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Entries in Melbourne Fringe Festival (6)


A Well Crafted Line will Stand the Test of Time


Melbourne songstress Ilana Charnelle is known for her commitment to dressing up in vintage glamour get-up every day almost as much as she is for her 1940s inspired vocals. “Forget smart phones, skinny jeans and autotune - I’m here to take you back to the days of love letters, bathtub gin, slow dancing and smouldering jazz!” 


Except without her smart phone, Ilana wouldn’t be able to share her vintage discoveries on instagram. She looks at fashion the same way she looks at songs - by looking back you can see the music and outfits that stand the test of time. They show that they’ve been created by masters of their craft and possess a quality that makes them timeless. A well crafted line, whether it be the cut of a beautiful jacket, a beautifully poignant lyric or an evocative melody, will stand the test of time. 



I sat down with Ilana at The Kettle Black last week to talk about her passion for fashion and performing. But before we delved into that, we spoke about her ‘day job’ at Auslan Stage Left. 


She already knew sign language (Auslan) and so when a job opportunity came up a great company that helped make arts and cultural activities more accessible for hearing impaired audiences, she was excited to combine two of her skills.


“Learning sign language has definitely impacted my life a huge amount. When I communicate I want to sit directly opposite someone so I can clearly see their face. That level of eye contact can weird a lot of people out, but it’s a very ‘deaf’ thing to do.  When I’m communicating with someone I wanted to be absolutely invested in that conversation.”


To approach this interview from a fashion perspective was brand new for me so I asked Ilana to get me up to speed.


“In Melbourne there is a much bigger vintage and pinup community now than whenI first started dressing this way when i was 17 or 18. It’s really grown. A lot of the pinup fashions focus on the rockabilly look, tattoos and a big hair. But my real interest has always been in vintage day. I love how in the 1940s women would wear a pair of slacks and a nice knitted sweater. That’s the stuff I get inspired by because it’s really wearable.”


“A lot of people I pass in the street comment that I’m ‘dressed up’, but back in the day this fashion wasn’t considered dressy at all, it was just standard. Wearing a collared shirt and a pencil skirt, or simple mens’ style slacks with a knit top and sweater. I guess it’s the equivalent of today’s office wear.”


It was also the era of turbans. “I wear a headscarf almost every day. In the 1940s they’d wear a turban style that would cover the whole head with your hair piled on top.”

Ilana confesses to a ‘headscarf addiction’. “I have nearly a hundred scarves. I started collecting them by accident - and then I kept going because they’re cheap and easy buy.” She owns close to one hundred scarves and they are hung around her bedroom, check this blog post on how she designed her personal scarf storage system.


Most of what Ilana wears is sourced from op (opportunity) shops. “In op shops and charity stores you need to be really persistent. You have to be prepared to dig and think creatively when you see something and try everything on - it takes a lot of dedication!”


It’s a matter of deciding what era you want to style your outfit on and then capturing the appropriate silhouette.


In the twenties you’re looking for drop waists and a boyish square sihouette. 


By the 1940s you’re looking for more narrow styles and less detail. Of course at that time there was fabric rationing (due to WW2) and no big skirts. Instead they were narrower, well cut and very structured so they came in at the waist, or had big shoulder pads. 


Then in the fifties when the new look came in thats when it started getting into huge skirts and very very narrow hip to waist ratios and bright colours.



In Melbourne Charnelle shops at Savers in Brunswick or Fountaingate. “If you’re spending a weekend in the country, the country shops are the best because they’re not as accessible and are less scoured.”



Ilana is really interested in the “Teddy Girls” of the 1950s and their rebellious, underground movement. In the fifties there was a new wave of rebellious teenagers. Teddy Girls were a subset of that group, a bit alternative, and these girls would go to the charity shops which at that time stocked a lot of Victorian era (turn of the century) clothes.


“Of course nowadays we get a lot of seventies and eighties clothes in vintage stores, but in the fifties the op shops were filled with Victorian era fashions.” Teddy Girls bought bits and pieces from the 1910s-20s and you can find images of these teenagers wearing contemporary slacks or skinny pants and then they’d have these Victorian jackets or  they’d have walking umbrellas that they’d wear with long overcoats. 


“In this example of a photo from the era I love the classic lines of Victorian fashion juxtaposed with 1950s jeans, with shirts untucked and cigarettes dangling from her fingers.”



In terms of fashion icons, Ilana looks to golden era film stars, but rarely does she focus on their most celebrated glamorous outfits.


“I really like pedestrian street wear - thats a big inspiration for me. So instead of searching for movie stars on the red carpet I might look at Audrey Hepburn in a rehearsal room or Marilyn Monroe doing a script reading as opposed to being on set.”


“Marilyn is my number one vintage icon - I love the relaxed photo shoots when she’s at home, when she’s at a cottage wearing some slacks.”


“There’s a lot of great street style to be discovered from college year books. “There are a few vintage blogs that post yearbooks from the 1940s and 50s and it’s amazing to look at these young girls who are doing their own hair and have incredible style - really simple shirts and sweaters, nice brooches. That’s achievable. I can go out to an op shop and buy a nice white collared shirt and a nice cardigan. I don’t think those classic basics ever go out of fashion.”


In 2013 Ilana was invited to perform as part of the Hollywood Costumes exhibition at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). She sang the songs of another film icon, Judy Garland.


