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Melbourne Cabaret Festival: In Conclusion

Contributed by Nikki Aitken. 

It’s a bumper edition today with the curtain coming down on The Festival last Sunday night at Red Bennies. There have been a few days of mourning, returning to the real world and detox since then. Now, I can think back over those last few days of the festival with pleasure and share with you the week that was.

Dirk Hoult - The Brass Bear Cabaret 

The Brass Bear Cabaret

I caught the final two acts of this Variety style cabaret. Walking into Red Bennies with Master Of Ceremonies Dirk Holt enticing the audience to come on a journey felt like being transported to the carnival in the early 1900’s. The cabaret built it’s style from the early Vaudevillian acts a la Barnum. It was a freak show and each act was introduced with a poetic sentiment that Holt delivered with charm. The dark delights on the line up were Tarah Carey and Chris Carlos dancing their way in and around an aerial hoop utilising Red Bennies space perfectly. The magic of Richard Vegas was wonderful – he levitated a table and made it fly around the room delighting the children in all of us. Later he returned only to levitate a woman!! It was fabulous! The frightening ‘Chucklehurst Sisters’ were a Siamese strip act that made me feel like I was suddenly in a Tim Burton film. Suddenly we were in Egypt with Adele Everhardt gracefully manipulating scarves in a beautiful dance. She returned later with truly beautiful burlesque with a twist! Madame Fey made umbrellas multiply before our very eyes, Chris Carlos and Jo Curry performed an incredibly impressive acrobatic act and Tina Del Twist finished the night with the bit that she seems to do every time I see him / her perform. It’s funny, but I hope the next time I’m faced with her I get something new. The standout performance of the night was Dirk Holt with his recreation of ‘I Am The Walrus.’ This is a performer to look out for. Holt navigates falsetto and bass tones with ease as well as belting with force. He is enchanting and gave and utterly rousing performance.


Angela Harding. Photo: Blueprint Studios


Angela Harding – I’m just the same as you…only different

Angela Harding performed at The Chapel Off Chapel Loft. Having won the Sydney Cabaret Showcase last year, she has written her full length cabaret showcasing some of her original songs together with some covers. This woman can sing! Not only can she sing, but she can flawlessly reach any note she attacks so perfectly that it sometimes felt unnatural! I pondered whether she had some re-modelling on her vocal folds when she had surgery on them during her first year of university. Harding is funny, beautiful and charming with a voice that stuns.. She writes songs that are fun to listen to and tell stories well. It is clear she is more comfortable singing that during her patter and her songs facilitate this. She shared stores of her husband ‘It’s Football’ and her trials at trying to get work in the theatre ‘Singer, Actor, Dancer’. I felt that a director might be useful at times. The microphone stand sat in the middle of the stage for the entire perfomance and often encroached on her space becoming quite distracting. Further to this some of her stories may have been given a little more pizzazz with some movement or characterization. The covers she performed, ‘At Last’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, and ‘Both Sides Now’ were incredibly well executed and it is clear Harding can sing any song she wants to from soul through to coloratura arias. By the end of the show however, I was full of ‘niceness’ and would like to see Harding show another side to her than just perfection. It’s a nice place to live, but for me, I want a bit more than prettiness and perfect vocals.


Candice McQueen 

Candice McQueen – ‘Nasty’

Spanky plays Candice McQueen the demi-goddess born of DJ Hades and Roxanne Roxanne You Don’t Have To Put On Your Red Light. She states that she is ‘Nasty’ but she was Fierce!! This unbelievably clever cabaret amalgamates ancient mythology and 90’s pop culture in a way that clearly could only come from the fucked up mind that is Spanky. And what a ride! It was utterly ridiculous and I loved every single second of it. His use of language transported us to places that do not exist and challenge ideals that the conservative hold dear. His compositions such as ‘Revolver’ and ‘Whatever’ belong on the top 40 charts and his flawless performance leave you wanting more. Where will Spanky go next? Hopefully he will stay in Australia and have us screeching in our seats with his completely politically and environmentally incorrect humour. Accompanied by the devastatingly gorgeous and talented Robert Tripolino, this pair have recently been picked up by Australian Cabaret Enterprises (David Read and Neville Sice) who have launched the new arm of their business into management. They have picked an utterly winning pair and I can only hope that I hear ‘Revolver’ on the radio soon!!


