The third annual Melbourne Cabaret Festival kicked off with an opening gala at the atmospheric Chapel Off Chapel. Providing 90 minutes of acts performing 3 songs each as a taster for what the ten day festival offers patrons.
Comedian Sammy J was the illustrious host of the evening, keeping things flowing smoothly and providing comedy respite. His hilarious opening number about the generation gap and new technology had the crowd in stitches. Sammy relates a story about going to his late grandmother’s house to clear out her things including photos, fast forwarding to his own death and the proviso that no will be awarded to his grandchildren unless they open all his computer files, including this song that is the property of his lawyer. Then it’s another morbid remark about every member of the audience dying at some point in time with one member of “team Thursday” left as the winner.
Aria winning Sheilas of the Seventies is an act that resonates with music lovers, featuring none other than Monique Brumby, Kerrie Simpson and Rebecca Barnard. An almost unrecognizable Monique Brumby scantily clad in a bowler hat, a waistcoat, some Hollywood tape, fishnets and suspenders, belts out the very appropriate 'Life Is A Cabaret' and then is followed by Barnard and Simpson crooning collectively to the well loved Fleetwood Mac number “Rhiannon” and Donna Summer’s 'Hot Stuff'.
Brecht, Bilbao & Beyond are two seasoned male performers, one on piano and one on vocals providing interpretations of every Brecht song and who clearly have fans that relate to their humour. Sammy J then invites all the “freeballers” in the audience to pay heed to Megan Shorey who regales us with her life story told from the point of view of the underwear she was wearing in the show Undies . Some songs are funny and some are cringeworthy, but all the while Megan’s vocals are phenomenal.
Acclaimed performer Anthony Costanzo closes the first set and croons whilst playing piano with aplomb, and his set includes 'Without A Price' from his new EP. Vocalist Belinda Allchin has a mean set of pipes and joins Anthony for the next number. After some refreshments, Sammy J returns and talks about how he once performed on a cruise ship, whereby his employers insisted he keep his material clean. This was the inspiration for the song 'Keep It Clean', in which Sammy would “outlaw (the word) moist and set fuck free.”
Introduced as the darling of London Cabaret, “Spanky” known as Candice McQueen is a pink wig, fake eye lash wearing, gender bender, drawing screams of laughter from the crowd with her twisted philosophies on life. She exclaims “I’m so nasty, my rice bubbles go shhh here she comes” and “I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve fucked a lot of races.” Her witty observations and nasty humour made her one of the night’s highlights.
Geppetto (Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach) were resplendent with solemn velvet hoods. Despite technical problems with the synthesiser (hilarious commentary of the Robin Hood story by Sammy J filled the dead air) Gepetto still managed to put on a moving, haunting performance and are definitely an act not to be missed.
“It saddens me to announce the final act, but I’m happy to say it’s a corker”, exclaims Sammy when introducing The Fabulous Singlettes in their first performance in Melbourne in ten years. Naomi, Melissa and Di astounded us all with their vocal dynamics in 'Heatwave', 'Boys' and classic 'River Deep, Mountain High' and some tongue in cheek digs at Sheila’s of the Seventies along with some marshmallow throwing at the audience it’s clear to see why they have been such a hit overseas.
When a mate of Sammy’s called him a soft cock for going home at 2am it prompted his penning of 'Time To Go', which Sammy performs to signal the opening gala’s end, but wait there’s more. The foyer is transformed into a cabaret of sorts with finger food and a singer by the piano. The Melbourne Cabaret Opening Gala showcases a multitude of talented acts to cater to everyone’s taste, making the shows accessible to everyone.