THE VARIETY GALA.
Directed by Mitchell Butel. Musical direction. Mark Simeon Ferguson. Adelaide Cabaret Festival.The Festival Theatre. June 11 2021. Bookings. BASS 131246
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
If variety is the spice of life then the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Variety Gala has served up a dish of well-flavoured tastes. After a year of virtual exile to performances on zoom to keep the cabaret festival alive, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival returns to live performance before a capacity masked audience in the Festival Theatre. The mesmerizing tones of the didgeridoo fill the auditorium as Kaurna man Isaac Hannan performs a Welcome to Country . Changing colours wash the scalloped curtain folds that hang as a backdrop to the cabaret setting on stage, where performers sit at tables. The master chef of this banquet of acts sweeps onto the stage as only South Australia’s very own camp German gay icon and international superstar, the irrepressible, irreverent, brazenly mocking Hans can do. You know you’re in for a night of innuendo, cheeky campery and fully garnished cabaret creations. And what better way to launch the gala than with a spirited rendition of Kandor and Ebb’s Wilkommen from Cabaret joined by the performers and the cabaret’s first international artistic director and Tony award winning actor for his role as the Emcee in. I was disappointed that this is the only performance that we saw from Alan Cumming during the evening. To catch him in action, audiences will need to visit Club Cumming in the Famous Spiegeltent or his one man show, Alan Cumming is not Acting His Age at the close of the festival.
Each year the winner of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Icon Award is announced. This year Alan Cumming announced that the brilliantly talented Paul Capsis was the 2021 winner. In a moving version of John Lennon’s Imagine, Capsis reminded us all of the perfect world that we would like to inhabit. Past and future resonate in the accompaniment of Hannan’s playing of Imagine on the didgeridoo, and the banquet became a feast for the spirit of the cabaret.
And so the banquet came to an end with a song of hope and imagination, a theme that spiced up the possibilities for audiences at the phoenix festival that has arisen from the ashes of the pandemic. Like Variety Galas that have gone before, the evening ran too long and certain numbers could have been cut to keep the feast moving. There is no need to over=cater a degustation. Hans’s flamboyant enthusiasm, though a source of constant delight to the Adelaide audience needed director Mitchell Butel’s firmer hand on the evening’s proceedings.
In the end, happily fed with a display of tasty talent, we are left to decide what our palates would prefer. It is at these performance morsels that we can really savour the delights on offer at this Gala Opening to Alan Cumming’s first Adelaide Cabaret Festival.