Closing Gala

Sadly, the festival had to come to an end and it went out with a big cabaret bang. The evening hosted by Sammy J much to our delight, included an auction to help support Equality and Gay Marriage. Sammy J was a self-confessed crap auctioneer and happily learned the trade throughout the course of the night. The headliner, no other than Paul Capsis left us amazed with the power and commitment that a performer can give! This man is incredible and to be honest, I’ve never seen him perform this way before – boy was I glad to know what everyone was harping on about. Did I mention, he’s incredible? Festival participants and cabaret artists from Melbourne performed throughout the evening proving a perfect blend from beginning to end. Younger local performer Justin Clausen gave a compelling and camp version of ‘Taylor The Latte Boy’ with Trevor Jones. This man is not only beautiful to look at but Clausen is hilarious and charming with a simply incredible voice. One can only hope we see more from him and soon. Seasoned performers such as Monique Brumby and Virginia Gay were up on the stage entertaining the pants off us. Virginia delighted us by her self-deprecating humour and spot on singing. This woman is a pure delight with a voice that fills the room. Spanky performed their hits ‘Revolver and ‘Whatever’ to cheers of sheer joy and the whole night topped off the festival with much frivolity and excitement. I certainly cannot wait for next years festival, but for now…I’m catching up on my sleep!!

Thanks must go to David Read and Neville Sice for their hard work in raising funds and programming the festival. Fantastic news is that ticket sales were up 83% from last year – with the crowd funding that occurred, this means they broke even, so lets hope for another 83% increase next year. The search for funds has commenced already for 2013, please click to read how you can help further this cause.

Keep on  seeing shows all year round cause it’s out there …Until next year Cabaret Bitches! 




Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Late Night Piano Bar

Contributed by Nikki Aitken.


Last Saturday night was the first Late Night Piano Bar of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival led by none other than the incomparable Trevor Jones. My friends and I had come from seeing ‘The Paris Walk’ and ‘Geppetto’ (again - I just had to have it 2 nights in a row!!).  I feel this review says all I need to say about those 2 hours.

After being transported by Dean and Diefenbach yet again, my cabaret buddies and I transported ourselves to Bohemia Cabaret Club in South Melbourne. But on Saturday night Bohemia was New York and we were the hippest Musical Theatre enthusiasts on the planet! Trevor had already roused the audience to the max in the hour before we arrived and there was group singing filling the space upon our entry. There are not many places where you can open a door and be singing with a hundred other people in perfect harmony within 30 seconds! There was Phantom (including a very Dutch courage/wine-induced Christine from me - seriously, I didn’t think I could sing that high anymore!), there was Celine, there was Rent, it just went on and on.

Local performers are invited on stage, sometimes just passed the microphone and appear out of the audience. With many familiar faces in the crowd, it was the best of the cabaret community all in one room celebrating the fabulous shows they have been seeing by using their own voices. Trevor Jones is the ultimate host, singing for the majority of the time and is flawless. Any request you may have, he can deliver, how he does it, no one can know - that’s what genius looks like I suppose. This is the only way to end a night at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival and it’s on all week this week!!  


Review: Lists of Invisible Things

Contributed by Nikki Aitken.



Caity Fowler in ‘Lists Of Invisible Things’ is a magical piece of cabaret that invites the audience to turn the world on its head and experience it with child-like wonderment.

We are presented with characters from a family at different stages in time and space, sometimes full of joy and sometimes wanting for more. The Mother who has endless love for her daughter ‘I will Love You Always’, the Aunty who wishes for a good dose of plastic surgery ‘Happy People’, and the boyfriend who has Alice’s matching Invisible list ‘But I Don’t’.

‘Alice’ holds her thoughts in jars (placed all over the stage) when they are ‘too big to fit inside her’. She can smell feelings, see sound in colour and taste words. This character drives the story forward. Each of the other characters, also played by Fowler reveal their relationship with ‘Alice’ only at the end. This was executed so intelligently that it was completely unexpected and brought me to tears. 

Fowler is an engaging actress with a bell-like soprano voice that she manipulates for each character effortlessly. Her original songs are lyrically and melodically beautiful. They vary in style and suit each moment perfectly. The stand out song is ‘Be Still’ which begs us to see the beauty in existence.  Emma Clair Ford directed this piece graciously, using the  Butterfly Club space to create multiple areas giving it the sense of largesse. It was visually interesting and gave each character their own voice and life. Jen Kingwell played keys, glockenspiel and computer with finesse supporting Fowler throughout. 

This is an enchanting and clever cabaret both hilarious and tragic, all I could have wanted delivered truthfully by a compelling performer. 

Lists of Invisible Things

Caity Fowler, accompanied by Jen Kingwell

The Butterfly Club

Season closed.


Related articles:

Review - Sheila Bradley in The Cat, The Rat & Me

Review: Geppetto (Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach) Present ‘An End To Dreaming’

The Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Oh…it’s ON!


The Melbourne Cabaret Festival:'s ON!

Contributed by Nikki Aitken.

The Melbourne Cabaret Festival Opening Gala

 David Read & Neville Sice - Festival Directors


By the end of the evening’s proceedings, there was a satisfied feeling from the packed out audience at Chapel Off Chapel. Sammy J was host and seamlessly led the audience throughout the night. He opened with a song about the Generation Gap which was fitting because every generation was represented in the audience and there were a few up on stage also. Sammy J left us with the thought before the entertainment began that our collective audience member ‘narratives had intersected at this one moment in time’ and that eventually one of us ‘would be the winner’ – the last one left alive. Whilst momentarily morbid, it opened up the idea that we had to leave all expectations outside. For the first act, this is what I had to do. I was left confused after the opening number of ‘Life Is A Cabaret’ performed in such a way that I felt like someone had sedated the arrangement followed by what can only be described as a mini pub gig. It is clear that ‘The Sheila’s Of The 70’s’ are consummate performers, they have won an Aria award after all, however, what they were doing opening the Melbourne Cabaret Festival Gala, I was unsure. 

