It’s the splash of an opening that brings out all the bling in Adelaide. The Variety Gala Performance is the tasting plate of what is to come, a variety show that pits opera against stand-up and all the kooky and crazy in between.
Despite running 45 minutes over time and being packed with almost every opening weekend act, this year’s Variety Gala felt far more curated and creatively directed than previous years, never feeling long or tired. Hostess with the mostess, Meow Meow set the tone straight away with a hilarious opening act showing off her chops as a consummate and much-loved cabaret performer that held true for the 2+ hour show.
You know it’s going to be a star-studded night when Hugh Sheridan crops up as an audience plant for a short “bit” and joins the Tap Pack for some rockette style back-up dancing… and we were off!
Checking out the acts is a big part of the night and already some new highlights should be added to the hot list. Stand outs included My Vagabond Boat (Mitchell Butell, Nigel Ubrihien & Gillian Cosgriff collaborating on what looks like a fun and slick act) and Reuben Kaye who will be a whirlwind powerhouse at the Backstage Club, as well as Marney McQueen in Hair to the Throne as a Russian waxer to the stars (she’s a little like the female version of Adelaide’s Hans, with a similar tone and wit to our much-loved German boy wonder).
Of course with Barry Humphries as Artistic Director this year, there were plenty of digs at arts funding cuts and apologies for using the “F-word” on stage for cheap laughs. Audiences were rewarded with a guest appearance of the Dame herself, clutching to Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Greta Bradman like your grandma after she’s had a couple of sherries. But the audience were on their feet with adoration, demonstrating the sheer value these artists have on attendances at what is now the biggest cabaret festival in the world!
Amongst the cabaret fare, a couple of acts seem out-of-place and the definition of “cabaret” once again is stretched (the jury is out on Paris Combo and Karrin Allyson). Adam Hills however, (very much a standup comic) freely admits his lack of musicality and still managed to get an audience of 2,000+ singing the national anthem to the tune of Working Class Man . . . so maybe we all have a little cabaret in us?
This year’s Festival seems much less commercial than recent years. There are less movie stars, less Broadway divas and less Musical Theatre. Could this be the first year in ages that we won’t hear Defying Gravity being belted out by every second act!? It’s refreshing and interesting, which also makes it exciting. Bring on the Festival!