Review: Opening Night Gala for MELBOURNE CABARET FESTIVAL

A glorious beginning to this year’s star-studded and spangled festival

By Kate Boston Smith

Opening Night Gala

A festival first born in the garden of delights that was The Butterfly Club’s original address has blossomed out of its next gothic home in the South Melbourne Town Hall to now stretch its sequin canopy over the length and breadth of our music-loving city.

It was a fantastic and bold move by directors Neville Sice and David Read to open this year’s heavenly event at the auspicious and grand old dame of live performance art, The Palais Theatre on St Kilda’s Esplanade.   Lush red curtains and a smattering of sparkling stars pulled cabaret performers close to the practically sold-out audience for an intimate taste of this beloved art form.

Fem Belling, jazz vocalist and leading lady (performing her own show Blossom Dearie at Chapel off Chapel) hosted the Gala with all the flair, playful wit and costume changes one could hope for.  Clearly a night of stand-out acts from the festival, Trevor Ashley and Rhonda Burchmore took parody and adult-only panto to gin-soaked, pun-tastic new heights, with Burchmore proving she has still most definitely ‘got it’.

Divine Gala moments included Yana Alana’s scantily-clad excerpts from her anticipated return in Blue Show (being performed at 45 Downstairs). Gripping all with her lasso quips and razor-sharp lyrics Yana Alana brings a certain cheek to the stage others could only dream of.  New York cabaret icon Joey Arias took us from the cheeky to the sensual with his beautiful channeling of Billie Holiday. His velveteen tones should not be missed in Arias on Holiday at Chapel Off Chapel.

Absolute crowd favorite was the impeccable Mary Wilson, original chanteuse of The Supremes.  Draped in a red gown, diamonds and white mink stole, Ms Wilson was every bit the dream diva.  Performing excerpts from Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project, she captivated the entire room with her grace and beauty.

This Gala Opening Night was the perfect initiation into the superb world of cabaret.  All the acts were tremendously chosen, with performers such as Tara Minton, David Pomeranz and Adam Guettel who tantalized all not only with their voices, but literally with the sharing of secrets from their personal lives and work practices.

It is this transformative journey from cabaret room into the mind, body and artist imagination that fuels the fire of cabaret-loving audiences.  This is an ideal time of year to make your way into an intimate performance space to have your soul sparked by some of the best in the business.

The Opening Night Gala took place on Wednesday June 26, 2013. There are over 150 performers and performances running NOW for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2013 until 7 July. Check www.melbournecabaret.com for full listings.

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