Space Theatre, Thu 16 Jun.
The Cabaret Festival Backstage Club continues with Week 2 Host and Festival Co-Director Ali McGregor welcoming various acts from the Festival to have some late night fun in a relaxed variety show environment. McGregor got down to business immediately, joining the three-piece jazz combo, led by Charly Zastrau (Sven Ratzke/Joey Arias), to open with a wordless vocal that she would eventually push so far into her upper register that it would humble even Mariah Carey.
The Thursday night audience was perhaps a bit subdued from the demands of the week, but they were still ready for a good time and gave a warm welcome to the first guest act of the night, the USA’s Pajama Men, whose lightning quick sound effect and impression-packed sketch comedy was sharp, witty, and technically impressive.
For the second act of the night, McGregor introduced Tina Del Twist, the blues cabaret alter ego of Wes Snelling, aided on guitar by Twist, aka Stephen Weir. Tina’s buttery voice glided through Hedwig And The Angry Inch’s Wicked Little Town before a slide-guitar infused take on Waltzing Matilda, after which McGregor requested one more from her chaise lounge at side stage, resulting in a mash-up of Devil Inside and Stairway To Heaven. Throughout Tina played up the rock star angle, appearing so inebriated that she didn’t know where she was (Auckland?) or even what she’d just said.
It was all in good fun and the audience was primed for Ali McGregor’s return, wherein she toured the audience while performing I Put A Spell On You, even singling me out, outing me as a reviewer, and adding, “Ali is Awesome!” to my review notes, which she undeniably is.
After a brief interval, McGregor returned with a stunning version of Billie Holliday’s Fine And Mellow, before introducing a showstopper in the form of her lady hip-hop medley, featuring hits from Salt‘n’Pepa and Missy Elliot.
Next to the stage was Dusty Limits, with the assistance of Michael Roulston on piano, starting with a run through Steven Sondheim’s Losing My Mind, paired with a Tanqueray-swigging sight-gag that reduced Dusty to a train wreck puddle by the end of the song. Limits and Goulston finished with the uproarious MSM, a song about men who have sex with other men but who don’t identify as gay or bisexual, which had the audience laughing with varying degrees of comfort.
Ryan Gonzalez was called to the stage next and brought highlights from his show, ¡HISPANIC ATTACK! in service to his mission to make Latin music more popular in Australia than cricket, gambling, and casual racism. He pulled a lady from the audience on whom to demonstrate his Lothario act, which began innocently enough, but eventually escalated into outright vulgarity to the delight of the audience. To finish, Gonzalez delivered a comprehensive medley of Australian songs, segueing from hit to hit every four bars or so. Gonzalez’s infectious delivery, comedic timing, and commitment to his character all combined to make him extremely entertaining.
Art-pop duo Bourgeois & Maurice, the final guests of the night, had completed their Festival performances, but stuck around to entertain the Backstage audience, first with the Brexit parable, Goodbye Europe. After dispensing with a heckler without missing a beat, they finished up with the very funny FOMO ballad Chem Sex Party.Their deadpan delivery was charming and their songs were catchy and memorable.
McGregor came out one last time to rock a cabaret take on Radiohead’s Creep, once again showcasing her outstanding vocal skills, before sending us back out into the cold Adelaide night, smiling from an evening well-spent.
Backstage Club Week 2 – Hosted by Ali McGregor continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 10.30pm until Sat 17 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Raquel Viegas