Left – Mary Wilson
2012’s Cabaret Festival Artistic Director Kate Ceberano co-hosted this highly anticipated event supported by Mark Nadler. Her finesse and style won the hearts of the audience immediately while Nadler effortlessly managed to bring the tone down several notches in a classic ying and yang sort of way by airing his much loved New York vernacular; he was duly adored by the audience in doing so. Together they were a suitably impressive balance of shtick and class.
The Variety Gala is an appetizer before the grand buffet on offer now until the 23rd of June and this year it’s quite an eclectic band of gypsies descending upon Adelaide. The recently unearthed magician Cosentino made a cameo appearance during the hosts’ opening song ‘World of Imagination’ and literally stunned the audience with a gravity defying show of magic. This was followed by Eddie Perfect stripping down to disclose his hilariously diminutive manhood wrapped in Lycra as he bravely sang about bicyclists saving the planet, very funny.
Some of the most remarkable acts that featured in the evening’s program were Zoë Keating playing cello and accompanying herself with live loops, Justin Burford delivering himself in the guise of Kurt Cobain and rocking the socks off the crowd, Melbourne’s Boylesque filling the Festival Theatre stage with lads in jock straps and hair gel performing remarkable athletics along with an enormous drag queen who mimed with such precision it was difficult to comprehend that she wasn’t actually Edith Piaf reincarnate. All of these acts were a little different to the parade of outstanding women who shared their exceptional talents in a more traditional way.
The aforementioned women were nothing to scoff at. The likes of Eden Espinosa, Angela Harding, Lea Salonga and Clare Bowditch were each deliciously impressive as they took their individual turns in the spotlight but then there was more. Debra Byrne gave a most heartfelt performance of ‘Send In The Clowns’ with such grace and emotional transparency it was every bit as stunning as Cosentino making his assistant float in mid air.
For me, and probably everyone else in the packed audience there was a different sort of magical act that appeared in this show, something rare you don’t get to see very much anymore. One singer brought the house down. She sent shivers around the venue with her song because here and there through her rendering of ‘Stormy Weather’ the legendary Mary Wilson sang off mic. That’s correct ladies and gentleman, she sang unamplified by technology, only a few key phrases, but glory be to the heavens Mary Wilson’s luxuriously exquisite voice rang ‘like a bell’ as they say, and peeled through the cavernous Festival Theatre auditorium so clearly, so beautifully, it brought tears to the eyes.
This was such a rare moment of true magic where the actual vibration of her voice instantaneously resonated against each of our eardrums. Had we been in an intimate cabaret room, a lounge or a piano bar this wouldn’t have been such a momentous occasion, however we were in a vast space. I was twelve rows back and I was wrapped in the joy of her spirit.
I cannot adequately describe how impressive and emotionally potent this simple act was other that say it was truly divine.
On so many levels we accept the brilliance of singers as they are delivered to us through the sound system, and I don’t mean to undermine or chastise any of the other singers who delivered their world class performances in this evening of solid entertainment, but I do mean to give pause, and celebrate the completely unexpected and visceral magic, what I believe to be true magic, when an individual can fill a space with their song, sans any sound mixing or amplification, and sound just as authentic, just as beautiful, just as true to life as they do when they’re on the mic.
Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes stripped of anything bar the piano accompaniment gave of herself so completely she brought home the core of why cabaret is so loved. She displayed her talent in such a way as there could be no questioning it’s greatness; I was, and I remain flabbergasted and richly impressed.
The whole event was terrific, Kate Ceberano and her team should feel secure that they have delivered what looks to be a really enjoyable Festival, and more than anything Mary Wilson should promptly be handed the key to the city because tonight she demonstrated why any of us bother with live performance. Wilson delivered one of those moments where you simply had to be there in order to fully understand the power of a person singing with such passion and sheer expertise that it knows no bounds.
2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Variety Gala Performance
Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide
Dates: Jun 8 2012