Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cabaret Season 2011

Forgive me, audience; it's been several weeks since my last confession blog post1.

But I've been busy. Between rehearsals for the production of Macbeth that I'm in (which started in the first weekend of June), seeing shows in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Cabaret Fringe festival, and writing reviews – which sometimes takes more time than the show being reviewed – I just haven't had much time to sit down and put fingers to keys – at least not for anything that wasn't a review.

This year, thanks mostly to my having already spent a lot more on theatre already – courtesy of all the Fringe shows I'd seen, and two performances of Wicked – I couldn't really justify going to too many shows; I would, however, happily review as many as I was able to.

1I have no idea why I'm making Catholic-themed jokes. I do have some Irish-Catholic ancestry, though.

The Variety Gala

Despite it being, as they say, 'for one night only', we got tickets to the opening night show of the festival, the Variety Gala.

Review here.

Hilariously, I hadn't read all the way through the program before the lights went down, so at the end when Olivia Newton-John came on, I didn't expect it, and was actually quite shocked; watching Grease – one of my favourite movies as a kid – I never would have guessed one day I'd actually be seeing her perform live on stage from only a few metres away.

Daniel Boys: So Close

Daniel Boys had performed in the Gala, and I hadn't been that impressed with him – but when it came to his own show, in a much more intimate venue (the Banquet Room at the Festival Centre), it was a very different experience; cabaret, after all, is about making a connection with your audience, and in a space as huge as the Festival Theatre, that's not easy.

What was also interesting – and not in the review – was how many people in the audience were familiar with Daniel and his work; I'd never heard of him before.

Review here.

Simon Burke: Something about Always

Another unknown – to me; prior to getting my hands on the CabFest brochure, I didn't actually know who Simon Burke was. But he has a pretty impressive resume: AFI winner at 13, Marius in the first Australian production of Les Miserables, present on Play School and a stack of other stage appearances; recently he's been in a West End production of The Sound of Music.

He certainly lived up to that; I'd really like to see him in an actual show sometime. Review here.

The Wet Spots

Now this was something different – at point they described themselves as 'Canada's Number 1 bisexual, polyamorous, musical sex comedy duo', and they certainly lived up to that with a succession of hilarious and rude songs.

Great fun. Review here.

Bryan Batt: Batt on a Hot Tin Roof

This was the one show that I actually considered buying tickets for had I not been allocated the review – it wasn't, in fact, one that appeared on our original list of shows so I asked our review co-ordinator to put in for it; he did and I got the gig.

Bryan Batt, if you're not familiar with the name, was in the original cast of – as I described it in the review – 'stylish tv retro-drama', and one of my favourite shows, Mad Men. But he's not a tv actor who's decided to 'try' cabaret for a lark2; he's got more than twenty years experience as a musical theatre performer, including Broadway productions of shows like Cats, La Cage Aux Folles and Grease.

And his show was excellent – review here. A couple of nights after seeing it I bumped into him in the Festival Centre, shook his hand and told him how much I enjoyed the show; I do love that aspect of the festival. It had struck earlier in the week when I'd bumped into current artistic director David Campbell and had a bit of a chat with him about this year's shows.

2I believe that's the first time I've used that expression.

Carla Conlin: A Night of Dangerous Liaisons

I'd inadvertently scored myself a free ticket to this Cabaret Fringe show at the Promethean – the band leader/guitarist is Sam Leske, a friend; he was MD for It's a Dad Thing: The Musical, which I wrote about here and in Matthew Carey's orchestra for the multi-award-winning Metro Street – so I said I'd sort out getting a review in Cabaret Confessional.

Review here – this pretty much covers it; it was a great, fun show with some great elements that a little tweaking would turn into an excellent production.

Guilty Pleasures

Another Cabaret Fringe show put on by some friends – in this case Cara Brown and David Salter – and it was on at the Butterfly House on South Terrace.

It was a much less formal show, with it being mostly the two of them performing those songs that – as the title suggests – 'guilty pleasures'. It also featured guest performers – one of which was Amy Hutchinson, who, with David, is in the upcoming local production of Avenue Q; they did a version – in character, with the puppets – of A Whole New World.

Good times.

Doris: So Much More than the Girl Next Door

My last show of this cabaret season, this show was Australian country music performer Melinda Schneider's tribute to Doris Day. I knew very little about either, apart from the latter having been a star in the 1950s, often paired with Rock Hudson, and having sung Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

While I enjoyed the performance, I'd become used to seeing shows in smaller spaces – this was in the Dunstan Playhouse, one of the bigger venues – and this show lacked the intimacy of the others I'd seen. Plus, as I noted in the review, it was a show about someone else's life, so there wasn't as much of a connection there either.

Over for another year

And that was the cabaret season done for 2011. I enjoyed the shows I saw, and think I'm getting a better 'feel' (for want of a better term) for cabaret. I still don't like it as much as I like either regular theatre or musical theatre, but my enjoyment of it is definitely increasing.

Kate Ceberano is the artistic director from 2012 on, so it'll be interesting to see what gets lined up next year.

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