Saturday, July 2, 2022



Martin Everett - Tim Sekuless - Jay Cameron - Katerina Smalley

Co-produced and Directed by Lexie Sekuless for Belco Arts.

Performed by Lexi Sekuless, Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless

Pianist: Carl Rafferty. Choreographer: Annette Sharp

Belconnen Arts Centre 29th June to 2nd July 2022.

Performance on 30th June reviewed by Bill Stephens

When he died at the end of 2021 at the age of 91, Stephen Sondheim left a remarkable legacy of musicals and songs. Sondheim’s ability to create brilliant musicals which explored dark contemporary themes and complicated emotions through words and music was unparalleled, and even in his lifetime he was celebrated as a master of the art of musical theatre.

Because the characters in his musicals often examine interior thoughts set to music, his songs demand acting skills as well as fine voices, and can stand alone as complete creations outside the musical for which they were written.

Since his death there has been a wave of shows around the world featuring Sondheim’s songs in revue format to pay tribute and celebrate his legacy.  Among these “A Sonnet for Sondheim” is an interesting addition.

For “A Sonnet for Sondheim” Lexi Sekuless, a driving force behind Lakespeare and Artistic Director of Canberra’s  newly announced professional theatre company being created for the Mill Theatre, weaves sonnets by William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Elisabeth Barrett Browning among songs from Sondheim musicals, among them, “Sunday in the Park with George”, “A Little Night Music”, “Anyone Can Whistle”, “Into The Woods”, the little known “Passion” and “Evening Primrose” and “West Side Story” for which Sondheim wrote the lyrics only.   

Surprisingly, because all the publicity images for the show, including the program images, featured glamorous costumes, the production was presented as a rather unruly rehearsal or audition, with the cast wearing decidedly unglamorous rehearsal gear. No design credits are given in the printed program so apart from Annette Sharp as choreographer, and Carl Rafferty’s, listed oddly as Pianist, rather than as accompanist or musical director, Sekuless was responsible for all other creative decisions as well as performing as a member of the cast.

But “Art isn’t easy” as Sondheim wrote in his song “Putting It Together”. Firstly it was never clear whether the audience was watching a rehearsal or an audition. At one point a singer finished her song with a testy “Is that what you want? “.  It was unclear whether she was directing her remark at the pianist or some unseen director.  Another song finished with the singer looking out into the audience as if expecting some sort of confirmation of her performance from a director.

The five members of the cast which included Sekuless herself, together with Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, and Tim Sekuless are all members of the new Mill Theatre company, and it was an interesting choice by Sekuless to use this production to introduce them to audiences.  All come with excellent credentials and the format offered the opportunity to showcase them in a range of material. However, the rehearsal setting did them no favours because it set up the thought that the performances they offered in the first half were tentative rather than fully rehearsed. It also set up an expectation that the performances in the second half would feature fully realised interpretations. These hopes were dashed when the show resumed after interval with no changes of costumes, setting or performance level. It may have been wiser to dispense with the interval.

Although all are competent singers, it was interesting to note that some seemed more comfortable with the spoken text, and the “A Chorus Line” style introductions in which they introduced themselves.

Sondheim wrote lyrics that demand attention and need no decoration from the performer.  The interpretations that worked best in this show were by those in the show that understood that and let the lyrics work for them. Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley and Martin Everett all understand this and each offered highlights, as did Sekuless herself in a beautifully restrained rendition of “I Remember” from “Evening Primrose”.

Carl Rafferty - Lexi Sekuless

He also wrote songs which demand bravura performances. Tim Sekuless offered one of these with his madcap performance of “Buddy’s Blues” from “Follies”, a hideously difficult song that famously defeated Mandy Patinkin. Annette Sharp provided another highlight with her witty choreography for “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” from “Company” which captured exactly the right tone for this song.

Tim Sekuless - Katerina Smalley - Jay Cameron

Although it seemed a good idea to include sonnets by other authors, it was not always clear as to their relevance to what Sondheim was saying with his songs. It was a mistake to follow the excellent finale choral arrangement of “Sunday” from “Sunday in the Park” with an encore of a choral arrangement of the introspective “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music”. Even though it was musically charming, this arrangement masked the lyrics, and detracted from the effect of “Sunday” which in any case at this performance was spoilt by bad sound balance. 

