By Lia Cocks
While there has been some commentary regarding the change of venue for the Opening Gala of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, I thought it was absolutely perfect. The Art Deco architecture of the Thebby lent itself to the eclectic mix of cabaret performers being showcased that night.
With a respectful Aboriginal dance of the land to introduce the evening, we then had the big band give a most fitting lead in for the Festival’s Artistic Director Julia Zemiro and State Theatre Artistic Director Mitchell Butel’s comedic ode to Adelaide - ‘Swell Party This Is’.
If the Gala Opening sets the tone for the next 16 days, then Adelaide is in for a treat! Reuben Kaye, with his four incredible back up dancers, was so quick witted with a fab voice. Informing us that as cabaret is usually ½ tempo with two times the emotion, he was going to do something different. He treated us to a double tempo with no emotion hilarious medley. Political commentary with comedy. The perfect cabaret.
Next up, straight out of the 1930s, was Alma Zygier. A true young talent, with her interpretation of ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’ and ‘The Trolley Song’ showcasing her incredible jazz trills and vibe. She was made for this era.
Nkechi Anele, next in the line up, is a new voice in jazz/RnB/blues. Her dynamism, but languid sound was truly mesmerising.
Scene change with the interactive, The Swell Mob from the UK, giving us a taster of what to expect in their choose your own adventure immersive theatre experience. Characters include a decaying asylum patient, ex-military personnel, prostitutes and destitutes. With only 50 tickets available per show, you don’t want to miss this one.
One of my favourites of the night, Queenie Van De Zandt, came on with her perfect, melancholic, authentic voice singing ‘Candyland’ with such ease. Her second appearance included a chat to the audience about her dating site saga, and the hilarious story that ensued. She told us her dreams came true, meeting her man and this lead into her song. A true storyteller, effortless and bright. I could listen to her all night long.
Breaking the boundaries of Cabaret is Omar Musa. His political statement rap, ‘Assimilate’ is part of his body of work that deals with the themes of migration, Australian racism, violence, masculinity and loneliness.
Paul Capsis needs no introduction. One of the most gifted performers of our generation, his teaser tonight displayed his unique style and vocal flair mixed with the raw and rock that we have grown to know and love. With only two shows at The Famous Speigeltent with Jethro Woodward and the Fitzroy Youth Orchestra, get your tickets quick smart.
Another interlude by Kayes included his farcical ballad ‘Trick of the Trade’. He is pure emotion, rolled in sequins.
Changing the tune, and costume brief, is Maude Davey. Cruising down the aisle in her feathers, tassels and nipple pasties, roaring to the track of ‘Am I Ever Gonna See you Again?’, with the audience chiming in with the infamous chorus. Her wacky, but groundbreaking theatre-cum-burlesque shows have had a profound effect on many audience members. One not to miss.
The recipient of this years ICON Award is the incomparable, Meow Meow. Detailing the story of Spoliansky meeting Barry Humphries as she gathered her 6 amateur backup dancers from the audience, she proceeded to show us why she is the nightingale of Cabaret and why David Bowie was such a huge fan. Her ability to connect with the audience is prodigious and her vocal prowess sublime. She is joined onstage by Paul Capsis for a rousing ‘Forget Your Troubles/Get Happy’, both twinkling like the night sky.
The programme of performers then join in the finale before the confetti show of an ending! A beautiful encore of ‘All The Girls’ dedicated to Frank Ford sung by Meow Meow under her own torch light, was touching, poignant and befitting to the man that was.
An intoxicating and truly inspiring opening night. Well done to Julia Zemiro, Craig Ilott, Ebony Bott and team, this is going to be one hell of a ride!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.