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Ali and Eddie's Adelaide Cabaret Festival picks

Cabaret Festival

Adelaide Cabaret Festival artistic directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect, who are serving up more than 50 shows at this year's event, nominate a selection of highlights from the electric – and eclectic – program.

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Opening tonight with the Variety Gala at Her Majesty’s Theatre and a swag of shows at the Adelaide Festival Centre, the 16-day festival takes place against a backdrop of redevelopment works around the riverbank precinct, with changed access points, parking options and performance spaces.

“What do they say? ‘When they give you lemons, make lemonade’ – I feel like we’ve made Beyonce-style lemonade out of those lemons this year,” McGregor says.

“We’ve got a Spiegeltent [on the Adelaide Convention Centre lawns], and a Spiegeltent is my natural habitat, so I’m actually thankful for the renovations.”

The Winter Garden – featuring pop-up style eateries and bars– has moved from its usual spot on the Festival Centre terrace to the Riverdeck outside the Dunstan Playhouse and will also provide an extra performance space, with free live music.

“It’s all kind of enclosed this year, so it will bit warmer,” McGregor says. “I think it’s really great that we’re utilising that waterfront a bit more because it is actually beautiful with all the lights from the stadium and the bridge at night; it’s just gorgeous.”

With more than 147 performances in total – including 17 world premieres – over the course of the festival, McGregor and fellow artistic director Eddie Perfect each offer some personal highlights that give a taste of the diversity of the program.

Bridget Everett – Pound It!

“She’s kind of the queen of alt cabaret at the moment in New York and taking the world by storm,” McGregor says of singer and comedian Everett, who has three Hollywood films out this year and has toured with Amy Schumer. “I got to see this show at Joe’s Pub in New York last year and it’s gob-smackingly good; totally in-your-face in every sense of the word. She’s a breath of fresh air – gin-soaked fresh air, but still, fresh air.”

Our of Earshot – KAGE

A fusion of dance and percussion, featuring profoundly deaf dancer Anna Seymour and musician Myele Manzanza, this show from Melbourne company KAGE pushes the boundaries of what cabaret can be, according to Perfect. “It is my pick for one of the most interesting and exciting pieces in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival … I can guarantee people won’t have seen anything like it.” Out of Earshot is also on the must-see list of McGregor, who saw preview workings of the show in Melbourne: “It was utterly captivating. It really asks and answers questions about what it is to live in a world where you can’t hear, what it is to dance when you can’t hear. It makes you see both dance and music in quite a different light.”

Bourgeois & Maurice – How to Save the World Without Really Trying

Musical satirists Bourgeois & Maurice, who are making their second appearance at the Cabaret Festival, are two of McGregor’s favourite London alt-cabaret stars. “I think this show is the best they’ve ever done … it’s a little bit crazy, a little bit camp, with moments of subtle political satire coming in; really funny and clever.”

Briefs – Close Encounters

Many Adelaide audiences will be familiar with Briefs’ wild blend of physical theatre, drag and burlesque, but this show is brand new. “I’m champing at the bit to see it,” McGregor says. “They’ve got some new boys in the cast, they’re really upped the ante when it comes to costumes, and they’ve got Paul Lim back on board doing their lighting, who I think is the hottest designer of lighting for cabaret shows in Australia at the moment.”

Vigil – Christie Whelan-Browne

Written by Steve Vizard and featuring singer Christie Whelan-Brown alongside pianist Joe Chindamo and violinist Zoë Black, Vigil is another festival highlight nominated by both artistic directors. “It’s a one-woman show and it’s really a meditation on loss and losing a parent, which sounds like it would be quite sad but it’s very uplifting and warm with a lot of humour… and the music is just sensational,” says Perfect. “It will be an absolute knockout.”

Second Wedding Singer – Simon Hall

Backed by his brass band, Simon Hall (you might know him as Yon from musical-comedy trio Tripod) will serenade audiences with songs appropriate for wedding number two – such as “Guilt is My Engine” and “Left Out of a Threesome”. “It’s far more pragmatic [than love the first time round],” says Perfect. “Maybe not as optimistic and rosy, but certainly funny and real and a little bit twisted.”

Dillie Keane – Hello Dillie

Keane, the driving force behind cabaret trio Fascinating Aida, will present new songs, old favourites, odes to love and “disgracefully dirty dities”. “You could take your grandmother to it and she would love it and feel slightly naughty, but you could also take teenagers.” McGregor says. “She’s really funny but then there’s moments of real pathos, so Dillie Keane would be a must-see in my book.” Perfect agrees: “She’s an incredible writer. She’s incredibly blue and wrong and dirty but in a way that never makes you feel uncomfortable; unexpectedly filthy but wonderfully delightful.”

Kim David Smith – Morphium Kabarett

“He’s an Adelaide boy who lives in New York and is killing it as a cabaret singer in New York City,” Perfect says. “He’s a dark, sexy, magnetic performer.” Smith’s Cab Fest show promises to conjure “the glitter, doom and decadence of 1920s Berlin with a cabaret fantasia that pitches the music of Hollaender, Weill and Spoliansky up against Kylie Minogue and The Supremes.”

Peter Colman-Wright & Nexas Quartet – Composers in Exile

Baritone Coleman-Wright – one of McGregor’s operatic heroes – is teaming up with four saxophonists from the Nexas Quartet for this show which follows the musical journey of composers exiled from Berlin and Vienna following Hitler’s ascent to power. “To me, it’s a match made in utter heaven,” she says of the collaboration. “It’s a real chance to see a true icon of the operatic stage do something quite different.”

The 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs from June 9-24. See more InDaily show previews and reviews here.

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