International Cabaret Contest: The Heats Begin
The 2014 Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest, the new incarnation of the Australian Cabaret Showcase, began its 11th year with the Sydney heat at Slide on Monday January 6.
Speaking on behalf of the judges at the end of the Sydney heat of this now international contest (with a New Zealand heat for the first time, in Auckland on January 14), David Campbell drew attention to the fact that many of the thirteen performances the packed house had just enjoyed on stage in the Sydney heat were excerpts from fully formed cabaret acts.
Offerings where patter simply strings together a couple of showtunes of choice don’t cut the mustard any more.
Scaled back from the previous competition format which included multiple Sydney heats, the performance standard was impressive throughout, and it was probably the quality of concept, writing skills, or a directorial hand kicking in which made the difference – that, and the ability to adeptly distill the essence of a longer show into the time constraint, ahead of the dreaded bell.
Given just eight minutes each, it’s about enough time for two contrasting songs to display vocal and dramatic range, top notes, etc., tightly selected linking patter from those fully developed scripts, and that was the most common approach, though effectively others pluck multiple grabs which display the facets of their talents and offer a broad picture of the longer version.
I’m betting that everyone had one or two favourites who they were disappointed hadn’t made it through to the final, from a field of performers ranging from fresh out of music theatre courses to musical theatre performers with strong professional credits.
The evening was compered by former Cabaret Showcase winner Sheridan Harbridge with panache, sly wit, a touch of naughtiness and great theatrical edge, nowhere more evident than at the difficult pointy end of the night spot as the judges deliberated, grabbing back the attention of a house which momentarily seemed more intent on getting to the bar, with a potted version of her own show, leaving no-one in any doubt as to why she was a previous winner.
Audience choice Ben Hudson’s instagram inspired piece, along with judges’ selections Monique Salle (and her Italian cousin), Melody Beck’s tribute to Marnie Nixon, hilarious self-accompanied comedian Sarah Gaul with her own outstanding comic song and Brendan Hay, blending comedy with a heartwrenching version of a Broadway standard, as the son of Cruella de Vil, go through to the Grand Final on January 17, at The Basement in Sydney.
Typecasting, a torchy seductress, Shakespeare on Broadway in 2014, Nuts, self-accompanied stories of a cruise ship piano bar performer or the archetypal cabaret theme of love gone wrong also featured in a night of diverse choices and storytelling.
It really is a huge fortnight in for short form cabaret in Sydney, with Short + Sweet Cabaret also playing at New Theatre in Newtown.
The Adelaide heat of the International Cabaret Contest on Wednesday January 8 at the Adelaide Festival Centre, Space Theatre was won by Jamie Jewell, contest producer Jeremy Youett told Stage Whispers. “Moonlighting as the diva Candy Chambers, he made audiences laugh with his candid antics and warm charm.” The heat was hosted by last year's Showcase Prize winner Amelia Ryan and included performances by special guest, Michael Griffiths.
Pictured: Adelaide compere and previous Showcase prize winner Amelia Ryan.