BWW REVIEW: The Inaugural SYDNEY CABARET FESTIVAL Opens In Style With An ALL STAR GALA
Friday 5th July 2019, 7pm, City Recital Hall
Sydney Cabaret Festival Artistic Director Trevor Ashley opened the inaugural SYDNEY CABARET FESTIVAL with a delightful amuse-bouche of performances at the ALL STAR GALA. Ashley, well known to Sydney cabaret, musical theatre and drag audiences, has gathered a delightful array of performers from around the world to present the depth and breadth of what cabaret covers.
The Festival, which runs from the 5 to the 14th of July, predominantly at the Seymour Centre, seeks to fill the void in the Sydney arts scene which has not really paid much attention to Cabaret like other Australian cities have. As well as big names like Tony Award winning Jennifer Holliday, Ashley gives Sydney audiences the opportunity to hear Australian artists who have made their careers overseas like Kim David Smith and Reuben Kaye along with local performers like Phil Scott, Jonathan Biggins, Cath Alcorn and Rhonda Burchmore.
While the whole program looks amazing, there were a few particular performances that caught your BWW Senior Editor's eye at the Gala. Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins' NO CABARET FOR OLD MEN looks like another treat of their trademark wit and wordcraft that made Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf Revue an annual event. The energetic, camp, and clever Reuben Kaye is deliciously dark but utterly fabulous in his over the top extravagance. The delightful Kim David Smith gives Australia's pop princess' music a new edge with KIM SINGS KYLIE. UK duo Frisky and Mannish give a music class that would have even the worst student wanting to pay attention in POPLAB as they deconstruct well known songs. Tim Draxl's gorgeous voice is always a treat to listen to and his ability to connect to the music and lyrics promises to make LOVE IS A DRAG a masterclass in cabaret as he delves into the history of an album that when first released, no one could put their name to. And finally, Jennifer Holliday's soaring voice which filled the City Recital Hall so magnificently is definitely one to try to catch.
In addition to the featured shows, the SYDNEY CABARET FESTIVAL also has the Moet & Chandon Piano Bar upstairs at the Seymour Centre where musical director Steven Kreamer will accompany hosts that include Cath Alcorn, Genevieve Lemon and Trevor Ashley himself.
Secure your tickets now and make sure that this becomes an annual event.
SYDNEY CABARET FESTIVAL
5-14 July 2019
Bookings and more information at www.sydneycabaretfest.com
Friday 5 July, City Recital Hall
Hosted by Festival Director Trevor Ashley, the All-Star Gala is the most glamorous amuse bouche anyone could hope for, with a taste of what's to come across the festival. Surprise guest artists, big laughs and sequinned glamour await you... so step up and step out, and join us for this one-night-only opening event. This is your chance to be at the opening night, rubbing shoulders with the festival glitterati at this gala event as Cabaret finally comes home to Sydney.
"a night of laughs, music and frivolity" - SBS
Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July, Sydney Town Hall
Tony and Grammy Award winning Broadway icon Jennifer Holliday makes her Australian Debut, exclusively for Sydney Cabaret. With two Grammy Awards, nine studio albums and five Top 10 singles on the R&B and Dance Charts to her credit, Jennifer will dazzle with her powerhouse vocals in an electrifying evening of Broadway, jazz standards, originals and soulful pop.
Her show stopping, heart-wrenching performance of And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going in the original production of Dreamgirls is considered one of the all-time great performances in a Broadway musical. She recently returned to Broadway in the role of sexy cabaret singer Shug Avery in the Tony-winning revival of The Color Purple. She has been proclaimed a Broadway legend by critics and fans alike, and you, and you...you're gonna love her.
Friday 5 July - Sunday 14 July, Valhalla, Seymour Centre
Who knew that the sleepy picturesque village of Brunswick Heads on the north coast of NSW would become the cultural hotspot that has most of the country talking? Stumbling across an unloved theatre on the beach that had been closed for 30 years, the creators of international, award-winning smash hits La Soirée and Club Swizzle had an immediate life-changing epiphany and after much blood, sweat and tears, the Brunswick Picture House was born.
