Photos – Sanjeev Singh
It really is something to walk out of an event genuinely uplifted by talent. The Opening Gala of the 2018 Melbourne Cabaret Festival was not only a fun and classy evening, it was an alluring glimpse into a fine programme canvassing some truly extraordinary performers.
Presiding over the evening not only as host but also as festival Artistic Director was the indefatigable and irreverent Queen of Cabaret, Miss Dolly Diamond. With no show of her own in this year's line-up, Dolly took full advantage of the spotlight and packed some additional vocal oomph into her opening of act numbers. Shifting deftly between maternal pride and witty torment of stage hands and audience members alike, Dolly, as ever, proved an exceptional first line of welcome.
Alyce Platt’s arrival on stage with her band gave promise of something insightful into a time we most probably know. That girl from ‘Sale of the Century’ really can sing and the coercive snippets from ‘Someone’s Daughter’ delivered real temptation to see and hear more.
An internationally recognised countertenor on the bill of this year’s festival serves well to expand definitions of cabaret. Max Riebl’s stage persona is as haunting as his voice. While the known knowns of countertenor repertoire promise to be there, sitting alongside the baroque will be Riebl’s unique interpretations of contemporary ballads. Memorable and stirring, this was an intriguing window into ‘Hard to Handel’ and an invitation to experience something that felt truly other.
‘He’s Every Woman’ is simply an opportunity for Justin Clausen and Jamie Burgess to have far too much fun. These boys who refuse not to be girls while still being boys in a fascinator tip to the ladies whose songbooks they’ve raided. Justin Clausen has an impossibly big voice for someone that slight and his capacity to meet and greet in heels that high will be worth the ticket price alone. A ‘Sentimental’ favourite of Dolly Diamond (I knew we’d get it out of her in the end,) this is a show worth missing your Zumba class not to miss.
The life of Beachboy Brian Wilson was often rockier than just Surf Rock. With a fourteen-piece band on stage with him in 'God Only Knows,’ cabaret Rockstar, Drew Downing is setting out to explore the complexities a man who gave a generation its soundtrack. This gala night taster felt fun in its serious look at a musical legend who made legendary music.
Travelling the width of the continent to grace our eastern stage are the winners of the two major awards from this year’s Perth Fringe World Festival. In ‘What Doesn’t Kill You (blah blah) Stronger,’ Erin Hutchinson and Tyler Jacob Jones offer an intriguing and mildly disgusting look at survival. An offer to visit feels virtually irresistible when the invitation is two ridiculously silly but abundantly clever songs. Delivered with incredible energy and exceptional dentistry, Melbourne I know will make these chaps feel very welcome indeed.
Right before our boots that were made for a certain purpose departed Chapel off Chapel, Danielle O’Malley channelled another 60’s pop icon. Placing us as a live television audience (Cola ad inclusive) ‘You Only Live Twice’ is a sexy and sassy tribute to Miss Nancy Sinatra. With big vocals, big hair and not so big skirts, O’Malley left no room for dispute, you are gonna be walked all over.
Showcasing what’s on offer is an essential part of any good marketing strategy and this Opening Gala created some genuine dilemmas of choice. So; here’s this reviewers suggestion. Pick a few favourites and then something unknown in addition because when the calibre is this high, any dip is going to be lucky.
2018 Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran VIC
Dates: 19 June 2018
Tickets: $65 – $49