Carl Rafferty - Jay Cameron - Katerina Smalley -Tim Sekuless - Martin Everett

While she added value with her performances as a member of the cast, Sekuless may have been wiser to concentrate on her directorial responsibilities because there were enough good moments in the show to indicate that if more directorial attention had been paid to the stage picture, sound balance, correcting the varying levels of performance among her excellent cast, the pacing of the show and even making better use of the excellent lighting facilities available in the Belco theatre, “A Sonnet for Sondheim” may have reached the professional level it strived for.  

                                                     Images - Andrew Sikorski

   This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 1st July 2022.


Friday, July 1, 2022



YEP.  Bron Lewis. 

Smith's Alternative Bookshop. June 30 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Bron Lewis presents YEP

Smith’s Alternative Bookshop is the perfect venue to showcase the wild wit and  crackerjack comedy of stand up comedian Bron Lewis. The intimate and eccentric  venue with its eclectic collection of paraphernalia and the  sassy and  smart  Lewis are a perfect fit.  Stand up comedy can be like dodging duck pooh on a slippery path. It’s too easy to slip and land on your bum in the muck. If the laugh isn’t there in the first ten seconds, then facing the crowd on stage on your own can be like hitting a wall of stony silence.  For 2022 National Raw winner Lewis and with rave reviews for her award-winning show YEP from Brisbane to Sydney to Adelaide under her belt red-lipped redhead Lewis is right on the mark from the moment she enters. No fear here. A look, a glance and a Here I Am stance and Lewis has the audience on her side. She is safe to target the front row stooges and pick those in the Canberra crowd who moved away and came back to raise their kids for the grandparents to mind for a pack of failures.

Canberra-raised Lewis knows her audience. She is one of them and she knows how far she can push before pulling back or changing tack. Her routine speaks to anyone who had to tackle Covid with jibes at absent Scomo and Mum Anastasia. Poor Glad and her choice of Daryl from Wagga comes in for a serve, after having sussed out that she is among friends of her political persuasion. Lewis is adroit. She quickly susses out her audience and keeps the laughs coming as she takes a well-aimed cynical swipe at the the stupid and the absurd. Stand up comedy is the satirist’s companion and Lewis takes her scalpel of derision to slice at any sign of superiority or elitism. Lewis is a comedian with an acute awareness of her audience. Like any artist her weapon of choice is identification and Lewis quickly has her audience bending over with laughter because  their experience is at the core  of her every topic and carefully measured attitude and posture. The woman in the front row might have wished that she’d never admitted to having wedding photos taken (Did she look like a “dugong in a nightie?) Lewis and her partner and the father of her three kids (Isn’t everybody’s favourite the middle one and not the eight year old who wants to be a “massive bitch” when she grows up?) are in a de facto relationship. What a de facto term that is! Pregnancy gets a serve and that leads to the topic of vasectomy and her idiot, smart husband and his self-pitying walk down the corridor after he succumbed to the snip “That was a waste of $580 because I’ll never have sex with him again” Lewis quips.

Lewis is an impersonation warrior switching character and attitude in an instant. Whether mocking poor Glad, chucking a Mum Stack, impersonating her kid’s teacher, Debra and the Bento Box saga or slapping  the preparatory primer  on the face Lewis works with familiar experience and makes it an unique target for her comedic talent. Her timing is excellent; her poker face moments  a pause for the laughs to build before moving on. She plays her audience like a dart board, hurling the gags and scoring a bullseye.

In her one hour stand up comedy routine she describes the different YEPS. There is the YEP enthusiastic, the YEP indifferent and the YEP cautionary. There’s the Sure, let’s do it!! YEP To the I’m not sue I should but what the heck YEP to the I wish I’d never agreed to this YEP. If you ever get a chance to see this witty, funny, brave and daring comedian, say YEP with a capital Y, a capital E and a capital P. YEP is a capital show to see.



Thursday, June 30, 2022


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Lexi Sekuless

Presented by Lexi Sekuless & Belco Arts

Belco Arts Centre to 2 July


Reviewed by Len Power 29 June 2022


When Broadway composer, Stephen Sondheim, died in 2021, he left behind a body of work of some of the greatest musicals of the second part of the 20th Century including ‘Into The Woods’; ‘Company’, Follies’. ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’.

Actors who could sing loved performing his work as the songs were often a complete story or play in themselves.  His work could also give them nigtmares as they discovered unexpected complexities under the surface.  ‘It never goes where you think it’s going’, was often heard.

In ‘A Sonnet For Sondheim’, five performers, including director, Lexi Sekuless, present an evening of Sondheim songs in a tribute to language and lyrics.  Interspersed with Sondheim songs is the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.

