The gathering of extraordinary talent from around the world that is Australia's Adelaide Cabaret Festival has begun. And, through June 25, 44 stunningly talented individuals and groups will entertain and, in many cases, amaze.
Billed as the world's largest festival of its kind, the event kicked off Friday night with a Variety Gala Performance that offered a taste of what's to come. Hosted by Australian stage and film actor Simon Burke, entering singing All I Care About Is Love, Billy Flynn's intro in Chicago. In succession the audience got to sample the dazzling array of talent that was just a sample of the Festival.
There was the group Drag! featuring the leading Australian practitioners of that art and The Magnets, an a capella group of six guys who create both the vocals and instruments solely with their voices. It is stunning to hear.
Robyn Archer, a past director of this Festival, sang Hard Times Come Again No More, a song with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes from her show The Other Great American Songbook. It was beautiful. Singer Daniel Boys did So Close, the title track from his new album and Carrie Rawlings sang MacArthur Park.
Newer talent on the scene was represented by Gillian Cosgriff and Toby Francis. Cosgriff's cabaret show, Waitressing, and Other Things I Do Well, showcase her unique view on the world as told through her music. She is funny and, it seems, lovingly acerbic - very witty.
Toby Francis is also the possessor of a sharp wit and, as his full show Blokelahoma!, directed by Festival Executive Director David Campbell, clearly demonstrated, he is funny and very likeable. His full show, which I had the privilege of seeing on Sunday, takes the audience along on his journey of discovery. We learn who he is - this 23 year-old man who loves show tunes and performs cabaret - and along the way are constantly entertained and surprised.
While the new talent was warmly received, the established performers drew the heartiest receptions and watching two established Australian stars in Australia quickly brought to mind what it must be like watching Springsteen in New Jersey, U2 in Dublin or Tom Jones in Wales. These entertainers may belong to the world, but they really belong to their countrymen.
Entering the theater for the Variety performance, audience members each found a glow stick on their seats. We were told that we'd get the signal when to use the stick.
That signal came during a song by Glenn Shorrock, former lead singer of the Little River Band. The song was Reminiscing, the groups biggest hit and, that night, watching it was beautiful with the glow sticks softly illuminating the 2,000-seat theater with a soft glow.
At Shorrock's full show on Sunday night it seemed to be an audience of old friends of the singer's, proving that music brings people together and that the audience often has a real connection with the singer. Shorrock is a performer who clearly loves his material and loves performing it. He did all the hits, numbers by The Beatles and Bobby Darin. When he said to the audience at the start of his show, "I hope you like old songs because that's all I know," they applauded. That applause - all highly deserved - continued throughout the performance. Not a geezer by any means, Shorrock acknowledged the passage of time, perhaps sitting a bit more than he did 30 years go, but his music is timeless. Whether or not the music is from your era, it's lovely to hear it, to have it as the vehicle in which to travel to another time.
Closing the Variety performance was Olivia Newton-John who, with the audience cheering wildly, sang Xanadu.
She was the opening weekend headliner, returning Saturday and Sunday evenings to the Festival Theater. Most of the audience, as a quick look around demonstrated, were devoted fans, knowing all the lyrics and, when not singing aloud, lip-synched along. Looking great and in good voice, she did all the hits and teamed up with David Campbell for You're The One That I Want and We Go Together from Grease.