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Orange is the New Black star bound for Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival

American singer and actor Lea DeLaria, best-known as inmate Big Boo on Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, will give Adelaide audiences a taste of her jazz talents when she swings into town for the Cabaret Festival.

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DeLaria last performed in Adelaide around 10 years ago – well before the prison drama OITNB had hit screens – with a Feast Festival show titled Lea DeLaria is Naked.

It attracted both fans of her no-holds-barred queer stand-up (she’s described as the first openly gay comic on American TV) and lovers of jazz (she’s recorded five records on the Warner Jazz and Classics label, including Bull Dyke in a China Shop). Neither group left disappointed, although the latter may have been slightly shocked by the frank and raunchy banter.

Now, following the release a few years ago of a sixth album comprising jazz arrangements of David Bowie songs, DeLaria is returning for the 2018 Adelaide Cabaret Festival – and this time her audience is likely to include a strong contingent of fans of the brash but endearing Boo.

Below, DeLaria gives InDaily a taste of what’s in store (like the show, her answers come with a language warning).

What can audiences expect from your Adelaide Cabaret Festival performance – will the music mainly be from your House of David album or will you be mixing it up?

Polka, it’s all going to be Polka music. Everywhere else in Australia people will be getting a mixture of music from my five albums and my rather, shall we say, “in your face”, style of comedy. But Adelaide is getting a Polka Show.

Why did you decide to record an album of jazz arrangements of David Bowie songs?

If you look at the history of my music, you will find a rather different approach to jazz. Most singers and musicians prefer the American songbook. However, how many times can you hear the same 50 songs sung or played over and over again?

I have a different take. I love to apply the language of jazz to all kinds of music.

David Bowie is a no-brainer; his oeuvre expands over five decades. Absolutely no one under the age of 70 does not know who David Bowie is.

Also, when if you ever heard somebody say: “David Bowie, what a fucking hack!“

You’ve said you crowdfunded House of David because you had trouble convincing “the suits” that it was something people would be interested in listening to. What has the response been like, especially from Bowie fans, since its release?

Bowie himself supported this concept. He announced the crowdfunding on his website and encouraged people to donate. He also announced the release of the record. So, once he was on board, what can the fans say?

Also, I don’t really give a fuck what other people think about my work and what I create. Bowie, through his choices and performances, was one of the first artists who taught me to think that way.

Despite the fact you’d had a long and successful career before Orange is the New Black, playing Big Boo does seem to have propelled you and your co-stars into another stratosphere. How has it changed things for you?

My audiences are distinctly different since the worldwide hit started streaming. Now basically everyone comes to my show, especially a large number of very young attractive women. Lucky me!

The Cabaret Festival program promises that as well as showing off your velvet vocals, you will also leave audiences “wheezing with laughter”  (hopefully not till they pass out). For the Lea stand-up virgins, how would you describe your brand of comedy?

Be Afraid. Be very afraid.

You never shy away from politics, and your frank Tweets suggest you’re not a huge fan of Donald Trump (#dick #resign). Is there any hope for America, or should you perhaps just consider making a new home Down Under now we’ve (finally) embraced marriage equality?

You forgot #IlliterateFuck.

No, I think I will just continue to live in the United States and fight against ignorance, intolerance, and just plain stupidity.

Besides, I’m not really the marrying kind. I have always felt that monogamy makes a really nice chest of drawers but I prefer chestnut or oak.

Lea DeLaria will perform at the Festival Theatre on Monday, June 11, as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which runs from June 8-23. Her show is recommended for ages 16+.

Other 2018 Adelaide Cabaret Festival highlights include Broadway star Patti LuPone, jazz and blues singer Madeleine Peyroux, Archie Roach and Tiddas, The Cat Empire, Em Rusciano, You Am I Plays Spinal Tap, Modern Maori Quartet and Glorious Misfits (a group of “old-school variety acts and classy carnies” handpicked by festival artistic director Ali McGregor).


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