From left: Carl Rafferty (piano), Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless and Jay Cameron

Commencing with ‘It’s Only A Play’ from Sondheim’s musical, ‘The Frogs’, the cast establish themselves as actors in rehearsal in street clothes, giving the show an air of informality.  As well as presenting the poetry between songs, cast members also let the audience in on a few of the personal trials and tribulations of being an actor.

The five talented performers, Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless and Lexi Sekuless are all well-qualified to sing Sondheim’s songs and there are some fine, well-judged performances.  Carl Rafferty, the pianist, accompanied the cast skilfully and with personality.

However, the poetry readings and actor reminiscences impede the flow of the show and don’t relate well to the songs that follow the readings.  ‘I Remember’, from ‘Evening Primrose’ sung by Lexi Sekuless, works best of all because she maintains the mood created in her preceding dialogue throughout the song.

Lexi Sekuless

Too many of the songs have been given distracting movement.  Only ‘You Could Drive a Person Crazy’ from ‘Company’ has engaging choreography by Annette Sharp.  The songs from ‘Passion’ – ‘I Wish I Could Forget You’ and ‘Loving You’ - were especially effective without movement.

The whole cast gave a fine performance of ‘Sunday’ from ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ towards the end of the show but the laid-back group singing of ‘Send In the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music’ that followed diminished the power of this song.

There were some opening night glitches with the lighting and the sound amplification was too high, often giving the voices an unfortunate harshness.

Nevertheless, the Sondheim songs are the attraction here and they were mostly well-performed by these good singers.

Photos supplied by the company 

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at


A Sonnet for Sondheim


Photo: Andrew Sikorski

A Sonnet for Sondheim, presented by Lexi Sekuless and Belco Arts, at Belconnen Arts Centre Theatre, June 29 – July 2, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
June 29

Director, co-producer and performer – Lexi Sekuless
Pianist – Carl Rafferty; Choreographer – Annette Sharp
Performers – Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless
Lighting and Sound – Linda Buck and Stephen Rose

My direct experience of Sondheim shows is limited to West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods (on stage at the Gunghalin College Theatre, 2015, directed by Richard Block and Damien Slingsby).  I never became an aficianado, but A Sonnet for Sondheim shows why I should have.

Through the device – a bit like Chorus Line, or Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth with Hugo Weaving – the cast on stage are themselves, an ad hoc group of actor/singers, telling some of their personal histories and performing audition pieces for a show.

“Don’t worry, just relax – it’s only a play” they sing at the beginning and end from Sondheim’s Ancient Greek musical The Frogs: Parabasis.  In my ignorance I have now found from Merriam-Webster that parabasis means “an important choral ode in the Old Greek comedy mainly in anapestic tetrameters delivered by the chorus at an intermission in the action while facing and moving toward the audience.”

I didn’t know this while watching, but I cottoned on to the idea that the show is a kind of meditation on the nature of art, using a collection of items from Sondheim, interspersed with sonnets (from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning, and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 23), and some other pieces from Shakespeare, Browning and Emily Dickinson.  

As important as the choice of literary material among Sondheim’s lyrics – very much about the art of creating art, and the art of accepting, maintaining, losing and even escaping from love – is the impressive performance on the grand piano by Carl Rafferty, in the role of audition accompanist, and the neat choreography of the action by Annette Sharp which helps define the character of each actor in their varied solo roles, pas de deux’s and as chorus members.

The quality result in all these departments is excellent music, singing and dancing – yet never in the form of a standard ‘Musical’.  The dramatic throughline wanders about rather than creating a strong sense of development to a climactic point.  Did any of them succeed in their audition?  I’m not sure.

So at the end of the day A Sonnet for Sondheim is an interesting example of something I think of as meta-philosophising on art (parallel to terms like ‘metaphysical’ or ‘metacognitive’ thinking).  Clapping at the end of items was generally polite – though genuinely appreciative – and even at the end was not over-excited, because the show is not presented as a popular grand-scale musical entertainment, but is a thoughtful consideration of Stephen Sondheim – Artist.







A Sonnet for Sondheim. 

Presented by Lexi Sekuless and Belco Arts. Directed by Lexi Sekuless. Musical Accompanist. Carl Rafferty. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Cast: Jay Cameron. Katerina Smalley. Tim Sekuless, Martin Everett. Lexi Sekuless. Belco Arts. Belconnen Arts Centre. June 29 – July 2 2022. Bookings: 

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins. 

