The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is officially off and running for another year – with hundreds of Cabaret lovers streaming out into the cold Friday city night for the annual festival Variety Gala to mark the Opening Night. For Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect‘s second year as Artistic Directors, the program demonstrates an emphasis on the cultivation on homegrown productions and Adelaide Cabaret Festival-commissioned shows, with some international names thrown into the mix.
The Variety Gala, this year held as a two night stint at Her Majesty’s Theatre, was opened by Briefs, who make their return to Adelaide with their brand new show, Close Encounters. The crowd wasn’t prepared for the opening number – lavish in its greenery and extravagant choreography. A smattering of applause joined the shocked and amused faces in the audience which only set things up to get weirder as the night would continue.
Aside from the couple next to me who kept displaying signs of surprise with each act (“Oi love, Carlotta‘s a bloke?”, “Is that another guy in a wig?”, and other such gems), the Variety Gala was as you would expect from the Cabaret Festival – a curation of some of the surefire hits of the Festival, as well as a showcase of this year’s Class of Cabaret.
Moving the Variety Gala to the new site at Her Majesty’s Theatre, as far as I can tell, is only going to be a temporary move, seeing as Matilda has currently taken over the Festival Theatre, but admittedly, there was something missing from tonight in comparison to other years. The talent on show was great and it’s obvious as to why McGregor and Perfect have programmed them, but the crowd was a hard one to completely win over and, outside of the grandiose setting of the Festival Theatre, there was a bit of magic missing.
This isn’t to put a wet blanket on the acts themselves – in fact, kudos have to be afforded to these performers for the work they put in.
You had the “Queen of the Cross” – Carlotta – sashay her way across the stage with a self-deprecating wit that brought some of the biggest laughs of the night. Michael Griffiths‘ tribute to Kylie Minogue entertained, but felt too short a performance for this type of format. Naomi Price‘s tribute to The Beatles (her Cabaret Festival show, Lady Beatle does look to be one of the must sees of the program this year, mind) was solid and commanding – performing “Eleanor Rigby” was an interesting choice, but it captured the audience’s attention. Murray Hill provided a masterclass in working the room – not having seen the comedian and emcee since the Dita Von Teese tour in Adelaide, Hill’s humour was so easy to roll with.
For the purpose of the Gala however, it was a clear success. The shows and performers put on display were prime picked and it indicates how big the 17th year of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival stands to be, with 16 days and nights of shows to roll out.
Let’s kick on.