions.
I’m sure all those in attendance would agree that this sensational line-up of Perth and other Australian cabaret performers was all we could have wanted and more.
Hosted by the formidable Michael Griffiths and Amelia Ryan, an upbeat and celebratory tone was set from the get-go as both sashayed on stage to a medley of Peter Allen classics. The pair had incredible chemistry, and bounced playfully off of each other throughout the night. Their early duet of “You’re The One That I Want” was a highlight.
The evening kicked off with local drag performer Dean Misdale, who nailed the upbeat hit “Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)” before slowing things down with a moving performance of John Farnham’s “Please Don’t Ask Me”. Next up was the enigmatic Rick Steele, who whipped out the harmonica and thrilled the audience with his old-school sound and old-school rocker sensibility.
Legendary cabaret icon Carlotta wowed the crowd with her rendition of “I’m Still Here” (with a few tongue-in-cheek lyric adjustments), Louise Anton performed Joni Mitchell’s stunning tune “Both Sides Now”, accompanying herself beautifully on piano, and John O’Hara gave a rousing rendition of Lady Gaga’s anthem, “Born This Way”.
The star of the show was undeniably Libby O’Donovan. She started her set with a more subdued duet with Amelia Ryan (which poked fun at inappropriate lyrics from songs of the 60’s and earlier), and then blew the roof of with her cover of Etta James’ “At Last”. Her voice was incredibly powerful, resonant and moving.
Steven Oliver closed out the program with his unique blend of rap and soul. His first song, which he composed as an ambassador for R U Okay? Day, was particularly powerful and a joy to listen to.
This was the inaugural year of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, and after a glimpse at the calibre of this closing night performance, I have no doubt it will return in full force next year. I implore you to get your tickets for 2022 as soon as they become available – this is one festival you do not want to miss!
Image Credit: Vanessa Cooper