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BWW Review: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2019: OPENING NIGHT – THE HOUSE IS LIVE at Thebarton Theatre Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 7th Jun 2019.

The 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival began, as usual, with a variety performance, Opening Night - The House is Live, featuring a few of the artists who will be performing during the Festival. As always, it attracted a full house and presented a mix of some well-known and highly respected artists, and a few not so familiar names and faces. Following a welcome to the country and dance performance from an indigenous trio, the event was opened by this year's artistic director, Julia Zemiro, and the multitalented Mitchell Butel, who is now the artistic director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia. They reworked Cole Porter's What A Swell Party, This Is, from the musical, High Society, changing the lyrics to a celebration of cabaret. The opening concert was directed by Craig Ilott, with Daniel Edmonds as the musical director.

With the Adelaide Festival Theatre taken up by the stage production of Aladdin, and Her Majesty's Theatre reduced to a front and side wall, completely gutted for an 'upgrade', large venues are in short supply, so this performance was out of town at the Thebarton Theatre, originally known as the Thebarton Town Hall and Municipal offices, opened in 1928 and located in the inner western suburbs.

Rueben Kaye was the first act on the bill, joking and singing up a storm on Look at Me, with the audience with him all the way. He is always a welcome guest at the Cabaret Festival, and has a big fan base in Adelaide, as evidenced by the massive applause.

Alma Zygier was next up with a couple of swinging numbers, Ella Fitzgerald's A Tisket, a Tasket, and Judy Garland's The Trolley Song. She, and the other four members of her quintet, will be presenting a concert of jazz from the years before WWII, which is sure to appeal to lovers of great music.

The Swell Mob are presenting an immersive theatre performance taking their audiences back to the seamy side of London in the 1800s and we were given a small taste of that. It will no doubt be even better in the confines of the small performance venue, Artspace, where the audience limit is only fifty people and it will be close and personal.

Queenie van de Zandt was up next with a Country and Western number, Candyland, and then Paul Capsis brought the house down with a superb rendition of I Cover the Waterfront, a song of an absent love and waiting for his return across the sea

Nkehe Anele, who sings, we were told, with an interstate band called Saskwatch, was next with a slow ballad, I Get Lonely, followed by a rap number, Assimilate, and short poem from Omar Musa from his show about the boxer Muhammad Ali.

Rueben Kaye brought laughter to the fore again, before singing a moving ballad, Tricks of the Trade, and Queenie van de Zandt returned with Stephen Sondheim's Being Alive. It wouldn't really be a Cabaret Festival without something from Sondheim.

The wonderful Maude Davey performs regularly in Adelaide and is this year presenting, My Life in the Nude, a celebration of her career as a performance artist. Her work is often performed naked and this will be no exception. The audience responded with the humorous answer to the question asked in the chorus of Showgirl (Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again).

Each year an award is presented and, this year, the recipient was cabaret icon, Meow Meow, who then launched into one of her audience participation routines, generating plenty of laughs, whilst singing in English and German. The roots of the genre, the German Kabarett of the Weimar Republic era developed from that of France, particularly what was presented at le Chat Noir, brought us Ich bin ein Vamp!, composed by the Russian born writer, Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985). He wrote for Marlene Dietrich, so we might be lucky enough to hear it again tomorrow, when the fabulous Ute Lemper tells Dietrich's life story.

Meow Meow followed this with Hotel Amour, and was then joined by Paul Capsis in a medley of Get Happy and Happy Days. They were then joined by the entire company for a rousing reprise, and Meow Meow closed the evening with Be Careful.

The evening was dedicated to the late Frank Ford, the founder of the Cabaret Festival, with the promise that a 'ghost light' would be kept on in his memory during the Festival. It was pleasing to see that his partner, Sam, was in attendance.

The advertised 75 minutes grew to two hours, catching a few people short, but nobody was complaining about getting more than they expected. Ending with great applause, and a blizzard of gold glitter falling from the ceiling, the big opening night extravaganza was over for another year.

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From This Author Barry Lenny