Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sat 24 Jun.
Opening to the strains of a revolutionary medley incorporating anthems from artists spanning contemporary music from The Beatles and Michael Jackson to Bob Marley, Rage Against The Machine and T. Rex, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Closing Variety Gala was packed with thrilling performances from the impressive crop of performers on hand for the Festival’s final week.
Without missing a beat, the sharp and versatile band slipped straight into Rufus Wainwright’s Going To A Town, with Tripod’s Simon Hall stretching out his sonorous voice perhaps a bit more than his comedy gig allows. As he sang, a graffiti artist took to a ladder to begin building the border wall backdrop mural that would occupy artists in the background throughout the show.
Festival Co-Artistic Directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect came out to chat with the audience and introduce “…opera singers who have fallen from grace,” Strange Bedfellows, who proceeded to sing irreverently about the dangers of sin, before Peter & Bambi Heaven brought their raunchy dancing magic comedy act to get huge laughs from Her Majesty’s well-packed Theatre.
Next was CYrens, whom Ali McGregor noted had some of the best voices in Australia, excerpting The Life’s My Body from their show honouring composer Cy Coleman. However, an early highlight in a night of highlights was a performance by the Class Of Cabaret Graduates, a group of, as the name implies, graduates of the Festival’s Class Of Cabaret program, performing a house-rocking rendition of the Beatles’ Revolution.
Eddie Perfect returned to treat us to another rejected song from his forthcoming Beetlejuice musical, a recurring element of this year’s festival I’d swear was a joke, were it not for his commitment to the material and the intricacy of the songs, as well as a number of news items attesting to its legitimacy. Tonight’s, I Gotta Get Out Of This House, is more elaborate and significantly funnier than The Hole, which was aired at Backstage Club Week 1 the night of the Opening Gala. Needless to say, the high quality of the rejected material portends good things for the eventual final product.
Even Eddie Perfect couldn’t help but gush when introducing Michael Feinstein, whose stunning, re-contextualised version of Billy Goldenberg’s Fifty Percent, with updated words from original lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, brought the house down. From there it was up to the well-pregnant Catherine Alcorn to “Nashville up” Beyoncé’s Love On Top, which she did with aplomb, before Ali McGregor returned with a luxurious rendition of the INXS classic, Never Tear Us Apart.
Returning to the revolutionary side of the night’s theme, Cameron Goodall breathed life into Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, stunning the audience with his passionate delivery and powerful voice. A door in the graffiti wall opened and out of the fog appeared Reuben Kaye, to deliver a dramatic sequin and glitter-infused reading of Iggy Pop and Josh Homme’s Break Into Your Heart.
Lady Rizo followed to bring her anthemic Song Of Freedom, while breaking it down to let the audience in on her American apology tour, and thanking the Festival artists and audience for taking her mind off of “Cinnamon Hitler” and “the Angry Apricot,” to nods and laughter, before bringing it home to a strong audience response.
Next, McGregor and Perfect came to present the Festival’s Icon Award to Debra Byrne in absentia, who is recovering from emergency surgery, and her Tapestry showmate Vika Bull accepted on her behalf. From there, Ali McGregor acknowledged that Eddie Perfect would not be able to return for next year’s Cabaret Festival artistic directing duties, instead providing limited input through an advisory role, but Perfect countered that Ali McGregor will return as the sole Artistic Director for the 2018 Festival.
With that, it was time for the last song of the night, bringing several of the artists back to collaborate on Eddie Perfect’s The Light, which might make the cut for his King Kong musical. Hearing McGregor and Perfect sing in unison on the chorus of the slow, expressive R&B number was a treat, and the Festival choir that amassed brought the Gala to a heartwarming conclusion, earning a standing ovation from the audience.