last updated
Wednesday, 01-Jan-14 08:33:51 EST


JAN 31 AT THE DUPLEX


JAN 31 AT THE DUPLEX


THE 2012 ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL
SECOND REPORT

Reported by Frank Ford

The First Week of the Festival created such a buzz that the second week (June 20-24) had the enthusiastic crowds scurrying between the theatres at The Festival Centre. The late night Backstage Festival Club raged with the incomparable Mark Nadler and his Hootenanny. This is Mark's fifth visit to the Festival and without doubt 'the darling' of Festival enthusiasts. His Hootenanny has become a Festival legend as this multi-talented entertainer whips up a thrilling evening of 'Anything Goes'. Other Festival artists willingly join in the fun; singing and engaging in a ride on the wild side.

Mark's own cabaret show I'm a Stranger Here Myself, the title of a Kurt Weill song, along with other songs from the Weimar period reveal the sensitive and serious side of this consummate artist. He paints a vivid picture of the era through the medium of the darker side of Kabarett. He identifies with the 'outsiders' persecuted by the Nazis, particularly homosexuals, Jews and immigrants. He deftly weaves an intimate history through song and story to recreate the reality and consequences of those fearful times. Nadler, a master craftsman, constructed a poignant, beautiful piece of art, appealing to and touching, the core of our humanity.

A glittering Red Riding Hood wound her way through the audience. It was the fabulous Irish chanteuse Camille O'Sullivan who warns the audience to be prepared for something different "and for those who haven't seen me before, good luck". This mischievous leprechaun spins some weird and wonderful fairy tales. Surrounded by a paraphilia of glowing rabbits, a horse's head and dresses floating overhead, the stage is set for this mysterious journey. She catches us by surprise as she takes us to strange, intriguing places as she switches from songs of passion, to sweetness, to raging rock. Sometimes in the same song, in a flash she changes from the sexy chanteuse of her former self we saw in 2006, into a screaming banshee aka Janis Joplin. Equally her songs cover a wide range from a stunning interpretation of Brel's In the Port of Amsterdam to Nick Cave's The Ship Song along with some Bowie and Waits. It was a mesmerising performance full of surprises that shocked the audience and brought them to their feet.

Eden Espinosa said "To get it out of the way", opened with her hit song Defying Gravity from Wicked in which she starred on Broadway. She hit those "death defying" notes at the climax of the song with great aplomb. Eden did return to Wicked several times, each time revealing more of her stunning vocal range. Eden's fine musical theatre credentials were evident in her songs from Rent, Brooklyn and Sweeney Todd in which she finally upped the tempo to a rock number. Her dramatic and moving song from Next to Normal was outstanding. Yet her patter between songs was inconsequential, like her attempts at an Australian accent. However her incredible voice and her original interpretations made for an entertaining evening.

The Suitcase Royale, a trio of madcap comedian musicians, send-up old time film noir horror murder-mystery, in The Ballad of Backbone Joe. It's a madcap hilarious romp, drawing on old radio melodrama, shadow play, slapstick Keystone Cops routines, puppetry and anything else that comes to hand. With great dexterity they swap character roles and instruments at breakneck speed while managing to heighten the dramatic action with R & B and swamp rock music. It was hilarious fun.

Debra Byrne is an Australian icon, since her days in Young Talent Time in the 1970's and her leading roles in many hit musicals, has now embraced cabaret. Her life experience is rich in drama and beautifully referenced in her show without being maudlin or sentimental. Her mature voice suited well the jazzy bluesy opening numbers which segued into With One Look from her starring role in Sunset Boulevard. Other hits followed from Les Mis, Cats, Mary Poppins and Jerry's Girls. The ending of her show was played out against a tinkling piano background of Satie's Gymnopedie as she thanks God for helping her through her problems. It was so moving and finished with a heart-felt Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now.

Co-incidentally Eric Satie had a show all of his own in the Festival called the Velvet Gentleman. This odd gentleman had 12 identical grey velvet suits and numerous other life style eccentricities which form the basis of the story line. He composed popular songs as well as classical music. Satie is one of the fathers of French cabaret music which he enjoyed sharing with his drinking mates Debussy, Picasso and Cocteau. Cheryl Pickering sang beautifully in French some of his best known cabaret songs. The show added another interesting dimension to the Cabaret Festival.

Swing Time with the Andrew Sisters was incredibly popular and all shows sold out well ahead of time. It was surprised to see so many younger people in the audience. The punters were not disappointed. The gorgeous girls had neat uniforms complete with peaked caps. They looked sharp and they played smart, with slick choreography showing off their shapely bodies. The trio sang all the old favourites like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and interspersed the songs with old radio singing-commercials and even listener letters. It was a neat fun show.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival encourages exploration and experimentation of the cabaret genre. Award winning singer Katie Noonan in her new show Love-Song-Circus has created a dynamic fusion of a song-cycle and circus. She was inspired by stories of early Australia's convict women, their loves, courage and stamina. Noonan, accompanied by a small ensemble, plays and sings her original songs recounting the bravery of these women. Behind Noonan, and softly lit, three women aerialists at times suspended on giant ribbons, physically illuminate the theme of the convict women's struggle and the inventiveness of their survival. Noonan draws on Irish tunes and classical chamber music of the period to produce a rich tapestry of musical and visual images. In further development perhaps more Irish jig-type music could add some relief to the sombre mood. Noonan seated at the piano needs to free herself to connect more directly with the audience in cabaret style. Love-Song-Circus was a beautiful, imaginative and original new work.

I managed to see the above performances from the many shows on offer. The quality, variety and new original works made for an exciting Second Week of the Festival and many shows sold out. Anticipation for the final week is building with performances yet to come from stars Ben Vereen, Lenny Henry and Sherie Rene.

Frank Ford

Full details of the program on http://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com/




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