Catherine Alcorn chats FNL… ALIVE & UNLOCKED

Friday Night Live is back, and is more LIVE than ever!

Originally streamed during the COVID lockdown, Friday Night Live revived the much-loved variety show format, bringing performances right to your couches. Now, the FNL team are bringing the action to Riverside Theatres with FNL… Alive & Unlocked as part of the Sydney Festival in January.

Join hostess with the most-ess Catherine Alcorn and her brilliant co-host Paul McDermott, musical maestro Daniel Edmonds, and Resident Goddess Verushka Darling as they co-ordinate a series of super special surprise guests, including Ursula Yovich, iOTA, Wendy Harmer, Jean Kitson, Marney McQueen, Ben Mingay, and more!

Catherine Alcorn and FNL Alive & Unlocked co-host Paul McDermott | Photo by John Mcrae

Catherine Alcorn is one of Australia’s most formidable talents, most known for her Bette Midler cabaret show The Divine Miss Bette, which played both in the U.S. and at the Sydney Opera House, winning her a 2018 Broadway World Award (Best Cabaret Production). She is no stranger to the festival scene, having previously headlined the Sydney Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Tasmania’s Festival of Voices, and Noosa Long Weekend. Other theatre credits include Cathartic (STA nomination), 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, and Go Your Own Way: The Story of Christine McVie. 

With just a few weeks until FNL… Alive & Unlocked hits the stage, we chat with Catherine about the whirlwind production process and what audiences can expect from the live show.

How has Friday Night Live helped you through 2020?

For us, the Reservoir Room kept upwards of forty five people employed [during lockdown]. And they were from all facets of the industry. I mean, there were costume and hair and makeup artists, graphic designers, marketing, social media, TV editors, cameramen, directors. I mean, you know, the whole gamut was sort of thrust into this little pressure cooker, and the Reservoir Room was the product, now we’ve got FNL, which is an extraordinary story, really. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what was coming.

Was the plan always to take it to a live show?

It was always my biggest plan, yes. And, you know, taking it from the stage, it was a quicker evolution than we thought. We did think that we would go back and do a second season [of streaming]. But the world, especially in Sydney, started opening up. So we just thought, we’ll sit on it and we’ll work as hard as we can to create the stage iteration. And we began conversations with Sydney Festival and… here we go! It was it was really a minute by minute, hour… and what you see today  I just think is a testament to the industry at large, that we can adapt to the changing environment as rapidly as we have. It’s essentially added quite a few more strings to our bows. So that’s at least a silver lining aspect, I think, of 2020.

Are you still hoping to do the digital show?

I think it would be foolish to dismiss the digital element as part of an ongoing add to your product. A lot of businesses are looking and realizing now that it is a tangible addition to whatever you’re offering and simply if for no other reason than just to reach farther than your typical audience or your country, you can go to the world. So, you know, that’s that’s a really great opportunity for Australian artists, to be introduced to international audiences. It is something that I do think and that a lot of us are considering utilizing and incorporating into the future.

Can you tell me a bit about the variety format of the show?

There isn’t really that free to air variety show, not even on any streaming services. We’ve kind of forgotten about a variety show format, like even in kind of that cabaret scene, often it’ll be one or two performers. And I think that getting a whole lot of people together, it introduces audiences to groups, not just one. You’re seeing all these people, you may not know all that good. And that was also part of the backbone of what we were doing. And the rest of us that were established, we just don’t have that platform for of us to get on. Comedy’s totally got it down. Comedians have have quiz shows, that panel shows, etc. But for the for the entertainer, which is often treated as a really dirty word here in Australia, in America. But that just doesn’t fly as much, you know. So that’s what that’s what it is going to be. All of the cabaret artists [on FNL] had all the shows ready to go, and just had no way to perform them.

Are you excited to be part of the Sydney Festival?

It’s always been a goal of mine to be included in the Sydney Festival program for years, it’s quite a feat. It’s almost like the world was waiting for the perfect moment for this opportunity. And, you know, we’ve got to make up for 2020 [laughs] I think that we’ve all got to be really brave going into 2021, especially in the world of showbiz and theatre where the right bringing the show and audiences need to be just as brave and come and support us on it. We’re just going to give it as much as we can because it’s been such a long time. We need to say to audiences and you know, we’re in the big Riverside Theatre, which is such a lovely space, everyone just needs to come and join us.

FNL… Alive & Unlocked runs from Jan 7 to 9, 2021.

For tickets and more information, visit the Sydney Festival website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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