Image – Claudio Raschella
What a treasure Ali McGregor is and sorry we are that this is the end of her time as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The opening night at the Festival Theatre gave the packed audience a tasty sampling of what’s on offer and it promises to be a feast of very good artistic dishes of variety and delight. Ali McGregor appeared utterly at her ease in her several roles in this show. The weight of the whole event which runs until the 23 June is on her shoulders, she compered the opening show, performed in it and is one of the Cabaret performers when she does her show about Yma Sumac from the 14–16 June. With glistening ever moving and changing panels of glittering lights in ruby red, green, purple, blue, black, gold, silver and bright red behind them, the Governor of South Australia, Adelaide’s Mayor and a packed audience in front of her, she did the job with admirable aplomb, good looks, a fine voice and outstanding talent.
After Welcome to Country with Jack Buskskin, the audience was treated to the Modern Maori Quartet in fine voice, a good guitarist and a touch of the haka. “Po Atarau,” (Now is the Hour) was very warmly received. The ever so light-of-foot Todd McKenney sang a jazzed up version of “Delta Dawn” and later on Nancye Hayes sang “I am my own best friend”in her hearty, perfect diction way. Antoinette Halloran gave her very cheeky version of part of “Fifty Shades of Grey” with words from chapter 7 to the music of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” amazing some of the audience at what a respectable opera singer gets up to. Janis Joplin and “Maybe” was resuscitated by Amber Martin in red leggings, red suspenders and red high heeled shoes with a very fair interpretation of Janis on a high. Matt Gilbertson (shades of Rocky Horror) strutted his camp stuff from “Hans & Lucky Seven’s Loveboat” in a too small silver suit. Silver-haired Mark Holden in a circus master jacket was in good voice for the song he co-wrote “Shine”. Matthew Floyd Jones as Richard Carpenter and his very funny version of “Close to You” was a hit. Christina Bianco being, as she said, like the three Musketeers, “Me, Myself and Everyone Else” turned the song “Cabaret” into a veritable showcase for, among others, Liza Minnelli and her mum, Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Celine Dion and most amusingly, Julie Andrews.
And then there was Ali McGregor transformed into Peruvian Yma Sumac, she of the astonishing vocal range. From the 50s on she was very popular indeed and Ali showed that she is very capable of representing that amazing woman. Frodo, from The Glorious Misfits, had the audience breathless as he contorted his body to accommodate several tin cans that got smaller and smaller. Ouch! Em Rusciano did stand-up about her youthful passion for Johnny Farnham in a leopard skin dress and turban (her, not Johnny) and then broke into song in a surprisingly strong and tuneful voice. It was “A Touch of Paradise” accompanied by lights from hundreds of audience mobile phones fished out of handbags and pockets to which they had been banned. Ali sang “I am woman” and then introduced the winner of the Festival’s Icon Award, David Bates, owner of the Famous Spiegeltent before the colourful finale.
It was indeed a splendid introduction to some performers in the Festival. There is much to go yet and the splendid Adelaide Cabaret Festival programme tells all. The show was directed by Zac Tyler, the Musical Director of the excellent Variety Gala Musicians was Michael Tyack and the Designer Wendy Todd.
2018 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Director Zac Tyler
Venue: Festival Theatre | Adelaide Festival Centre SA
Dates: 8 June 2018
The 2018 Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs 8–23 June 2018