last updated
Tuesday, 30-Sep-2014 09:11:19 EDT




Reported by Frank Ford

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival, June 8th through 23rd, celebrates its 12th year with new Artistic Director, award-winning singer songwriter, the much loved and respected, Kate Ceberano. The first weekend of the Festival was a huge success with most of the 38 performances sold out. Kate's enthusiasm and adventurous programming is already paying off.

"Explore the extraordinary" has been Kate's catch-cry. "Discover the newest cabaret talent along with a selection of the world's leading singer/songwriters, living legends and icons and some old favourites. We've just about covered all cabaret bases, from comedy, satire, contemporary, rock, pop, blues, soul, swing, gypsy jazz, the Broadway classics, whimsical numbers and, most importantly, the artists who will take you on their own personal journeys."

Festival favourites like Mark Nadler and Kim Smith return other names on the bill include Lea Salonga, the singer and actress best known for her Tony Award-winning role in Miss Saigon and as the voice of Princess Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin, Eden Espinosa, UK comedian and actor Lenny Henry, and legendary Broadway performer Ben Vereen, who will be backed by a 12-piece band in his show Steppin' Out with Ben.

"I hope it will corrupt, provoke and thrill audiences and encourage show-goers to be wild and fabulous," says Ceberano.
The 2012 program features 110 international artists from the US, UK, Canada, France and Ireland, as well as the best from Australia with 194 Australian artists - 110 of whom are South Australian performers. And it will showcase eight world premieres and seven Australian premieres as well as 20 Adelaide premieres.
The Festival's attendances have more than doubled since its inception in 2001. Under previous artistic director David Campbell, the 2011 Cabaret Festival broke all previous box office records, achieving an estimated 95,000 attendances.

Running concurrently in June is the Cabaret Fringe in its fifth year with over 50 shows in venues around Adelaide. Cabaret is alive and doing very well in Adelaide!

The first weekend 8-10 June was chock full of goodies and this is an overview of the shows I managed to see.

The Festival opened with the ever popular Gala which is always booked out months in advance. In a glittering gown, the glamorous Kate Ceberano co-hosted the evening with the amazing entertainer Mark Nadler. In a mystical setting Kate sang Come with Me into a World of Imagination backed by a screened orchestra while Illusionist Cosentino did magical things. It was truly a delightfully beguiling opening.

Then followed a taste of the diverse collection of cabaret treats offered in the Festival. Singer song-writer, comedian Eddie Perfect, ruthlessly satirised self-righteous "fitness freaks", while dressed in ball hugging, arse pinching, lycra cyclist shorts. Lea Salonga's spellbinding voice wowed the audience. Eden Espinosa added another Broadway touch as she sang from Wicked. Kim Smith captured us with his enchanting, weird mystique as he sang from his show Misfit. Mary Wilson of The Supremes fame mesmerised the audience with her rendition of Stormy Weather. The Gala 2012 was indeed a glamorous occasion and a harbinger of the joys to come.

The first big star of the Opening weekend sent The Advertiser (11 June 2012) reviewer Tessa Akerman into raptures: "With her opening song from West Side Story, Phillipine star Lea Salonga gave a preview of the night's entertainment to come: "Something's coming, something good."

With a repertoire ranging from Broadway to Disney, every song had someone clapping and cheering at the first few bars.

She has the voice of a princess, or two Disney princesses (Jasmine from Aladdin and the title character from Mulan), and all of this reviewer's expectations were met, then surpassed as fellow audience member Ian was invited on stage for A Whole New World.

For the West End and Broadway fans of Salonga, her performances from Les Mis and Miss Saigon, including On My Own, were a sign that some things only improve with age and experience.

For a crowd of 2000, it felt like a private party with Salonga explaining her song choices and letting us into her world of flying carpets and the Royal Albert Hall. She didn't just Catch the Moon, she caught our hearts."

Kim Smith, a young Australian, resident in New York, returned to the Festival with his new cabaret, Misfit. Kim has special mystique which creates an enchanting atmosphere. He mesmerises the audience flirting outrageously with them and shamelessly manipulating them. Kim has captured the darker side of the Weimar Berlin cabaret style with his joker-like sardonic smile, his humour keeps us engaged. He dangerously mixes classics like Weill's brilliantly delivered Surabaya Jonny and My Ship with Bjork's Bachelorette and a shocking wild erotic version of Olivia's Physical. Kim's unique brand of cabaret again proved to be a hit with the audiences.

In the style of European Cabaret acts the Festival has included illusionist and magician, Cosentino. He has the striking stage presence of a rock star rather than the traditional top hat and cloak magician. He links his tricks with sharp, sexy Michael Jackson flashy dance routines. His tricks range from the spectacular to intimate playing card slight of hands with an audience member videoed onto a large screen. The packed house ate up his jazzy, contemporary magic entertainment.

Songs for Nobodies, is a one woman show in which ordinary women accidently come in contact with great singers of the 20th century such as Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas. Bernadette Robinson is a consummate artist. Her acting skills shone as she deftly portrayed each "nobody" character not only capturing their idiosyncrasies but also the whole milieu of their existence. Robinson magically transforms herself and her accents from an Irish maid to a Kansas City cleaner, to an English country librarian and more. The writing by Australian Joanna Murray-Smith was masterful as she engaged us in each character's humdrum life and then exultation at their brush with fame. Her channelling of the famous singers is breathtakingly accurate and beautiful. Robinson's performance is extraordinary. Songs for Nobodies is a magnificently constructed cabaret that should tour the world.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival embraces all forms of cabaret and encourages exploration of the genre aiming to re-invent cabaret for the 21st century. Another exploration of the genre like Songs for Nobodies is by author and cabaret scholar James Gavin who has constructed a paean to the life and music of the fabulous Lena Horne. James Gavin relates from his biography of Lena, the moving story of this star singer and black activist. Slides and film clips amplify the points Gavin is making about Lena's triumphs and turbulent life, while Mary Wilson of The Supremes fame sings some of Lena's most famous songs. Mary, in a fabulous collection of glittering gowns, dazzled the audience with her star quality especially her finale of Stormy Weather which was deeply moving and meaningful. Supported by a fine jazz trio led by Californian Larry Dunlop on piano, gave a classy accompaniment.

The Backstage Cabaret Festival Club is free for ticket holders of shows of the day, and is a huge success. Emcee extraordinaire Mark Nadler returns with his mad, bad and dangerous Broadway Hootenanny playing throughout the Festival. His guest performers included many of the stars from the opening weekend including Mary Wilson, Kate Ceberano, Kim Smith, Eddie Perfect, Eden Espinosa and Lea Salonga joined in the fun. Added to this was Boylesque, the wild amazing male dance troupe that was a brilliant chorus line of rippled bodies, a male equivalent of the glamorous girls of Paris' Crazy Horse cabaret. The atmosphere in the club was intoxicating and packed to the rafters with a wild enthusiastic crowd every night.

The Cabaret Festival took off like a rocket in the first weekend. New artistic director Kate Ceberano and executive produce Torben Brookman have obviously got the recipe right, for a brilliant cabaret festival.

Frank Ford

Full details of the program on

Back to 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival Reports Index



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