If there is to be a single headlining act at this year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival, it should be Eden Espinosa. The American music theatre star, best known for her roles in Wicked, Rent and Brooklyn, makes her Australian debut at the Festival.
Espinosa's self titled show is an intimate solo affair, showcasing the songs from her yet to be recorded debut album. Predominantly pieces from contemporary music theatre shows, many of the most familiar songs are given a new spin with fresh and exciting arrangements.
Espinosa begins the set with a pop cover of Defying Gravity, giving in to audience expectation and immediately ridding herself of the one song that haunts her. Accompanied only by piano, it is certainly an impressive opener, but is sadly marred by the vibrating snare drum which had not been turned off prior to the performance.
The opening showstopper did not shadow the remainder of the evening. Espinosa moved from the songs that defined her as an artist to those that shaped her as a person. The most spectacular performance is not from Espinosa's music theatre repertoire, but a relatively unknown soul chart. 'Mama', a poignant ballad by Beth Hart, truly showcases the extent of Espinosa's ability; from smoky, gentle tones to skin tingling vocal belting.
Besides pianist Joseph Abate (Espinosa's musical director and husband), the five piece band is entirely South Australian. Fondly called 'The Wallabies', the band's competence is deservedly raved about by Espinosa.
Espinosa's occasional interactions with the audience and humorous anecdotes are another display of her personable and laidback manner that makes the show so enjoyable. Unfortunately though, throughout the performance, Espinosa did encounter some quite noticeable intonation and pitching issues, perhaps as a result of her recent bout of illness.
Someone once said that cabaret should provide social or political commentary and Espinosa certainly does that. She commendably voices her opinion on the increasingly common issue of bullying amongst youths and, in an emotional encore, discusses mental illness and suicide.
Eden Espinosa's show is a spectacular night of entertainment, and a definite must-see at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: 13 - 15 June 2012
Tickets: $54.90 – $44.90
Bookings: 131 246