Let me begin with a summary. A Sonnet for Sondheim is a beautiful, uplifting and life affirming tribute to the late great Stephen Sondheim and to all artists who create and celebrate their art. Director Lexi Sekuless and her highly talented team of performers and creatives have interspersed songs from Sondheim’s musicals with writings by Shakespeare (Sonnet 23 and Enobarbus’s speech from Antony and Cleopatra), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnets from the Portuguese 38 and My Heart and I) and Emily Dickenson (Fame). The audience is reminded of the artist’s struggle and attempt to conquer the fear that envelops them in audition, rehearsal and performance. When in doubt and consumed by the anxiety of their art they can always turn to Sondheim for the reassurance in his lyrics for Parabasis from Aristophanes’ play The Frogs. “It really doesn’t matter. Don’t worry relax. After all you’re only human. Besides it’s only a play.” 
Lexi Sekuless

In November last year Stephen Sondheim shuffled off this mortal coil at 91, leaving behind a legacy unrivalled in the history of music theatre. Others have scaled the heights but none with such profound humanity. Sondheim is the actors’ composer, who once advised the legendary Geraldine Turner “Bring along your talent and follow the punctuation” Lexi Sekuless’s new company did just that. The talent is extraordinary, the concept for A Sonnet to Sondheim ingenious and insightful and the celebration of the great man’s music both reverential and effusive. The cast boldly embrace the challenges of Sondheim’s occasionally discordant and emotionally resonant tone. Not only has Sekuless selected excellent singers, including herself, but also actors who understand the passion that Sondheim arouses in his lyrics and his music. Jay Cameron’s rendition of I Wish I Could Forget You from the seldom performed Passion is a magnificent performance by a shining light on the Canberra music theatre scene. Cameron deserves a solo show and Canberra is so fortunate to have an artist of his calibre. I have just returned from seeing Philip Quast, Geraldine Turner and Queenie van de Zandt performing the songs of Sondheim and Cameron belongs in their league. 
Jay Cameron and Katerina Smalley

There are too many splendid moment in this tightly programmed show to mention. Let me list a few. Cameron’s Finishing My Hat from Sunday in the Park with George. Lexi Sekuless also brings out the longing and the heartache in Loving You from Passion. Tim Sekuless and Martin Everett capture the absurdity and comedy in the ironically titled Agony from Into The Woods. Sekuless shows his phenomenal range with Giants in the Sky also from Into The Woods and the pathos of Buddy’s Bkues from Follies Katerina Smalley’s rendition of a young woman’s desire to live life to the full skilfully negotiates the challenges of Sondheim’s The Miller’s Son from A Little Night Music. and Everybody says Don’t from Anyone Can Whistle. 
Tim Sekuless and Martin Everett

The wonderful ensemble with the masterful Carl Rafferty on piano excel in the company numbers as they burst into frenetic life with You Could Drive A Person Crazy from Company and the glorious Sunday from Sunday in the Park With George. In fact I would have preferred that to be the closing company number, but I appreciate the sensitivity and true Sondheim humanity in the popular Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music which brought to a close a show that could have continued to enthrall with Sondheim’s prolific repertoire.. 

Sekuless’s production with its sonnets, literary text and personal anecdotes referencing Sondheim’s profound grasp of human nature and his deep empathy for the human condition is a dazzling comet across Canberra’s cultural horizon. It is not spectacular in the sense of a Frozen or a Wicked. It is not a beacon of technical wizardry. It is an honest and heartfelt acknowledgment of Sondheim’s genius and the artist’s talent, tenacity and fortitude in the face of their own human failings and anxieties. It may only be a play but A Sonnet to Sondheim is a gift to the memory of Stephen Sondheim and to Canberra audiences.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


 Photography | Brian Rope


Tuggeranong Town Centre (on windows of Lakeview House & under the Soward Way Bridge) | Until 4 July 2022

Installation shot - Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

Sammy Hawker is a visual artist working predominantly on Ngunawal Country. She works predominantly with analogue photography techniques and often works closely with Traditional Custodians, scientists and ecologists.

In 2021 Hawker had two highly successful solo shows as part of a PhotoAccess darkroom residency. She is currently an artist-in-residence with the CORRIDOR project and is also preparing for another solo show before year end.

Over the last six months Hawker worked closely with nine young people from Headspace Tuggeranong exploring ways they could co-create photographic portraits. This was part of a City Commissions project delivered by Contour 556, one of seven artsACT initiatives in the Creative Recovery and Resilience Program.

