A glittering gala – complete with Dame Edna

Jun 06, 2015

From “Advance Australia Fair” sung to the tune of “Working-Class Man”, to a glittering appearance by gladioli-hurling housewife Dame Edna Everage, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Variety Gala Performance showcased cabaret in all its glorious forms.

There was jazz, rock, pop, a cappella, musical theatre, burlesque, opera, comedy and even tap dancing, delivered with lashings of irreverence, sass and sparkle.

Mistress of ceremonies for the evening was “Queen of Kamikaze Kabarett” Meow Meow, who warmed up the audience with a divalicious entry. She was briefly joined by 2015 Cabaret Festival artistic director Barry Humphries, who quipped that the Festival Centre stage was possibly the smallest he had been on.

Humphries’ program philosophy is that “there are no rules” – and this proved true at the gala. There was plenty of bawdy content, most explicitly in a Love Song Dedication by John O’Hara unlike any ever heard on air. Several artists also clearly missed – or chose to ignore – the memo that the F-word was banned, but it was all in good fun.


Meow Meow.

Meow Meow did a brilliant job of providing continuity between the more than 15 different acts, with musical support from the Adelaide Art Orchestra. The consummate glamour-puss also delivered her own cheeky version of “Je Ne Quitte Pas”, getting up very close and personal with a couple of gentlemen “volunteers” from the front rows.

Among the powerhouse voices at the gala were Adelaide-born West End star Daniel Koek, and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes and soprano Greta Bradman, who gave a taste of what’s in store at their festival show Peter & Jack, a tribute to singer Peter Dawson and songwriter Jack O’Hagan.

There were also unexpected highlights, including a German rendition of “Tainted Love” by debaucherous duo Strange Bedfellows (Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen); Backstage Club high-camp host Reuben Kaye’s version of “Copacabana” (complete with merkin mike), and My Vagabond Boat’s slick mash-up incorporating Taylor Swift’s “Call Me Maybe”.

Adelaide crooner Michael Griffiths performed a delicious take on Cole Porter’s “I’m the Top”, spiced up with a few local references, while comedian Adam Hills walked on stage swigging from a FruChoc-flavoured Nippy’s milk before exhorting the audience to join with him in singing “Advance Australia Fair” to the tune of “Working-Class Man”.

Marney McQueen’s celebrity bikini waxer character Rosa Waxoffski garnered some of the biggest laughs of the night when she reeled off a list of her alleged celebrity clients, including SA Premier Jay Weatherill, US President Barack Obama, and Tasmanian-born Danish Princess Mary: “You can take the girl out of Tasmania …”

After two exhausting hours of non-stop frivolity, just one question remained: Would the Moonee Ponds housewife grace us with her presence?

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Of course she would. Ushered on stage by Rhodes and Bradman, and looking resplendent in a full-length turquoise-blue frock with dazzling silver highlights, Dame Edna hurled a few gladioli to her fans, told the audience the toilets were out of order, and described Barry Humphries as an embezzler, before launching into just one song – “My Public”.

A perfect ending to a glittering night, Possums.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival Variety Gala was a one-only performance at the Festival Theatre, but most of the acts showcased are performing their own shows over the long weekend or later in the festival season.

More Adelaide Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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