Sunday, March 27, 2022




Tina Arena and the Variety Gala Band

 The 2022 Variety Gala

Hosted by Paul McDermott. Directed by Mitchell Butel. Musical director Mark Simeon Ferguson. Set design Ali Jones. The Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. March 25 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. June 10 -25 2022.  Bookings: or or Ticketek at Adelaide Festival Centre 131245.

Review by Peter Wilkins

Isaac Hannan offers a Welcome to Kaurna Country

 If the 2022 Variety Gala in the Festival Theatre is anything to go by this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival will be a blast! Cabaret lovers are in for a treat and a smorgasbord of scintillating, seductive and sexy acts by national and international stars of cabaret and musical theatre. Opening with Isaac Hannan’s  phenomenal digeridoo solo and welcome to Kaurna Country, the  2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Variety Gala set the tone for an exceptional line up of national and international talent. Gala Nights are infamously put together with very limited rehearsal time. Director Mitchell Butel can do little more than marshall the talent to fit the running order and ensure that artists, musicians and creatives are relaxed and ready to showcase their remarkable talents. What was immediately unmistakeable during the evening was the excitement and the passion of the many artists who gave their loyal audiences a delectable taste of treasures to come.

2022 Artistic Director Tina Arena launched the night’s entertainment with powerful renditions of her latest single Church and Burn from her In Deep album.  Her fiery spirit infuses the songs with visceral force and we watch an internationally acclaimed artist at the top of her game.  To the accompaniment of musical director Mark Simeon Ferguson on piano and the  amazingly adept Variety  Gala House Band  this year’s line-up of exceptionally talented artists gave the audience a tantalizing taste of what is to come. The variety is astounding from Gary Pinto’s Feel it Don’t Fight it and the  smooth sound of the inspirational Sam Cooke to Carla Lippis’s crazed rendition of Hand from the State Opera’s production of How To Kill Your Husband (and other household hints)by the irrepressible Kathy Lette.

Catherine Alcorn in 30 Something
 Michael Griffith skilfully stepped in for Philip Scott who will be performing 30 Something with the dynamic Catherine Alcorn. The show is set in the shady Bohemian district of Sydney's notorios Kings Cross in the year 1939. Michaela Burger, Amelia Ryan and Michael Griffith  on piano are festival favourites who will be performing songs from New York's Brill Building that defined the emergence of strong female artists in their show that you won't want to miss:Simply Brill-the women who defined Rock and Roll

Another regular favourite is the indefatigable and uplifting Libby O’Donovan. Her medley of nun’s songs and evangelical numbers from O Happy Day to Climb Every Mountain will have you chewing at your Rosary beads with feel good Godliness. Sophie Koh conjures the haunting and mesmerizing melodies of the Orient. With a bewitching voice she creates an aura of calm and gentle soaring meditation. She is an unique artist who will offer a very different perspective when she joins other artists in Tina Arena’s Songs My Mother Taught Me.

This is a Gala and sometimes things can go wrong, as they did with young emerging Asian artist Kieran Beasley whose mike didn’t work initially. A natural comedian and an assured young performer Beasley took it in his stride before his tribute rendition to his parents of Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are .  A 2021 Class of Cabaret graduate, Beasley in his first performance on the Festival Theatre stage proves that he is someone to keep an eye on.

I was impressed by the maturity and innovative ideas of Frank Ford Commissioning Award recipient Victoria Falconer and her original musical And Then You Go – the Valli Myers Project. She was joined on stage by Parvyn, Erin Fowler, Jarrad Payne and Flick Freeman with Go On from her show. This will be her festival debut, but she offers an unique opportunity to see the work of an emerging artist and learn about the remarkable life of Valli Myers.

Marcia Hines and the Gospo Collective

Last but not least on this night of glittering, sparkling and incandescent nights was the phenomenal, sensational and legendary Marcia Hines and the Gospo Collective in Love Me Like A Rock from her show about her life, The Gospel According to Marcia. Unfortunately sound mixing problems that plagued parts of the night meant that sotto voce lyrics were lost in various numbers throughout the night. I suspect that time was precious and sound checks were rushed through. The band, which performed a remarkable job to manage so many numbers was also at times too loud for the artists, and lyrics were lost in the big band sound.

Paul McDermott and Glen Moorhouse

I have left the host till last. Paul McDermott was in top form on the night – witty, wicked, and full of cabaret chutzpah. As well as keeping the action moving, making light of any glitches and generally having a great time on the big stage, McDermott let his satirical psyche loose. He dismissed Scott Morrison with a single quip and heaped derision and scorn on the anti vaxxers. He was the host with the most and in the company of shining stars he was a cabaret comet hurtling through the Gala.

It was only left to announce the 2022 recipient of the prestigious Icon Award which has been awarded in the past to people like Reg Livermore, Rhonda Burchmore, Frank Ford, Robyn Archer and Paul Capsis to name a few. This year Tina Arena awarded it to Libby O’Donovan to the delight of all the cabaret aficionados who have followed her career.

Icon Recipient  Libby O'Donovan

The 2022 Variety Gala offers a morsel of a much richer banquet that will occupy the theatres at the Adelaide Festival Centre from June 10-25 and if this night of nights is not enough to tempt the palate for top rate Cabaret, then you’ll be missing out on all the decadence, magic and revelry that this year’s festival offers. It’s a festival that is sure to lead you all astray!

 Photos by Sia Duff