This year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival kicked off with sparkle, charm and glamour with a gala event hosted by the fabulous Dolly Diamond. She’s a first time curator of a festival, and we chatted to her about her experiences putting together this event.

 “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been made a lot easier for me having David Read & Neville Sice there for advice. I’ve tried to look at the festival from a punters viewpoint and as an artist” she said.

For Diamond (or Michael Dalton, originally from the UK), it was important to draw on new Australian works and talent this festival.

“It’s an all Australian lineup and pretty much a Melbourne one at that. I went that way because I know these artists and I love their work. They do Cabaret well and that’s what I and the audiences want”.

“With every Australian state now having its own cabaret festival and an enormous growth in cabaret appearing in all the major fringe festivals, you can’t deny its popularity with audiences and the way that performers have embraced the genre” she said.

“There’s no such thing as normal in cabaret, it’s about making whatever you want your show to be work for an audience. I think there’s a familiarity in performing someone else’s work but the talent comes in making it your own” she said, when talking about the range of shows at the festival that pay homage to music’s greats.

GALA-24“My show is all about my love life and being proud to be a woman who makes no apology for enjoying the men in her and the life in her men….and just a small amount of audience persecution”, she said. And by persecution, she means her sharp style of audience participation where she hangs it on the audience.

The show has changed over 7 years, and has become a City of Stonnington exclusive event, spawning a Melbourne Cabaret Fringe Festival hosted by The Butterfly Club in the city.

“I think the festival is more compact now, with all the shows being at Chapel Off Chapel. The seasons are a little longer for all the acts and that gives audiences a chance to see all the shows they want” she said on the changes the festival has been through.

“There’s room for everyone… Hats off to City of Stonnington for putting their support behind the cabaret festival.  The fringe program at The Butterfly Club – which, after all, has been a beacon of cabaret for years, is a great addition to the festival, providing more opportunities for performers to come on board” she said.

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She’s looking forward to seeing all of the shows she’s chosen.

“With each performance running for one hour and multiple shows nightly, I can see that I might just have the chance to see them all!”

Opening the festival was a full house at Chapel Off Chapel. Instead of its usual set up, round cabaret tables were crammed into the Chapel for a warm evening hosted by Diamond and featuring highlights of the festival.

Performing Hello Dolly, from her own show The Lady is a Tramp to start the night off, she ripped it up on stage with a fabulous band of Shannon Whitelock (piano), Darren Steele (bass) & Dave George (drums) and diva backing singer Tash York.

Diamond was joined by the talents of Danielle O’Malley performing songs of Cilla Black, Jon Jackson as Ethel Merman, Queen of Broadway, and Queenie van de Zandt performing The Songs of Joni Mitchell. A gala opening is a great way to sample some of the powerful voices and delightful charm featured in this year’s festival, with nearly 20 songs performed from seven of the 12 shows.

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The festival, featuring all Australian shows and artists, runs until Sunday 2 July . Tickets and details at: http://www.melbournecabaret.com

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