It certainly looked good: the Festival Theatre opening-night stage was transformed into “Ceberano’s Boxing Tent”, in the old sideshow tradition, complete with ring and the excellent Adelaide Art Orchestra split into two halves on either side.
The organisation for the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival opening-night Variety Gala Performance also went flawlessly as, one after another, the very best of Australian and world cabaret filed on and off for their four minutes of fame before a packed house. Many of the acts left you wanting more, which is obviously the plan – buy tickets and see the show!
Kate Ceberano, in her swansong as artistic director, has assembled a fabulous array of talent. She opened the Gala herself, with a casual approach to proceedings, looking marvellous in a petrol-blue outfit which was perfect for the occasion.
Todd McKenney took over as MC for the evening and was his usual witty, charming self in a performance interspersed with references to Ceberano’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars, where he was a judge. McKenney’s every move was shadowed by the fabulous Horns of Leroy, who provided a blast of New Orleans-style brass and percussion. As a result, they were the hardest-working musicians on the night!
The line-up included many new faces to Adelaide and lesser-known fine talents, but there were enough of the usual suspects included, giving the festival both a fresh and yet familiar feel.
Following Reg Livermore’s inaugural Cabaret Festival “Icon Award” win last year, it was fitting that this year’s recipient was the fabulous Rhonda Burchmore, who turned in her usual sassy, professional performance after coming straight from her opening night show in the Dunstan Playhouse.
For me the outstanding cameo of the evening was local songstress Carla Lippis, who looked fantastic and sounded even better singing a version of Sonny and Cher’s “Bang Bang”, backed by soulful solo electric guitar steeped in tremelo and reverb.
Glamour animal Sven Ratzke, currently the darling of the Berlin cabaret scene, entranced the audience with his uber-camp interpretation of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht. Lizzie Moore as “Erin Minogue”, the supposed long lost sister of Kylie and Danni, showed she could more than hold her own in that star-studded family with her version of INXS “Two Worlds Collide”.
The boys – including crooner Kim Smith, an ’80s-style Tim Campbell and boy band Swing on This – were all stylish and captivating. But it was really the girls who stole the show, including Caroline Nin doing Edith Piaf with style, and the effervescent Ali McGregor and the kids, who completely won the audience in their four minutes.
The entertaining evening closed with Woodstock legend Melanie and a cast of many presenting her epic hit “Lay Down”, before Ceberano returned for her last hurrah.
All in all, it was a great night of cabaret iced with a liberal sprinkling with bums, legs, glitz and bling.