2024 Cabaret Gala

2024 Cabaret Gala
Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Festival Theatre. June 7, 2024

You know when someone gives you a bouquet as a gift and in amongst the blooms is an occasional twig or piece of greenery? This bouquet- The 2024 Variety Gala is a bouquet of joy - not a twig or boring leaf in sight.

Virginia Gay, Artistic Director of this year’s Cabaret Festival (pictured above) has picked a wild and colourful bunch! Having travelled the world, seeklng out talent to showcase in her debut year as director, Gay has chosen a very eclectic programme. The Variety Gala is a chance for us to ‘smell and savour’ each scent in the bouquet (to extend the metaphor).

We were treated to a range of acts – samples from each performer’s actual show in the festival. At interval, I struck up a conversation with some other enthusiastic patrons who were on their phones booking shows based on what they had already seen.

The show opened with a Welcome to Country by proud Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri man, Isaac Hannam. His quips about being cold, whilst dressed in a kangaroo skin and not much else, before the welcome, settled the audience and caused many giggles. This was a warm and genuine welcome, inviting all our ancestors to be present and share in the evening.

Image: Fascinating Aïda

Our host for the evening, Virginia Gay, emerges “Pretty Woman” style from a bubble bath on stage- perhaps not as elegantly as Julia Roberts, but uproariously funny. She greets us all with a song titled “Adelaide” where we locals are acknowledged, and she shares her love of this festival at which she has been a “performer and watcher” for 15 years.

Commencing our musical journey were the Fascinating Aïda - the trio of Dillie Liza and Adèle – a wonderful satirical show group who have performed across the world- their song “Prisoner of Gender” was clever and witty with laugh-inducing lines like “if in doubt cut it off”!

Following this was the talented Bert La Bonté whose swinging version of “Let’s get it on” was smooth and suave. His easy vocals and charm certainly induced this writer to buy a ticket!

image: Gillian Cosgriff

Next, we were treated to the talents of Gillian Cosgriff, the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s 2023 winner - what a talented pianist and vocalist! The audience could very much connect with her piece “Presents” about responding to gifts that are pretty awful.

Millicent Sarre, a mentor in the Class of Cabaret sang an excerpt from her show “I can cook too” and shared some powerful vocals.

A highlight for this reviewer was the duo “Flo and Joan”, a pair, heard by Gay for a ten-minute slot that made her laugh so much she asked them to come to the Festival. As they shared their uproarious “Old English song”, The Lady in the Woods, we could see why! I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much alliteration or actually enjoyed the recorder so much! Go see these two!

Next, Jess Hitchcock shared a song from Xanadu from her show A Fine Romance. This girl has powerhouse vocals and was a joy to experience.

Rounding out Act 1 was Adelaide Cabaret Festival favourite, Mark Nadler. Apart from a brief hiatus, Mark has been sharing his Hootenanny with us for many years. His piano ability, physicality and true showmanship, vibrantly racing through multiple pieces are always a delight!

image: Reuben Kaye

Act 2 began with the wonderfully clever cabaret stylings of Reuben Kaye. Here to present his show, The End - songs of Finality and Farewell, he is cheeky and pulls no punches in the true spirit of the genre’s roots- fighting oppression and questioning our attitudes. Following his wonderful performance, Gay took great joy in presenting him the Cabaret Festival Icon award for 2024.

Our next ‘bloom’ was a sample duet piano piece from the encore of Murder for Two by Gabbi Bolt and Matthew Predny - this was spectacularly energetic!

Cassie Hamilton followed, delivering a beautiful rendition of “Falling in Love with Someone” from her show A transgender Woman on the Internet crying.

Image: Rhonda Burchmore

Bursting onto the stage next, in a stunning Cabaret gown with a split to showcase her fabulous legs, was the wonderfully talented Rhonda Burchmore. 42 years in the business and still a force to be reckoned with, Burchmore was sassy and strong, singing “Moving the Line” from her aptly named show Tall Tales. Still a star!

Our hostess and director Virginia Gay once again showed her singing chops, pairing with the talented Christie Whelan Browne for a fun and explosive rendition of “You’re the one that I want” from Grease.

Image: Christie Whelan Browne and Virginia Gay 

To end the show was a joyfully energetic rendition of “River Deep Mountain High” by Mahalia Barnes. Such talent and a burst of explosive energy to finish!

This year’s Variety Gala was one of the best I have seen, due to its - and pardon me for saying - variety! Virginia Gay has assembled a wonderful lineup and is to be congratulated for her creativity and adventurousness.

The evening, supported by a superb nine-piece band, musically directed by experienced Shanon D Whitelock and creatively directed by the wonderful Mitchell Butel was superb.

Image: Finale

I am certain everyone left the theatre discussing which of these shows they would now attend! A great night.

Shelley Hampton

Photos by Claudio Raschella

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