Cabaret Festival Review: Variety Gala

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Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 8th June 2018

In the newly developed Festival Theatre complex, the stage was set and the energy palpable. Each year, the Variety Gala showcases the best of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and this year was no exception.

Artistic Director, and host for the evening, Ali McGregor opened the show, in a touching rendition of Dave Dobbyn’s Welcome Home supported by Jack Buckskin and the Modern Maori Quartet.

Then Australian entertaining icon Todd McKenney bound energetically onto the stage, giving a charming performance of Delta Dawn, backed by the ever-able Class of Cabaret. His show, Bosom Buddies, sees him share the stage with another Australian theatre icon, Nancy Hayes. Not to be missed.

Award-winning soprano Antoinette Halloran showed a different side to her usual operatic roles as she recited the seventh chapter of E. L. Jame’s erotic novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – climaxes and all. Her show, Taking It Up The Octave, promises to be a risqué combination of cabaret and opera.

Amber Martin gave a magnificent performance of Janis Joplin’s Maybe, bringing her own, unique voice to the iconic song. Special mention, in this number, must go to the brass section of the on-stage band – wow! If this performance was anything to go by, Janis:Undead will be a festival draw-card.

An excited audience eagerly welcomed the Modern Maori Quartet back to the stage. The tone was lowered, as the group paid their repsects to the Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the First and Second World Wars, in a beautiful medley of famous war songs. Self-accomapnied by a single acoustic guitar, the quartet’s delicious harmonies shone through. Their show will be a heartwarming celebration of music.

To lighten the mood, International Superstar and ‘sex icon’ Hans galloped on to the stage in a glittered, lycra bodysuit. The crowd roared with laughter, as he sang, danced and witted his way through the theme from ‘The Love Boat’. Hans & Lucky Seven’s Loveboat will be a hoot. Next, the other half of Bosom Buddies, the legendary Nancy Hayes, gave a beautifully cheeky performance of Liza Minnelli’s I Am My Own Best Friend.

In one of the highlights of the evening, Artistic Director Ali McGregor gave a snippet of her show Yma Sumac: The Peruvian Songbird, demonstrating her sublime vocal ability and versatility. If anyone was capable of following this stunning performance, it was Mark Holden, who, dressed in a red circus jacket, gave a beautiful performance of the song he co-wrote with Vanessa Amarossi, Shine. This was followed, in turn, by Matthew Floyd Jones in Richard Carpenter Is Close To You; cleverly re-written as to avoid a lawsuit.

The talent kept coming. Christina Bianco gave a faultless performance, impersonating over ten musical divas, including: Liza Minnelli, Barbara Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Celine Deon. Her vocal range, and the accuracy of her impressions, left the audience spellbound. Her show Christina Bianco: Me, Myself and Everyone Else will be another highlight of the festival. Bianco was followed by Australian singer, comedian and radio-presenter Em Rusciano, donning a leopard-print dress with a matching headpiece. Rusciano took the audience back to the 80’s, as she reflected on the time when she tried to make John Farnham fall in love with her at one of his Australian shows. Her standup was striking and effortless, and her vocals in A Touch of Paradise were second-to-none. These two performers alone were worth the ticket price.

After the prestigious icon award was presented to the very deserving Spiegeltent International director David Bates, the Glorious Misfits took to the stage, and the Variety Galaended with a bang. A special mention must go to rubber-man Captain Frodo, whose flexibility and dare-devil stunts were thrilling.

The 2018 Adelaide Cabaret Festival is a celebration of talent; interstate, overseas, and homegrown. Enjoy the feast and long may it reign.

Reviewed by Ben Francis

Rating: 5/5

One night only – season ended

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About Author

At 18 years old, Ben’s training has taken him around Australia, and to Hong Kong, Paris and London, including on the West End and in The Royal Albert Hall. In 2016, Ben performed as a supporting lead in the State Opera of South Australia’s world premiere production of Cloudstreet!, under the direction of internationally-acclaimed director, Gale Edwards. Other credits include: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (Snoopy), The Little Mermaid (Prince Eric), Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow), Pirates of Penzance (Frederic) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus), for which he earned a nomination for ‘Best Young Performer’ in the Adelaide Theatre Guide 2015/16 ‘Curtain Call’ Awards. Ben also performs regularly with Independent Theatre, with roles including Peter Pan in Peter and Alice, Mozart in Amadeus, and Sebastien in Brideshead Revisited. Ben is also the producer and lead vocalist of The 60 Four scaling the falsetto heights of Frankie Valli, Brian Wilson and other vocal groups of the 60’s. A skilled musician, Ben also enjoys musically directing and orchestrally conducting local productions, including: Bugsy Malone and 13! The Musical with Adelaide Youth Theatre.  Ben is a recent graduate of Scotch College, where he was Captain of Performing Arts, and achieved Dux of Combined Studies. Since establishing Promise Adelaide in 2014, he has provided opportunities for over 100 young performers whilst raising in excess of $19,000 for charity.

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