For one night only, the Dunstan Playhouse stage was set like a New York jazz club, or perhaps a rooftop: horns and keyboards hung from scaffolding, a royal purple hue coloured the entire stage, and mismatched chairs were arranged for the six-piece band and piano played by musical director Charly Zastrou (apparently a distant relative of Waits).
The hugely talented cast included Adelaide Cabaret Festival artistic director Ali McGregor, regular festival performer Mikelangelo, who has an Elvis-like stage presence and booming voice, and New York downtown legend Joey Arias, who crooned a beautiful version of “This One’s From the Heart”.
Carla Lippis lent her huge voice to some rock ‘n’ roll numbers as well as softer ballads about seedy people and places, while cabaret and musical theatre chanteuse Queenie van de Zandt took to the stage barefoot and gave an element of boho to the show. The ensemble performance of “Waltzing Matilda” was a highlight.
Between sets, “private detective” Butt Kapinski (the character of cabaret artist Deanna Fleysher) added comedy, performing spoken word from some of Waits’ albums.
The band also used instruments in clever and inventive ways. There were spoons on scaffolding, harmonicas connected to keyboards and some wicked electric guitar. The effect was like being surrounded by music, with the Dunstan Playhouse the perfect size for a show like this.
The energy of Tom Waits for No Man was full-on from start to go, with the performers’ personalities shining through in their individual interpretation of the legendary Waits’ songs. From gravelly rock ‘n’ roll to soft, crooning ballads and everything in between, this was quite simply a beautifully put together show.
While Tom Waits For No Man was on for one-night-only, most of the performers in it have their own shows as part of the Cabaret Festival. See more Adelaide Cabaret Festival coverage here.