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




Reported by Frank Ford

The final week of the 12th Adelaide Cabaret Festival ended on a brilliant high with new Artistic Director, Kate Ceberano delivering a record box office with 40,000 ticket sales, a 10 per cent increase on last year.

With 30 sold-out performances, Kate said she was "humbled by the obvious love South Australians and visitors shared for the cabaret genre. Adelaide truly is the best place to play host to the world's grandest cabaret festival".

This year's festival featured 110 international artists from the USA, UK, Canada, France and Ireland, alongside 193 Australian performers. There were 143 performances of 47 different cabaret shows, spanning rock, pop, blues, jazz, comedy and illusionist acts.

Highlights included The Supremes singer Mary Wilson's tribute to Lena Horne, Bernadette Robinson's theatre work - Songs for Nobodies, - and solo shows by Broadway stars Ben Vereen, Eden Espinosa and Disney "princess" Lea Salonga.

"We honestly couldn't have asked for better audiences," Kate Ceberano said, adding

"Their passionate participation in connecting with these talented artists and willingness to embark on a united journey through song, dance, comedy, music and illusion was a magical experience to witness."

There was a wonderful atmosphere throughout the Festival as Kate warmly greeted patrons and joined in with the performers in the late night Backstage Club entertainment. Her charming presence pervaded the Festival Centre creating a warm and welcoming ambience as she encouraged patrons to let their hair down and be part of the fun.

My viewings of the fabulous final week blasted off with Ziggy - The Songs of David Bowie. A full-blown 'rock and roll' cabaret tribute show featuring the glittering "Aussie Bowie" Jeff Duff, sporting gold angel wings sprouting from a silver jump suit. Supported by excellent singers, Steve Balbi and Brydon Stace they ripped through the Bowie repertoire delivering formidable versions of Wild in the Wind, Life on Mars and Under Pressure. Backed by a super band, led by Phil Ceberano, it was a ripper of a show, with the audience dancing in the aisles giving it a rock concert reception.

In stark contrast Kane Alexander offered us a suave, romantic collection of songs as he described his journey from a tiny, remote Australian town to his success as a cabaret singer in New York. His warmth, charm and professionalism relaxed the audience into respectful listeners as he sang through his favourites from performances in musicals and songs he loves. It was pure pleasure to hear his renditions of It's Been a Long, Long Time from Hello Dolly, This Is Nearly Mine from South Pacific and finishing a delightful evening of cabaret with a sprightly Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone.

Tim Freedman's Fireside Chat was just that, a warm, intimate and engaging insight into the music of this multi-gold and platinum album singer song-writer. Performing solo on a grand Steinway he talked us through his loves, life and songs which intermingled inseparably together. His openness and honesty about his successes and failings are as touching as the poetry of his lyrics. Back When We Were Beautiful, Blow Up The Pokies and Aphrodisiac drew rapturous applause from the many fans present. He gave us a heart and soul cabaret show.

In the final weekend of the Festival three big stars shone brightly Sherie Rene Scott, Lenny Henry and Ben Vereen. All of them lived up to their formidable reputations.

Broadway Star Sherie Rene Scott fascinated us with her bizarre, witty storytelling demonstrating she is a very original comedienne as well as a fabulous chanteuse. I still chuckle at how she managed to mix tales of vegetarianism, opposable thumbs, Paul McCartney and the Dalai Lama's penchant to copycat her. Equally her song mix is eclectic, covering a wide range, such as music by David Byrne, Harold Arlen, Paul McCartney and Jason Robert Brown. All of the songs were delivered with superb emotional content and meaning. With her charming stage presence and clever, intelligent presentation we would have followed her journey anywhere.

Famed British comedian Lenny Henry's one man show, Cradle to Rave, is a tour de force of crackling jokes about the thing he loves most: music. Even Shakespeare takes second place, as when recently, while playing Othello he missed his cue because he was listening to hip hop. He grew up thinking Elvis was a relative because there were so many pictures of him around the house. This master comedian used his love of music as a hook upon which to hang his routines, jokes and storytelling. Often the musical connection was obtuse to say the least, as with his brilliant mimicking and impressions of various characters such as Winston Churchill rocking to AC/DC. He had the clever ability to manipulate the audience of 2,000 people into risque territory and after achieving a burst of laughter, asked "too far?". His successful engagement and intimacy with the audience drew them to their feet in joyful applause.

Steppin Out with Ben Vereen was the ultimate star show of the last weekend of the Festival. Vividly I recalled my awe at seeing Ben Vereen in Pippin on Broadway in the 1970's. He magically danced the Bob Fosse choreography and mesmerised the audience with his consummate skill as a song and dance man. Now after all those years, a crippling car accident and heart attack, he can still inspire and entertain us with his indomitable spirit, vivaciousness and love of life. Video clips of TV appearances added to the story of his life in show business. Backed by a splendid twelve piece band he sang songs from shows he had starred in, such as Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar as well as refreshing interpretations of standards like That Ol' Black Magic and Over The Rainbow accompanied by his son on skin drum. This was Vereen's first appearance in Australia. He delighted and charmed the audience, as they got to know this great entertainer and Broadway legend and they responded with a standing ovation.

The 12th Adelaide Cabaret Festival finished on a high note. With many sold out shows and the biggest box office yet, with over 40,000 tickets sold plus hundreds of patrons enjoying the free entertainment at the Backstage Club every night. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival continues to be innovative and to grow its national and international reputation. It is the world leader in cabaret festivals and in the promotion of the art of cabaret. Artistic Director Kate Ceberano also invited outstanding artists from different genres, from Rock to Pop to try their hand at cabaret. This year's Festival was a brilliant showcase of creative talent, with over 18 singer song-writers presenting their work.

Artistic Director Kate Ceberano and Executive Producer Torben Brookman have produced a fantastic Festival and we look forward to more delights and surprises next year.

Frank Ford

Full details of the program on

Back to 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival Reports Index



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