The ninth annual Melbourne Cabaret Festival opened with a smorgasbord of cabaret treats in their Opening Night Gala. Set in the chapel at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel, the audience were seated around small, candle-lit tables creating a cosy and intimate atmosphere. The evening was hosted by the festival’s Artistic Director, Dolly Diamond, who had the audience in fits of laughter within minutes, kept the audience engaged between performances and opened the night with a knockout rendition of ‘Cabaret’.
Alyce Platt is undoubtedly still known to most people of a certain age as that girl from the gift shop in Sale of The Century. It’s something that Platt explores in her new show entitled Someone’s Daughter, which is described as “an exploration of the disquieting and electrifying side of one woman’s shadow, her upside down”. Platt’s passionate performance immediately set the bar high for the rest of the night, showcasing her powerhouse vocals and cleverly enticing the audience to return to see her full show to hear the stories of what really took place in the television industry in the 80’s.
In a stark contrast to Alyce Platt’s powerful rock vocals, the next performer demonstrated the breadth of variety in the cabaret genre. Max Riebl is an internationally renowned countertenor with an extraordinary voice and his performance was quite mesmorising, giving audiences a taste of his show Hard to Handel, which combines works by the Baroque composer Handel with songs from the golden era of pop.
Again demonstrating the variety of cabaret on offer at this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival, the entrancing sounds of a countertenor were quickly replaced with high energy performance by Justin Clausen and Jamie Burgess with excerpts from He’s Every Woman. Clausen looked every bit the diva standing centrestage in the spotlight, wearing heels and a ruffled full length skirt, but Burgess’s brilliance on piano was just as entertaining. The pair enjoyed some light banter and the had the audience singing along and tapping their feet to ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. It closed off the first act with a great energy.
Dolly Diamond opened the second act with a performance of ‘That’s Life’ then introduced the next number. God Only Knows: The Songs of Brian Wilson featured Drew Downing on vocals and accompanied by backing vocalists Courtney Glass, Ashlee Noble, Callum Warrender and Seth Drury. Audiences were treated to ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Surfer Girl’ and ‘God Only Knows’ as well as some insight into the life of Brian Wilson, proving to be a must-see show for fans of The Beach Boys.
Next up was an intriguing taste of What Doesn’t Kill You (blah blah) Stronger, a show featuring Erin Hutchinson and Tyler Jacob James on vocals, with Joshua Haines providing accompaniment. This hilarious show features true stories of survival from around the world and, not surprisingly, won two major awards at this year’s Perth Fringe World Festival. The audience were in stitches, but also left pondering just how to give yourself an enema to ensure you stay hydrated when there is no clean water to be found.
Closing off the Opening Night Gala was Danielle O’Malley in Nancy Sinatra: You Only Live Twice. Looking the part, O’Malley treated audiences to some fabulous performances including ‘I Gotta Get Out of This Town’ and ‘Bang Bang’. If you put on long white boots and sing ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ then you have to deliver it with a certain amount of confidence, sex appeal and down-right sass, and O’Malley delivered on all counts.
It’s hard to pick a highlight from the evening as every single performance felt like a highlight, proving that cabaret has something for everyone and sometimes the show you know nothing about proves to be the most entertaining. So like a lucky-dip, grab some tickets to any of the shows on offer this year and you just never know what you might discover!
For tickets and information about all shows: http://www.melbournecabaret.com/
Photo credit, Sanjeev Singh