Her Majesty’s Theatre, Fri 9 Jun.
The Variety Gala Performance makes a statement about the Festival and teases audiences with some of the best and brightest performances to come. Opening with the boys from Briefs, resplendent in peacock feathers, g-strings and grass skirts, at first it seemed we were in for a fleshy cabaret. Not to be. What followed was a celebration of the song as the peak art form currently at our disposal in this crazy world.
Christie Whelan-Brown was superb in Vigil, a funny and poignant examination of family and grief, written by Steve Vizard. Finding humour in sadness is a tricky game, but Whelan-Brown and Vizard nailed the perfect goose bump-inducing formula.
Murray Hill, who will be familiar to patrons of festivals past, brought his usual brand of gender-questioning, audience-terrifying humour and in the process brought the house down.
Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect were skilful and consummate hosts and performers, looking exquisitely relaxed on stage. Perfect sang Quiet from Matilda and reminded us (as if we needed to be reminded) that Tim Minchin’s masterpiece is at centre stage this Festival. Matilda is genuinely not to be missed. Don’t be that person who looks back years from now wishing you’d seen this utterly perfect piece of musical theatre.
Dillie Keane smashed the ultimate taboo – sex after sixty – with a song that was both hilarious and revolutionary. Lyrics about gout, dicky knees and ‘position 40’ had the audience in stitches.
A highlight – and another must-see act – were Roulston & Young, whose songwriting and style somehow seem of another time but impeccably now. Their show, Songs For Lovers (And Other Idiots) will surely be remembered and loved by Adelaide audiences.
Carlotta, Queen Of The Cross, is 74 years young and was wrenched out of retirement for the Cabaret Festival. She was at her husky-voiced best and delighted the audience with her rewritten rendition of I’m Still Here, reminding us of her iconic impact on Australian culture. There is nothing faded about her glamorous star.
Gillian Cosgriff was #hashtagfabulous with her take on Facebook culture. Her jokes spot on, her songwriting clever and entertaining. Another hot tip: don’t miss To The Moon And Back.
The Gala ended on a supremely high note with McGregor (whose voice, as ever, is flawless), Perfect, Cosgriff, Michael Griffiths (Lucky: Songs By Kylie) and Naomi Price (Lady Beatle) joining the Class Of Cabaret on stage for a medley that was rich and energetic.
Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect have deconstructed cabaret to find its fundamental core, and reconstructed it into a fresh, contemporary celebration of songwriting, storytelling and performance. The Weimar Republic feel is muted and burlesque is kept as a token gesture, with the focus shifted to the power of song over the power of flesh.
The themes of cabaret, such as subversion and vice and outsiders brought to the hearth fire inside, are all still there, as they should be. If this Gala is anything to go by, McGregor and Perfect’s second Cabaret Festival will be remembered as a refreshing, vibrant and exciting tribute to humour (in the face of adversity) and the song as the perfect tool of communication.
Variety Gala Performance continues at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 8pm on Sat 10 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and www.bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image by Claudio Raschella