Melbourne Cabaret Festival Opening Gala 2012
It’s finally here! Last Thursday Melbourne’s nexus of independent performance and art, Chapel off Chapel, played host to the Opening Gala of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. The night was hosted by comedian/musician/actor Sammy J and showcased seven of the Festival’s acts who performed snippets of their shows to a packed audience.
Sammy J got things going, and was fantastic throughout the night, mixing a bit of stand-up with his signature comedy tunes on the piano. After a brief musing on who of us in the room would end up the ‘winner’ (and be the last one left alive) he handed over to the ARIA award winning Sheilas of the ’70s to kick the Festival off with a rendition of what else, but ‘Life is a Cabaret’.
A slight change of pace next as West End veterans Chuck Mallet and John Muirhead treated us to a glimpse of their show, ‘Brecht, Bilbao and Beyond’. Now I’m the first to admit, my knowledge of Brecht is limited to say the least, but I’m told by those in the know, that Mallet and Muirhead’s retelling of the poet and theatre legend’s life is insightful and witty, and I see no reason to doubt that. Having spent an afternoon on a PR shoot with the pair I can tell you they are fascinating enough in themselves to warrant a trip to their show.
Megan Shorey’s Undies followed, the award winning playwright and songwriter delivering cheeky cabaret comedy, set to some damn catchy melodies on the piano. Keeping the keys warm, Anthony Costanzo was next in the hot seat singing a couple of his own tunes, before being joined by Belinda Allchin – who’s seriously impressive voice took us through to the interval.
Sammy J’s tales of cruise ship job offers and his resulting ‘Keep It Clean / The Fuck Song’ welcomed back the audience who were now buzzing to get into the second act. Everyone’s favourite mister sister from the Cabaret Festival Launch Party, Candice McQueen was back with her man Robert Tripolino for a ripper of a set that had the crowd cheering and laughing in equal measure.
Emma Dean and Jack Diefenbach were popular soloists, but since they combined to form Geppetto they’ve been making waves, and it’s easy to see why. Technical difficulties on the night knocked out their electric keyboard (an episode Sammy J narrated expertly, managing to weave in a complete retelling of Robin Hood in about 2 minutes) but the duo continued unfazed. Their layered, textural music and sense of theatre enthralling the crowd.
Finishing proceedings with a bang were The Fabulous Singlettes, three women who between them have performed in just about every musical ever and shared the stage with the likes of Sinatra and Bassey. They force fed marshmallows to the audience and belted out classic songs that nearly had people dancing in the aisles.
Thursday night in Melbourne was the kind of event that I love photographing, an eye-opening evening, a showcase of music, comedy and theatre encompassing the range and versatility of performance that is cabaret. Here’s to the next ten nights.