Left - Natalie Cole (photo - Kwaku Alston). Cover - Caroline O'Connor
Already celebrating its tenth year, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival kicked off with a sold out Variety Gala Performance - a successful initiative from last year.
The aim of this performance is to give patrons a taste of what the festival is about, not just highlights. This is great marketing as it provides a showcase for many talented performers who may not be well known and may not easily capture an audience member's attention.
Showman Todd McKenney took on the role of Master of Ceremonies with ease, and proved himself capable, likeable and skilled, with or without a script.
The star-studded lineup of performers began with Trevor Ashley's special tribute as Liza [on an E], quickly followed by Ennio Marchetto, aptly described as a one-man living cartoon. Ennio's remarkable quick-change creations inluded Kylie, Beyonce, Lady Gaga (and her 'bits') and even a gospel choir.
Local up-coming talent was ably represented by the co-winners of Sydney's Annual Cabaret Showcase, Elizabeth Cousemacker and Tom Sharah, and Marika Aubrey - all confident singers. Marika, especially, gave a vocally strong rendition of Meadowlark (from The Baker's Wife).
Not to be outdone by the thinking woman's heart-throb, jazz musician and very funny Earl Okin, American piano man Mark Nadler proved to be a serious upstager with his high-energy song/dance/comedy routine. His show Broadway Hootenanny is a free event in the Piano Bar throughout the festival.
Adelaide's Raymond Crowe combined magic and hilarity while the Gala showed us that with iOTA's Smoke and Mirrors, cabaret does indeed cover a wide spectrum.
The grand divas of the night were led by Broadway legend Donna McKechnie, the Tony Award winning Cassie in the original cast of A Chorus Line. Performing an excerpt from her auto-biographical My Musical Comedy Life, she proved herself stylish and classy.
The stunning Caroline O'Connor stepped onstage and gave a powerful interpretation of There Was A Boy/Roxanne, inspired by Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.
The Festival's special guest, Natalie Cole completed the diva quotient with L-O-V-E to rapturous applause.
All that was left was for Todd McKenney and the Tap Gals to perform a sensational Everything Old is New Again to leave to audience wanting a whole lot more.
Mention should be made of the fine team of musicians throughout the evening and Wayne Harrison's direction in bringing it all together.
This year's Cabaret Festival features over 120 performances of some 46 shows across 16 nights, making it the largest cabaret festival anywhere.
The Variety Gala Performance was filmed by Foxtel and will be screened on the Bio Channel in the next week.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival presents
Variety Gala Performance
Directed by Wayne Harrison
Venue: Festival Theatre
Date/Time: 7.30pm, 11 June, 2010