The signature show of this charming little venue, the Cheeky Cabaret, has grown up quickly and is now venturing out and stretching its legs in the big smoke at the Sydney Cabaret Festival in July. The black sheep of the La Soirée cabaret family and very naughty younger brother, the Cheeky Cabaret is an irreverent, saucy and highly mischievous mash of circus, vaudeville, comedy, new burlesque and everything in between, and has been a runaway success. With three years of sold out shows under its belt, the Cheeky Cabaret's reputation has rippled up and down the coast, with its tongue placed firmly in cheek. If you're a fan of flavours other than vanilla, then open up wide...the Cheeky Cabaret is just for you.
A CENTENARY CELEBRATION OF ELLA FITZGERALD - ALISON JIEAR
Friday 12 July and Saturday 13 July, Chequers, Seymour Centre
Following sell-out shows in London, Laurence Olivier Award-nominated vocalist Alison Jiear returns to her home country with her phenomenal jazz quartet to perform music made famous by the "First Lady of Song" with a show packed full of iconic standards such as A Tisket A Tasket, Ev'ry Time We Say oodbye, Lady be Good, Hernando's Hideaway and That 'Ol Black Magic. One of the greatest voices in cabaret you'll ever hear, Alison is a class act, and will move you to tears.
"There's hardly a bigger, better voice in all of London's theatre land... She's an unmissable marvel" - The Stage
NO CABARET FOR OLD MEN - PHIL SCOTT AND JONATHAN BIGGINS
Friday 5 July, Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July - Tilbury Room, Seymour Centre
Direct from the Tilbury Hotel (via 46 years in the Wharf Revue), the Tilbury Room at Sydney Cabaret proudly resents Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott giving a veritable masterclass in cabaret - with neither the mastery nor class. Together, these lightly-seasoned performers examine the many strands of the cabaret art form - Audition Cabaret, Name-Drop Cabaret, Weimar, Broadway, Political and the ever-popular "No Other Avenue is Available to Me" cabaret stylings of the under-employed.
No Cabaret for Old Men - the show that finally gives mature white men the voice they've never had.
"Intelligent satire alongside cheap, below-the-belt parodies..." - Daily Review
LOVE IS A DRAG - TIM DRAXL
Wednesday 10 July and Thursday 11 July, Tilbury Room, Seymour Centre
Actor and singer Tim Draxl returns to the cabaret stage with an exciting project that re-creates the 1960s cult album of male-to-male love songs Love Is A Drag. The melodic, haunting work comprises American standards previously recorded only by women yet here interpreted by a male crooner whose identity was deliberately shrouded in secrecy. Songs include My Man, The Man I Love, He's Funny That Way, Bewitched and Mad About The Boy.
Love is a Drag is a vibrant, truthful and intimate exploration which reveals the repression, hostility, deceits and life-and-death sacrifices of the '40s, '50s and '60s as well as a celebration of Tim Draxl's own personal story of artistic freedom, individual and collective pride, and how 50 years ago the very notion of marriage equality would have been dismissed as pure fantasy. Ultimately, Love Is A Drug is deeply-romantic, life-affirming and liberating, as achingly conveyed in Billie Holliday's The Man I Love.
"Glorious....as fine a piece of cabaret as has been hatched in Australia... It generated that singular combination of emotional brittleness and tender romance'' - Sydney Morning Herald
POPLAB - FRISKY AND MANNISH
Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July, Chequers, Seymour Centre
Ten years since they burst onto the scene with their wildly popular brand of musical infotainment, Frisky and Mannish are officially Pop PhDs, fully qualified to conduct scientific analyses of the molecular intersections between every pop song ever. For the first time, you are invited into their PopLab to peek down the microscope at all their latest research projects. Have they found an effective vaccine for the contagious Tropical House virus sweeping through the pop world? Who is the latest to benefit from their 80s RnB Conservation Program? Brush up on your Pop Periodic Table with the mad scientists themselves, and perhaps you too will be able to address problematic equations, like just how can Coldplay be so popular even though everyone you ask says they hate them? Science, people. Science.
