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Review: Cabaret Festival Closing Variety Gala

Arts & Culture

Adelaide Cabaret Festival co-artistic directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect ensured this year's event went out with a world-class bang at the closing variety gala, Songs of Love and Revolution.

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The line-up for the show – presented by director Zac Tyler and musical director Mark Ferguson – was eclectic and breathtaking.

The tone was set by an ensemble cast featuring everything from suit-wearing performers to pink-haired punks and glittery drag queens singing a medley mix of “Revolution”. They led the way for a series of individual festival acts showcasing cabaret in all its glorious diversity.

“Fallen opera singers” Strange Bedfellows presented the risqué “Bedlam”, a smart song sarcastically critiquing enjoyment of sexuality. They were followed by the almost-as-naughty dancing and magic duo Peter and Bambi Heaven, who did a great impression of Gold Coast glitz variety entertainment that ended with Bambi doing a topless run down the aisles.

After these two acts, McGregor joked that at least now the conservative part of the show was complete.

What followed were the more conservative performances. There were the amazing vocals of the Cyrens (Amanda Harrison, Chelsea Renton-Gibb and Melissa Langton) and the Class of Cabaret graduates (four talented youngsters with big futures ahead of them), before Perfect treated the audience to an original song from the Beetle Juice Broadway musical he’s currently writing – and it was one of the stand-out hits of this evening.

Legendary Michael Feinstein, who designed a grand piano for the Whitehouse, sang a song from the 1978 musical Ballroom. He warned the audience that the lyrics about an “illegitimate” relationship have taken on new meaning over time, and it was a moving moment for the audience to realise their application to those seeking marriage equality. A heavily pregnant Catherine Alcorn followed with her Nashville version of a disco classic, before Ali McGregor sang INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart”, cabaret-style.

Cameron Goodall performed the uplifting “Sound of Falling Stars”, and gorgeous high-camp cabaret star Reuben Kaye broke into our hearts with his seductive, artistic number. Lady Rizo cracked a few funnies about being an American and feeling like she was on a constant apology tour since the “Angry Apricot” assumed power, then wowed with her astounding voice.

The evening ended with the presentation of the Cabaret Icon Award, which this year went to the iconic Debra Byrne. Unfortunately, Byrne had to cancel her appearance in the gala due to emergency surgery, and Vika Bull (with whom she was to have performed in Tapestry: The Songs of Carole King) accepted the award for her.

The last announcement of the night was about the future of the Cabaret Festival – sadly, Perfect will not be continuing as co-artistic director in 2018, but he will take on an advisory role from New York, where he will be working on Beetlejuice and another Broadway adaptation, King Kong.

The full cast returned to the stage for the closing song, “You are the Light”, one of Perfect’s King Kong originals. The number summed-up the atmosphere of the show and left the audience smiling as they existed Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Songs of Love and Revolution was a fitting festival finale – the professionalism and energy were faultless, and the costumes, glitz and glamour pure eye-candy. Even the stage backdrop evolved alongside the show, with painters bringing to life the emblem of a fist holding a microphone.

McGregor has promised she will once again be searching for the best the cabaret world has to offer for next year’s festival, which will take place in a “renewed” Adelaide Festival Centre: “I plan to look to the future of cabaret and find even more diverse stories to tell as well as take a deep nod to the past and the foundations upon which the art of cabaret has been built.”

See more 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival reviews here.

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