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Space Theatre, Fri 9 Jun.
Opening night of the 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Backstage Club, the festival’s late night variety show led by New York’s Murray Hill, and featuring casual drop-in performances from the Festival’s artist roster.
Supported by a three-piece jazz combo, Hill snuck in from the back, working the crowd as he made his way through the room, showcasing the lightning wit that has made him the toast of New York’s performing arts scene. Hill’s old school Hollywood lounge act charm was on full display as he teased the audience, the band, and himself to the delight of the packed Space Theatre.
Whether mumbling his way through a goofy piss-take on It Had To Be You, or goading audience members into an onstage dance-off, Hill was a thoroughly entertaining host, leaving the audience howling between guest spots from Cabaret Festival luminaries.
The first act introduced was Festival co-Artistic Director Eddie Perfect, who took to the piano to perform a pair of irreverent tracks. The first, introduced as coming from a musical “about things white people do” was called Rescue Dog, inspired by people who adopt a rescue dog and can’t wait to tell you about it. The second was a lovely bit of gallows humour, reportedly from a musical interpretation of Beetlejuice, called The Hole, in reference to the place we’re all going. Throughout, he was true to his name, and the audience enthusiastically applauded as he wrapped up.
The next act was the playfully hilarious Gillian Cosgriff, who will be performing again on Saturday and Sunday of opening weekend. After a brief but witty chat, she led the audience through two charming numbers. The first, inspired by a fantastically cartoonish name, led the audience on a comedy journey that wound from admiration and curiosity to something a bit more creepy and stalker-ish as it continued. Her second song was a fun parody of club/party anthems called, Regular Lady (Goes To A Nightclub), which garnered a raucous response from the crowd.
Following a brief break and the aforementioned dance-off, Murray Hill introduced UK cabaret duo Roulston & Young. They started off with an ode to Sarah-Louise Young’s love of older men, and their second number forced audience members to pick a side as to which of them they’d prefer a romantic entanglement with, ultimately opting for Young over Michael Roulston, which decided the course of the last verse. Together their enthusiasm was infectious and both of their songs were great, filthy fun.
Closing out the night was Cabaret Festival hero Libby O’Donovan, whose arrival onstage was met with the most enthusiastic cheers of the night so far. After giving the audience a taste of her spectacular pipes on the first verse, she spiced up her take on At Last by transposing her vocals to an exaggerated Aussie accent, to great and hilarious effect, before reverting to a conventional approach for an explosive close that brought the house down. Then she opened up the room to requests, eventually settling on Cry Me A River, with which she cast a spell over the audience.
All in all, it was a fantastic late-night party, and guaranteed fun. You never know who will drop in from the Cabaret Festival’s pool of world-class talent, and this opening night audience had a great time, laughing and cheering throughout.
Backstage Club Week 1 – Hosted by Murray Hill continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Sun 11 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.