Award-winners at Adelaide Fringe, sell-outs at Perth Fringe, specially invited artists at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and long-overdue a return to Sydney since their acclaimed debut at the Opera House in 2009, the British sensations are finally back to bring you their unique brand of popmusicy-seriocomic-mashparodic-stereophonic-LOUD-vaudevillian-sketchcabaret-throwbackcurrent-oldfangled-newfashioned-bapsbotty-infotainment.
"Clever, inventive, polished, prodigiously talented and extremely funny ?????" - Time Out Sydney
KIM SINGS KYLIE - KIM DAVID SMITH
Friday 12 July, Saturday 13 July and Sunday 14 July, Tilbury Room, Seymour Centre
New York based cabaret performer Kim David Smith salutes perennial pop goddess, Kylie Minogue, with an intimately fabulous cabaret-fantasia, celebrating Kylie's catalogue of gargantuan hits and glittering deep cuts, from 1987's Locomotion all the way through to 2018's Golden. Labelled the "male Marlene Dietrich" by the New York Times, Smith deconstructs three decades of Minogue dance anthems, with music direction by the multi-Award winning Brian Nash, and with costumes by Miodrag Guberinic (Katy Perry, Madonna, Nicki Minaj).
''The flirty, sly, dark-elfin Australian baritone departs from his Weimar-inflected signature set, Morphium Kabarett, for a special salute to Aussie pop icon Kylie Minogue'' - Time Out
RELENTLESS - NATALIE JOY JOHNSON
Thursday 11 July, Friday 12 July and Saturday 13 July - Tilbury Room, Seymour Centre
Get into it, kweens! New York City goddess and diva Natalie Joy Johnson bursts into Sydney for the very first time ever. Her unique brand of outrageous stories coupled with her sensational voice makes her an unmissable event, as she guides you through everything from her experiences at her first ever swingers party to Marie Kondo. Joined by Brian Nash on the piano and a rocking band, expect everything from showtunes to Jim Steinman. She's loud, she's trashy, she's relentless.
"Sort of Bette Midler meets Courtney Love" - The Village Voice
Friday 12 July, Saturday 13 July and Sunday 14 July - Capriccio's, Seymour Centre
Imagine if Joan Collins, Tim Curry and Meow Meow all dropped a stack of narcotics and had an orgy... now roll it in jewels and a bathtub of gin and you're halfway there. In an explosion of energy, high camp, big notes and filthy humour, Reuben Kaye dominates the stage and devours his audience. With an acid wit and casual sensationalism that is simply delicious, he is a dazzling phantasm of anachronistic showbiz - an explosion of sequins, lashes and teeth. Kaye's delivery is flawless as he seamlessly blends lavish storytelling into gilded song, incorporating an impressive repertoire that ranges from Kurt Weill to Kate Bush, regularly punctuating his monologue with rich cultural critique.
"The evil love child of Liza Minnelli and Jim Carrey" - British Theatre Guide
THE ART OF THE MASHUP - BRIAN NASH
Thursday 11 July, Capriccio's, Seymour Centre
Direct from the Duplex, award-winning New York City pianist, singer and musical director Brian Nash returns to Sydney with The Art of the Mashup. Brian has become renowned for his ability to combine songs into hilarious, creative storytelling medleys, and is debuting a full evening of his greatest hits, along with the stories of their creation. If you've wanted to know what Stewie Griffin would sound like singing Beyoncé, or wondered where Bette Midler and Whitney Houston overlap, this is your chance. An evening with a true king of the keys!
"fill(s) the room with so much energy it's hard to breathe" - Broadway World
Friday 5 July, Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July - Capriccio's, Seymour Centre
Direct from London, Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote is a hosted screening of an episode of Murder, She Wrote, featuring hilarious games and audience participation. Hosted by superfan Tim Benzie, our most interactive event includes a singalong to the theme tune with new lyrics, Cabot Cove Bingo, and a JB Fletcher Epiphany Race! With campy guest stars and 80s trivia, what more could you ask for? Jessica Fletcher always works it out, will you solve the murder?
