Winter is undeniably cabaret season in Australia – the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has just enjoyed an incredibly successful 13th annual program, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival is about to kick off and Sydney is currently in the thick of Slide’s Cabaret Festival.
Cabaret, as an art form, emerged as a creature of the night and has been evolving ever since. Originally, the term referred to any establishment which served alcoholic beverages and the art of ‘Cabaret’ grew out of the performances given by artists (think Debussy and Satie) in intimate venues like Le Chat Noir in Paris, where audience members could sit, drink in hand, and listen to the development of their compositions. From there, the art form spread across Europe and into America and became an outlet for political satire, liberation and the public debauchery that the film Cabaret touches on.
But really, the golden rule of cabaret is: there are no rules.
Redefining itself over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st century, Cabaret has known many forms and this weekend, the evolution of Cabaret develops further still, with an initiative developed by Australian playwright, director and producer Melvyn Morrow.
Cabaret in The Day
One of the most wonderful things about working at AussieTheatre is the plethora of incredible people I have the pleasure of engaging with on a daily basis. Recently I had the chance to speak with Melvyn Morrow (father of The Chaser’s Julian Morrow and renowned Australian playwright) about his latest project – Cabaret In The Day – and I am excited to share this new idea with you.
For audience members, Cabaret as a thriving, night-time, city activity often brings with it substantial cost – food, drink and parking markups are sky high and that’s before the price of your ticket.
Morrow’s idea is what he describes as “first class entertainment for economy class price” – a feast of cabaret with a difference at Mosman Art Gallery: Cabaret in the Day.
From Sunday 30 June until the beginning of September, winter Cabaret in Sydney will take on this new day-time format, giving patrons a more flexible and comfortable cabaret experience.
“I thought, if we had it on Sunday afternoon in winter at 3 o’clock, you’d be home by five for a G&T chaser, and you’ve seen a show for $25 that you would have paid $45 in town for”, Morrow told me with glee.
“What better way to spend a winter afternoon than top class cabaret where there’s lots of free parking and the ticket price is reasonable?”
Thanks to John Cheeseman – Director of the Mosman Art Gallery – whom Morrow hails as being one of the most accommodating collaborators of all time (“if you go to him with ideas his whole disposition is ‘how can I say yes'”), Cabaret In The Day kicks off with a bang this weekend with the hope to create a model for other venues in Sydney and around the country.
“This may be an insight into how we can get more cabaret artists to work in venues and get much bigger audiences. We will do this as a trial and if it works, we will spread the word. If the audience is there, all you’ve got to do is adapt and our artists are going to get a lot more exposure”, Morrow explained.
So what’s in store for the Cabaret In The Day audience this winter?
“We’re presenting four original shows, three nostalgic valentines and one cheeky salute to Broadway, all with major performers”, said Morrow, who cut his satiric teeth in the sixties writing songs and sketches for Gordon Chater and Jill Perryman and for the now legendary The Mavis Bramston Show.
The first show on June 30 brings G&S to the masses. Christopher Hamilton will feature as George Grossmith in A Song To Sing O – a show which Morrow originally directed at the Savoy Theatre on London’s West End.
“It’s the very model of a minor major musical”, said Morrow, who also penned the piece, “and a feast of fabulously funny Gilbert and Sullivan songs with the added joy of half a dozen terrific Grossmith comic classics.”
Two weeks later, the second show features Australian Opera star Christine Douglas in Our Glad; Memories of Gladys Moncrieff, Australia’s sweetheart of song. Douglas will be joined by the multi-talented accompanist and baritone, Glenn Amer, to recreate a 1940s Bundles For Britain concert in which Our Glad sings all her big operetta and musical hits including Vilia, The Merry Widow Waltz, We’ll Gather Lilacs, Tea For Two, a host of others and, of course, Love Will Find A Way.
Julian Kuo, a wonderful young music theatre performer will bring his 2011 Sydney Fringe darling Broadway Bard to the afternoon cabaret stage. The show’s cheeky premise is that if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing musicals, and so many of his famous characters suddenly find themselves belting out Broadway hits. The show is accompanied by Australia’s hottest new musical director, Mark Chamberlain.
The final show in Cabaret in the Day’s inaugural season is Mr Showmanship himself – Glenn Amer. Romance! ROMANCE! is a journey through the nostalgic world of musical romance. With the fingers of Liberace and the voice of Mario Lanza, Amer plays and sings items from Bach to Bacharach, from The Warsaw Concerto to I’m In Love With Vienna.
“I’ve heard a couple of people in my life who play a piano like a symphony orchestra, and Glenn Amer is one of them”, Morrow quipped.
One thing is for sure: Sunday afternoons this winter will be warm and welcoming at Mosman Art Gallery.