Headspace is a safe space that welcomes and supports young people aged 12–25, their families, friends and carers, helping them to find the right services. Learning the Headspace motto “clear is kind”, Hawker realised her project was also about finding clarity as a form of self-compassion - shining light on what for many was a particularly dark and confusing time.

Hawker challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment that a shutter is released. She explores ways of making, rather than taking, images. She wanted the project to be empowering - with no right or wrong and where the final photographs celebrated identity and experience beyond just the way her subjects looked in the frame. It was an opportunity to realise we always have some choice whether we repress difficult experiences.

The portraits of the young people were captured on a large format film camera. Commonly, in photographic practice, touch and marks on negatives are to be avoided. But Hawker invited her subjects to handle, manipulate, scratch or even bury negatives in order to introduce something of themselves. The young folk wrangled puppies, dived into rivers, got dressed up, sprinkled bushfire ash on negatives and processed film in the Headspace carpark.

Each participant was invited to use the project to reflect on their experiences of difficult times. Their statements relating to the images reveal resilience and hope.

Chanelle reflected about living in the moment. The negative of her portrait, showing her immersed in the Murrumbidgee River, was processed with water from that river, ocean water and permanent marker.

Chanelle © Sammy Hawker

Sophie spoke of learning to embrace everything in life. Her portrait’s negative was processed with bushfire ash and the word Embrace scratched into it. The ash creates a frame that embraces her.

Sanjeta really likes her photo with jellyfish manipulations as metaphors for how she now goes with the flow of her life journey. Her expression conveys a “so be it” attitude. The negative was processed with Murrumbidgee water, rainwater, seaweed and chemical stains.

Sanjeta © Sammy Hawker

Ray wanted to keep connected and bring some joy into the lives of others. The portrait’s beaming smile conveys joy. The idea of processing the negative with Whiz Pop Bang bubble mixture and wattle pollen adds to the joy.

Ray's Statement

Jazzy is photographed with her much loved dog Milo. So, of course, the processing of the negative utilised Milo’s pawprints.

Jazzy © Sammy Hawker

Devante © Sammy Hawker

Installation shot - Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

When I reviewed her Acts of Co-Creation show (for which she received a Canberra Critics Circle Award) in this publication, I wrote of Hawker’s then newly formed relationship with Ngunawal custodian Tyronne Bell who helped her to learn about sites she was working with. For this project, Hawker arranged for Bell to escort her subjects walking Ngunawal Country, providing a healing experience for them.

I strongly recommended readers to visit City Commissions - Portraits - and reflect on your own difficult times.

An edited version of this review was published in The Canberra Times of 28/6/22 on the Capital Life page, and the full version online here. It is also on the author's blog here.

Monday, June 27, 2022



Songs My Mother Taught Me.

Directed by Johanna Allen. Musical direction Mark Simeon Ferguson. Special guests. Sophie Koh, Thando, Wendy Matthews, Jessica Hitchcock and Lior. Her Majesty’s Theatre. Adelaide Cabaret Festival in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre. June 25th  2022.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

I can’t think of a more fitting finale to Tina Arena’s stunning 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The evocative sound of the didgeridoo, played by Isaac Hannan as his welcome to Kaurna Country floats through the auditorium. On a stage, colourfully festooned with a canopy of different lampshades Tina Arena welcomes the audience to her House Party. We are all invited to share in a very special and unique performance by musical luminaries from different cultures and diverse legacies. Songs My Mother Taught Me is a salute to family and the songs of one’s country and culture. Arena is joined in this extraordinary programme by Canadian Australian Wendy Matthews, Sophie Koh, born in New Zealand of Chinese/Malay parentage, Zimbabwean Thando, Jessica Hitchcock with family origins in the Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea and Israeli/Australian Lior. The audience is in for a world premiere performance like no other, as each artist from wherever they may be turns to home to sing the songs that they learnt at their mother’s knee. As Arena tells the audience in Italian and English “No matter where you go or turn, you will always end up at home.” It holds the promise of nostalgia, the salute to culture and the affirmation of identity.

Mark Ferguson and Tina Arena

Arena opens the show with her memories of her childhood and the girls’ sunroom in Moonie Ponds. Her rendition of Maledetta Primavera (Cursed Spring), sung with the aching passion of memory reminds me of the songs in the nighttime streets of Italy. There is such power in the voice, such passion in the song and such rich flavor of Italy in the air. She is instantly followed by Sophie Koh dressed in Chinese design inviting the audience to a call and response in Mandarin (I want your love.) Seated at the piano, she sings Yellow Rose in words from the oldest book of poetry in China. It is in our cultural experience that we learn the lessons of our lives. For Thando, with the spirit of Africa rising from deep within her soul, her song is the voice of the survivor. “I’m still here.” she sings in jubilation. This is contrasted with a gentle song that she sings lovingly to her eight year old daughter at bedtime Lior sings of his old kindergarten in Tel Aviv, now deserted and neglected. His childhood memory becomes a plea for compassion. Only then can we hope to be liberated. Backing singers Susan and Ciara Ferguson join him in perfect harmony.