A very traditional Brecht, Bilbao and Beyond followed and for anyone wanting a history lesson, this is the show for you. It appears they will attempt to arrange every single Brecht song in new and interesting ways throughout the show and for the very many Brecht lovers, you will enjoy this new take on his work. 

Sammy J then invited all the audience, bar the free-ballers to welcome Megan Shorey to stage with a bit from her show Megan Shorey: Undies. This woman has an amazing voice and writes beautiful melodies. I’m looking forward to seeing her show to find out if her self-deprecating humour will leave me feeling happy I’m unmarried or hopeful for the future! The first act closed with the very shiny Anthony Costanzo. He performed a couple of his pop songs. Anthony has an absolute cracker of  a voice and plays that piano like there’s no tomorrow. I’m looking forward to see his whole show on Monday.

After a glass of champagne and a hope that the second act might present some laugh-out-loud cabaret acts, my wish came true. Sammy J popped the celebratory entertainment bottle with his ‘Fuck Song’ or ‘Keep It Clean.’ Cand-ice McQueen (otherwise known as ‘Spanky’) brought her ‘Nasty’ self-proclaimed Mister / Sister with blazing pink hair self onto the stage. Squeals of hysterical laughter followed as she explained to us that she was ‘so hip, even [her] errors are correct,’ and she is so ‘nasty [her] bowels deliver uranium.’ She called us her ‘CB’s’ (Cabaret Bitches) and the audience LOVED her. She absolutely stole the show and set the second act up with fierce excitement. 

When the Geppetto (Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach Present ‘An End To Dreaming’ followed, I was squirming on my seat with anticipation. I have heard so many great things about this team, I was eager to see them in action. After some technical difficulties beginning with no microphone at the piano and software problems from the second keyboard (which was all hilariously commentated by Sammy J off-stage including him telling the entire story-line from Robin Hood) they began. This is cabaret, this is what I came for and the blended vocals of these two make you want to dream forever. Not to mention, they are both so extremely lovely to watch. 

Finally, The Fabulous Singlettes  closed the night to a raucous audience. These seasoned performers glided onto stage, ripped half their costumes off, hurled marshmallows at our faces and ended with a version of ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ that made me want to stand in my seat.

Sammy J ended the evening with his song ‘Time To Go’ and we all piled out into Chapel off Chapel foyer; transformed during the second act into a party venue with crooner in the corner no less. 

After a shaky start, The Opening Night Gala came through with flying colours and I am only more excited than ever to see them fly over the next 10 days! Happy Melbourne Cabaret Festival everyone….oh, it’s ON!


Review: Geppetto (Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach) Present ‘An End To Dreaming’

Contributed by Nikki Aitken.


Emma Dean and Jake Deifenbach make the duo Geppetto. I sit here listening to their CD ‘Into The Woods’ while I pen this. Not wanting to leave their gifts at the theatre, I had to bring them home with me and now plan to buy up every CD they offer, of which there are currently just a few.

From the moment they walk onto stage shrouded in their black cloaks to the moment they leave (and we wished they just wouldn’t) the audience were transfixed by their music and the energetic delivery they exuded into the Chapel off Chapel loft. Their show ‘An End To Dreaming’ only serves to prove that one should never stop dreaming. They navigate a set of ‘stages’ of dreaming with hauntingly mysterious and child-like evocations of melodies that only true musicians can.

Through the use of a baby grand and a keyboard hooked up to a macbook, they use texture in their music that made me wish the symphony orchestra were there to back them, for it is clear that Dean and Deifenbach can hear bigger orchestrations in their heads. They swap back and forth between multiple instruments (the two keyboards, a melodian and a violin) and Dean thrills us by playing said violin and singing at the same time; both performers are extraordinary, it’s that simple.

The power of their arrangements was exciting, the sincerity of their voices and the way in which they draw you into their beautiful story telling is incredible. With hardly a word spoken we were compelled to hold onto our dreams, and while you can find yourself in the dark, while it can be difficult to see your way through, dreaming is a glorious way to live. At one point, I literally had chills down my spine and it made me feel like I was listening to not only a cabaret, but a Cabaret Symphony. I have never seen work like this in all my life, emotional, technically brilliant and transporting all at once.

I am grateful to them both for sharing themselves and their stunning original music. Thank you ‘Geppetto,’ thank you with all my heart. You gave me an experience I will never forget.


Geppetto Present ‘An End To Dreaming’

Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach

July 13 & 14 @ 10.30pm

Loft - Chapel Off Chapel


Book online here

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