Monday, June 18, 2018


Pol Roger Backstage Club.

Hosted by Libby Donovan. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre. June  16. 2018

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Host of the Pol Roger Backstage Club  Libby O' Donovan
On the Saturday night of each of the three weekends of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the crowd shuffles in to their tables for a night of cabaret variety at the Pol Roger Backstage Club. The two hour show, hosted on the weekend by the amazing and irrepressible Libby Donovan promised a night of phenomenal highlights from the festival, prizes for lucky audience members and surprises to thrill and delight. And on this night of nights the late night show did not disappoint.

The night opened with Mikelangelo’s deep voiced performance of All of Me from his show, Eastern BlocElvis. Mikelangelo, well-known for his troupe, Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentleman, a collection of quirky musicians with an Eastern European flavour, gives his audience a taste of Yugoslavian Elvis, with a rich baritone sound, a quiffed hairstyle and a double dose of Balkan bravura.

The delight of the night is catching up with acts that you can’t see during the festival, because of concurrent time clashes. I am amazed by guitarist Jamie Macdowell and vocal gymnast Tom Thum of Them There Eyes. In an unbelievable display of vocal sound effects, reminiscent of the Umbilical Bothers, Thum creates a vocal chord orchestra of miked sound effects from the glottal to the gliding sliding, falling rising gymnastics of the human vocal chords and chambers.
Carole Sturtzel and Becky Cole

In a frenzied, fabulous rock’n roll rendition of Wanda Jackson’s Rockabilly Fever, Libby O’ Donovan, with wife, Becky Cole and Cole’s mother, the amazing queen of country music, Carol Sturtzel, sent the temperature soaring and the roof rising with talent to burn.  From downtown New York, the unique, bordering on the bizarre darling of shock, Joey Arias is one of a kind, none of another with a voice that squeals, sighs and strains the soul. This is the cabaret of the underground, the unusual and the mesmerizing.

It’s prize time and lucky Leonie from Port Lincoln scores a magnum of Pol Roger champagne when she produces her ticket to Libby O’Donovan’s ­Kate Leigh- The Worst Woman in Sydney  for the following night. And she deserves it. She travels to Adelaide every year for the festival and has bought tickets to sixteen shows. Now that’s true fandom and deserving of the night’s prize.
Tim Minchin

And after the prize comes the surprise that only the mid-festival audience will see – Tim Minchin in town to do a solo spot at the Backstage Club and a double act with the festival director and artist extraordinaire, Ali McGregor and her gut-spilling rendition of Radiohead’s Creep. Minchin then blows the audience away with his thumping, bumping, swiping swinging piano key pounding rendition of his damnation of his LA experience I’m Leaving LA. What better way to close the night in the early hours than with a genuine Aussie accented rendition of Etta James's At Last by host, singing sensation and fired up comedienne, O’ Donovan. Leave them laughing and they’ll always come back for more.

Ali McGregor

So, if you are ever in town at Cabaret Festival time, make sure you make it to the Backstage Club for a fast top of the town talent night of cabaret carousing to chase the blues away..