Jess Hitchcock

There is a change of mood as Jess Hitchcock remembers her mother’s love of 50s and 60s music in a boisterous and fun filled rendition of Connie Francis’s hit single Stupid Cupid. Her identity is firmly bound up with her indigenous legacy and she sings a beautiful rendition of a song of country in the language of her people. Hitchcock is an emerging artist of great promise in the company of Tina Arena’s remarkable guests. It is Wendy Matthews’ rendition of Cherokee Louise by Joni Mitchell that strikes to the heart. This heart wrenching song about sexual and child abuse is sung shortly after SCOTUS hands down its decision to remove the ROE vs Wade decision legalizing abortion. Her song is a plea for justice and humanity.

Wendy Matthews

Act 2 opens with advice from Arena to the young Hitchcock to be true to herself and celebrate her family and individuality in a triumphant duet with Hitchcock of Sorrento Moon. The second half continues with songs that have formulated these singers. Their spirit is in the song and in their DNA. Lior is a child of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord and the 1995 assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. His longing for peace rings out on his pure tenor voice as he sings a Song for Peace (Shir L’Shalom)  Thando continues to exude strength and resilience with her song about holding on to freedom, inspired by her life in Canberra after leaving Zimbabwe and Wendy Matthews identifies the influences of her Scottish heritage. Arena then sings with the voice that could light up a thousand stars a deeply moving song about her Italian inspiration - the great Enrico Caruso (Caruso) as he nears the end of his life in far flung Italian Sorrento. The synchronicity of life soars in her song. As the evening draws to a close, the family of singers, backed by a superb string quartet and band under Mark Ferguson’s musical direction, join together to sing in their own language the lyrics to Lior’s wedding celebration song This Old Love.. There is joy and there is family which carries through to the rousing, uplifting Tintarella di Luna. (Suntan of the Moon)


The singers dance happily to Tintarella di Luna as band and backing singers join in to bring the concert and the Cabaret Festival to a close. Songs My Mother Taught Me is far more than a collection of songs that have inspired and formulated Tina Arena and her amazing guests Sophie Koh, Wendy Matthews, Thando, Jess Hitchcock and Lior. The house party affirms the love of family and humanity, irrespective of colour, race or creed. What these phenomenal artists, musicians and director Johanna Allen have brought to this festival is the empowerment of legacy and culture. Like so many shows during the festival Lone can only hope that they may be revived after a one night stand. In the meantime I urge readers to google the singers and their songs to savour the taste of what has been an exrtraordinary performance and an unforgettable festival.

Photos by Claudio Raschella

I am attaching the full cast, song and musicians list because of the unique, on-off nature of this final performance of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022


1. OUR HOUSE (EVERYONE)) Full cast, BV’s and full band (including trombone). New arrangement that kicks into the original

2. TINA: MALEDETTA PRIMAVERA Tina, BV’s and full band.

3. SOPHIE KOH: WO YAO NI DE AI Sophie, BV’s and full band.

4. SOPHIE KOH: YELLOW ROSE, STRING QUARTET FEATURED. Sophie at piano, strings, BV’s. 5. THANDO: Survivor (Destiny’s Child) Thando, BV’s and full band.

 6. THANDO: Thula Thala Strings and Piano and BV’s at the end

7. LIOR: GAN SAGUR Lior, full band and BV’s


9. JESS HITCHCOCK: STUPID CUPID. Jess, BV’s and rhythm section

10. JESS HITCHCOCK PLUS BV SINGERS: BABA WAIYAR Jess, BV’s maybe guitar. mostly a capella


12: WENDY MATTHEWS PLUS ALL: STANDING STRONG. Full cast, BV’s and full band.











 Mark Simeon Ferguson MD, arrangements, piano, keyboard, BV’s

Zsusza Leon, Violin

Emily Tulloch Violin

 Karen DeNardi Viola

Hilary Kleinig ‘cello

Chris Neale drums

Cameron Blokland guitars

Nick Sinclair basses

Ciara Ferguson BV’s percussion, piano.

Susan Ferguson BV’s