Left – Emma Dean. Cover – Alexis Fishman. Photos – jamesthomasphoto.com
Cabaret in Melbourne is thriving and each year, the genre receives a very healthy boost with a dedicated festival. Celebrating its tenth anniversary and speaking in advance of the season opening, festival Ambassador Drew Downing said, “The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is the perfect place to trial original works and this year is no exception.” Following straight on and speaking of her own delight in sharing the role with Drew, Co-Ambassador Sally Bourne said “I was privileged to be one of the headline acts at the inaugural Melbourne Cabaret Festival 10 years ago and since then have watched the festival grow and continue to present some of the best talent around.”
Performing together to welcome guests at this year’s Gala Opening at festival home Chapel off Chapel, Bourne and Downing cruised through the evening’s appreciations with some jolly banter and clever video footage before introducing the selection of show snippets to tunefully tempt us to along to see more of what’s on offer.
First to market were Creatures of the Deep. Promising an evening of nautical nonsense and some serious sea sustainability messaging, this lively bunch look set to impress with their original songs and vocal dexterity.
Homage to someone who died so recently is testimony indeed to the impact of Amy Winehouse. New York actor and singer Alexis Fishman brings Amy Winehouse: Resurrected to this year’s festival in what is clearly so much more than just another a tribute act. With haunting and effortless vocals, this take on what Amy might currently be thinking is a clever and hilarious basis to ponder the loss of a huge talent.
Along with some seriously good vocals, Stephen Valeri claiming that he and John Farnham share a spiritual connection while listing their self-deprecating differences served as a fantastic invite to head along and see The Age of Stephen. Valeri boldly promises to cram many of Whispering Jack’s best-known numbers into his hour-long tribute show but without a ticket purchase, wouldn’t quite reveal how the bagpipes are set to feature.
If songs by Macy Gray, Backstreet Boys, Hanson, Richard Marx or Shania Twain sound like the kind of flashback you’d be happy to have then Drew Downing’s Ultimate 90s Playlist is the ticket you should be buying at this year’s festival. Backed by a seriously slick troupe of musos and some very impressive vocalists, self-confessed self-indulgent Drew Downing won’t be letting go of his ‘Cabaret Rockstar’ moniker any time soon.
What’s Love Got To Do With It is Nefertiti LaNegra’s nod to diva, drag, sex, race, gender and even Serena Williams. Strutting through the audience displaying enviable abs in radiant yellow is certainly one way to promote your show but when you sing this well as well, well, tickets deserve to be sold.
Once again, the line-up at this year’s festival is a reminder of the fortunate access we have here in Melbourne to an enormous pool of local and international talent. While one does not like to play favourites, in any show, there is of course always a highlight and last night that moment was the performance by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emma Dean. Promoting the show she has toured extensively to festivals both here and abroad, this taster of Broken Romantics: A Unicorn’s Quest for Love’ was simply mesmerising. Described as “a magical ‘mixed tape’ of broken romantic memories” and “a glittering explosion of music and mischief” The show was a smash at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will, no doubt be an enduring and much talked about show this year in Melbourne.
There really is an enormous amount on offer at Chapel off Chapel over the next few weeks, so between visits to the box office, park yourself in the venues warm and inviting surrounds and hang out Melbourne’s discerning and very very lucky cabaret enthusiasts.
2019 Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran VIC
Dates: 19 June 2019
Tickets: $75 – $55