Monday, March 27, 2023




 Kate Ceberano, Eddie Perfect, Ali McGregor. Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2023

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2023. 

Curated by Julia Holt, David and Lisa Campbell, Kate Ceberano, Eddie Perfect, Ali McGregor, Alan Cumming and Tina Arena. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 9-24. 2023. Bookings:

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Julia Holt. Inaugural Artistic Director Adelaide Cabaret Festival

In 2023 the Adelaide Festival Centre celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Opened in 1973 by then premier Don Dunstan MLA the centre became a lighthouse to the nation for its pioneering of major festival events.  This year the various festivals that take place at the grand old lady of entertainment’s home on the banks of the River Torrens have thought of ways to honour this significant anniversary. Executive Producer of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Alex Sinclair tells me, “It was a wild experiment that has paid off in spades. I was working at home in Stirling and what started out as a twenty minute conversation with Julia (Julia Holt, inaugural Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival) ended up wth us being on the phone for about an hour and a half”  Julia was curious to know how the experiment that Sinclair put to her would work to which Sinclair replied that she had no idea.

Robyn Archer. Photo by Claudio Raschella

The idea was to invite all previous Artistic Directors to contribute to the creation of the 2023 festival.  As well as Holt, the illustrious lineup included in order David and Lisa Campbell, Kate Ceberano, Barrie Humphries, Eddie Perfect , Ali McGregor, Julia Zemiro, Alan Cumming and Tina Arena. Only Humphries who resides in London did not participate. “What I was really delighted to discover was that all the directors we approached had just such a fondness for the festival and so there was a really enthusiastic response.” Sinclair says. “The concept was really enthusiastically embraced, that is reflecting on the past and wondering what the future of this genre looks like. It’s an enormous legacy. I think the fact that it still has such currency shows that the artistic directors who have taken the reins each year show that they look to the future and not to the past.”

Rizo in Broadway Barbara Photo by Chris Fore

This year 342 artists and musicians across 91 performances will participate across three weekends from June 9th to 24th. The festival will include 13 world premieres and 20 Adelaide premieres. Australian artists will be joined by performers from the USA, United Kingdom and France. Each Artistic Director will bring their own individual flair to the program bringing back some cabaret classics such as Aria Award winner Vince Jones, invited by Kate Ceberano to perform the much loved songs from the ABC Television series Come In Spinner.  Charismatic New Yorker Mark Nadler has been selected by Holt to return to the festival to perform Hootenanny and The Old Razzle Dazzle. South Australian artists who will perform include the legendary Robyn Archer with her Australian Songbook. Adelaide Cabaret Festival Icon Award winner Libby O’ Donovan will perform songs from the 60s to the 90s with vocalist Michelle Norris and The Yankalilla Miracles in More Than A Melody.  Helpman Award winner Michael Griffiths will premiere Sin – Songs of Love and Shame.  Fresh from Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under,  Kween Kong will stage a variety extravaganza celebrating the best of drag, burlesque, circus and cabaret. As well as the familiar South Australian cabaret artists, the festival will also feature again the emerging artists such as the latest group of 16 High School students who will present the Class of Cabaret, a regular and popular feature of  recent festivals.  

Matthew Barker as Matre Didi in Brag Drunch Photo by Emily Williams

The late founding father of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Frank Ford, left a $20,000 bequest to develop and promote new and emerging artists. At this year’s festival audiences will have the opportunity to see the unique Brag Drunch an immersive  dining and performance experience looking at the intersection of queer history and food featuring a spread of South Australian drag artists

From overseas, Paris Combo will return for the first time since the untimely death of their lead singer Belle du Berry who passed away during the Paris lockdown of 2020. She had been with Paris Combo for 30 years since its inception. ”The family imploded” Holt says. “We wanted to do something to celebrate her work so we put together 4 singers- would you believe it – to perform over her vocal range and different styles in  a fabulous Paris Combo concert.”  Another act that has excited Holt is Grammy Award winning chanteuse Rizo.  Rizo who used to be called Lady Rizo will bring her show Broadway Barbara from Los Angeles. “The best way I can describe her is like a female Lockdown.” Holt says. She devised Broadway Barabara during lockdown with the intention of taking the show on the road. Covid forced artists to find new platforms so Rizo put the show up on Tik Tok. With half a million followers, she now has a cult following. “She is a true force of Nature,” Holt says. “She is an all round performer – she’s cool, she’s savvy, she’s fun. She is just amazing. Her parents were hippies and she rebelled. She’s got the most incredible voice.”

Another unique cabaret artist to premiere her work at this year’s festival is Nancy Denis, Her show M’ap Boulé explores her Haitan heritage and stories of her ancestors revolting against their colonisers in a riveting and raw show combining storytelling, theatre, poetry and song

Nancy Denis in M'ap Boulé. Photo by Ibrahim Intwari

“Each of the Artistic Directors has their own very clear voice within the cabaret genre.” Sinclair says. “Part of the success of the experiment was that each of their wheelhouses also happen to be complementary celebrating new works. For example, Alan Cumming loved variety and Bob Downe and Anne Wills will return with their homage to Adelaide’s nightly variety show Adelaide Tonight  Bojana Novakovic’s improvised The Blind Date Project will also return after it’s premiere season at Cumming’s Cabaret Festival. “If you look hard enough you can certainly see which artistic director kind of chose a particular work.” Eddie Perfect is about original work.  Joined by incredible artists and musicians, Perfect will give audiences a glimpse of his process in The Blank Page as he develops a brand new work from page to stage.

For those aficionados there will also be the opportunity to revel in the return of old favourites such as Paul Capsis in Dry My Tears, Mama Alto in Follies Girl, an hour of vaudeville and Mark Trevorrow aka Bob Downe in Singing Straight.

Ursula Yovich in An Evening with Ursula Yovich Photo: Richard Hedger

There is one special show worth mentioning. Singer, writer and performer, Ursula Yovich’s An Evening With Ursula Yovich will explore culture and connection through story and song in a moving love letter to language. The show will take inspiration from her Arnhem Land roots and tri-lingual childhood household.

Audiences will once again have the opportunity to see works by some of the  Artistic Directors. Only Alan Cumming and Tina Arena will not be joining this amazingly talented line up of artistic directors and cabaret greats due to international commitments. However, Julia Zemiro will present Rockwiz with Brian Nankervis. Eddie Perfect will bring The Blank Page to the festival. Ali McGregor who shares her birthday with the Adelaide Festival Centre will perform her brand new show Fool’s Gold. Kate Ceberano will be performing My Life is a Symphony with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

In an homage that is certain to excite and delight the Adelaide Cabaret Festival promises to emerge from the pandemic with a zest and a programme to suit every taste. I leave the last word to founding Artistic Director and longest serving AD Julia Holt. “It is my most incredible privilege and honour to be part of the 2023 Adelaide Cabaret Festival standing alongside the collective of previous Artistic Directors. Here we are in 2023, reviewing the past and perhaps most importantly though, we are celebrating the present, where we can once again be out together, dancing cheek to cheek”


Adelaide Festival Centre

June 9-24 2023