"Celebrates all things 80s television murder mysteries had to offer" - Weekender UK
SYDNEY CABARET COMPETITION GRAND FINAL
Wednesday 10 July, Capriccio's, Seymour Centre
Australia's next generation of cabaret superstars will launch their careers at The Sydney Cabaret Competition: Grand Final hosted by 'International Queen of Cabaret' Trevor Ashley. On the night, one lucky winner will receive a career changing prize and the chance to perform at the festival's closing night. Our judging panel of distinguished international entertainers will also select a runners up and the audience will choose their favourite to receive an award from a total prize pool valued at over $5,000.
With a diverse range of experience, styles and sounds, the competition finalists will already have impressed a panel of judges to progress to this final, including Helpmann Award winner Matt Lee, Broadway World Award winner Catherine Alcorn, Australian cabaret treasures Phil Scott and Margi De Ferranti, and producers Mark Sutcliffe and Les Solomon.
JENNIFER HOLLIDAY MASTERCLASS With Brian Nash
Wednesday 10 July, Chequers, Seymour Centre
In a special one-off event, join two time Grammy and Tony award-winning artist Jennifer Holliday as she mentors four emerging Australian performers in an open Masterclass. Having been mentored herself by the legendary Michael Bennett, you'll experience her incredible process and gain insights into acting through song and song interpretation.
ALISON JIEAR MASTERCLASS With Michael Tyack
Thursday 11 July, Capriccio's, Seymour Centre
Olivier award nominated songstress Alison Jiear joins with musical director Michael Tyack to present their insights into creating and crafting a cabaret show. Working with two emerging Australian cabaret artists on their act and interpretation of material and patter, this is a behind-the-scenes look at how cabaret is created. Ali's warm and wonderful sense of humour will shine as she nurtures and inspires the next generation.
CLOSING NIGHT SHOWQUEEN FEATURING TONI LAMOND, HOSTED BY TREVOR ASHLEY
Australian Showbiz royalty Toni Lamond will emerge from retirement to perform at a special closing night Showqueen event at the Festival, alongside performances from many of the international Festival guests.
Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall and the Festival Hub at the Seymour Centre. The Seymour Centre is the home to the majority of the program with five fabulous spaces to enjoy the incredible lineup. All the theatres have been renamed after legendary Sydney cabaret venues, turning the entire venue into a Cabaret Wonderland.
VALHALLA - The largest venue, named after the famous cinema/ performance space in Glebe is the home to Cheeky Cabaret, and the Petit Cabaret for the kids. Valhalla was the place audiences first saw the legend that became Reg Livermore when he starred as Frank N' Furter in The Rocky Horror Show in the original Australian production.
CHEQUERS - Chequers will be home to some of our favourite cabaret superstars, transporting you back to the legendary nightclub of the 1960s. Chequers on Goulburn Street, was the hottest nightspot in Sydney for years, with star acts like Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jr!
THE TILBURY ROOM - Tilbury legends Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott will headline the room named after the renowned Sydney pub in Woolloomooloo. Owned by Geoffrey Williams and Michael Freundt, the Tilbury was the place to go for cabaret for most of the 90s. Here icons like Tony Sheldon, Genevieve Lemon, Jeanne Little and many more trod the boards, especially in the famous Tilbury Pantos.
CAPRICCIO'S - Named after one of the greatest drag revue bars on Oxford Street, Capriccios is the smallest room in which to get properly up close and personal. Capriccio's was owned by Dawn O'Donnell and featured high-end production shows in its upstairs theatre, where you could see celebrities like Debbie Reynolds mixing with star performer Rose Jackson!
THE MOET & CHANDON PIANO BAR - Upstairs at the Seymour, come on down where the gin is cold and the piano's hot! The nightly piano bar operates across the festival, with special late shows on weekends.
Photos: John McRae