At this year’s Melbourne Fringe, Ilana Charnelle is channelling her ‘inner Garland’ for the second time in Sophisticated Lady: A Nightcap with Billie, Judy & Ella, collaborating with Mama Alto (who plays Billie Holiday) and singer-songwriter Satta (Ella Fitzgerald).


Mama Alto and Ilana both studied at Monash University and were involved in student theatre. Friends told Ilana that they should meet and weeks later when they finally met they got along like a house on fire and have been close ever since.


Charnelle and Mama Alto share a passion for vintage fashion. 


“My grandfather was a tailor when he came to Australia after the second world war. He worked for a label called Los Angeles which was under the bigger label Leon Phillips. When my grandmother was alive, she would pull bits and pieces out of her wardrobe and show me the label saying ‘this is what Zayde made’. Then I was in an op shop once and I found a Leon Phillips coat. I wondered if my grandfather had made it - so I bought it. Then one day I got a phone call from Mama Alto out of the blue asking ‘what was the name of the label your grandfather worked for?’ He asked if there was a picture of a fifties woman with a big circular skirt featured on the Los Angeles label and when I said ‘yes’, he said ‘Great I found you a coat. I’m buying it for you!’ It’s a beautiful black and white coat with lining in red. So now every time I go into an op shop I check the label of every coat in the store.”


Ilana’s two favourite songs from Sophisticated Lady are “The Man That Got Away” and “Love For Sale”. 


“I’ve loved The Man That Got Away ever since I first heard the recording of Judy singing it. I love how much emotion is embedded in that song.”


“Mama Alto performs a really beautiful version of ‘Love For Sale’. I first heard the Julie London version of that song and it’s so clever and beautiful whilst it has an underlying bitterness and sadness to it. But when I listen to it I don’t feel sad, just entranced.”


Sophisticated Lady: A Nightcap with Billie, Judy and Ella plays at The Butterfly Club September 23-27 as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.


An additional Auslan interpreted and mobility aid accessible performance will be held at Hares & Hyenas on September 29.


For bookings, visit: / /


See more of Ilana’s vintage selfies at

her blog at 

or keep up with her on Facebook at





Matthew Carey founded Cabaret Confessional in 2009 to promote cabaret artists to the world at large and to archive just some of the amazing cabaret performances that happen around the world every year. 

His new initiative is The Business of Performing - helping performing artists learn and develop the business skills to turn their passion into a sustainable career. To sign up to the mailing list and get a free copy of ‘12 Social Media Tips to Sell Out Your Next Show” click here.






Tommy Bradson wins Best Cabaret at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards


Tommy Bradson

2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards night was held on the 8th of October to “celebrate and acknowledge the diversity, professionalism and exceptional quality of work in this year’s festival”.

The Awards night was hosted by Neal Harvey & Beau McCafferty.

Tommy Bradson was crowned Best Cabaret Award for his show Pirate Rhapsody, Mermaid Requiem. This is a second win for Bradson, who took out the same award for his cabaret debut When the Sex is Gone in 2009 (also winning the Best Newcomer Award).

Hannah Williams

Hannah Williams, who won the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Short + Sweet Cabaret was also awarded the Fringe People’s Choice Award for her show Mercedes Benz…Awkwardly.

Jenny Wynter

Jenny Wynter received the Melbourne Cabaret Festival Award for Excellence in Cabaret for The Unexpected Variety Show. She was awarded a gold pass to all shows in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2012 and an invitation to perform in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

 As it was mentioned on their Facebook page, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival is clearly “doing something right” and is a good omen, as both Pirate Rhapsody, Mermaid Requiem and Mercedes Benz…Awkwardly featured in the 2011 festival program and now Jenny Wynter will be a part of it, too.

Congratulations to all three winners!

Click here to see the full list of the Melbourne Fringe Festival Award receipients.


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October 2011 What's On @ The Butterfly Club (Melbourne)


The Butterfly Club

is located at 

204 Bank Street

South Melbourne 3205

Victoria, Australia

Phone enquiries: 03 9690 2000




27 September – 2 October

Tues, Weds, Sun @ 8pm – Thurs, Fri, Sat @ 9pm  

Headline Show: Melbourne Fringe Festival - PORCELAIN PUNCH TRAVELLING MEDICINE SHOW

What is your desire? Health Beauty or a Miracle Cure?

Witness the effects of this age old tonic of wonder in the Porcelain Punch Traveling Medicine Show.

Audiences will be enchanted by these characters and their unique approach to the ridiculous. Actors play in the realms of clown, satire and new circus to deliver a special 60min show that’s not quite freak, not quite magic and not quite right but guaranteed to delight and excite.

$27 / $24 (concession)/ $23 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


29 September-October 1 @ 7.00pm, 2 October @ 6.00pm

Melbourne Fringe Festival - Cat Commander is: FALLING

A Cabaret of Original Songs, Storytelling and Falling.

Written and performed by Cat Commander Directed by Karis Zaid

A seasoned performer, but newcomer to cabaret, this 50 minute performance showcases Cat’s original songs and chronicles the moments that have brought her to her knees. The confessional nature of the material is perfectly matched with the intimacy of The Butterfly Club- this is a collection of stories told with raw honesty, a wry sense of humour and an acoustic guitar.

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


29 September-October 1 @ 10.30pm

Melbourne Fringe Festival - Phil Andrews - HIGH PHILDELITY

Following the courtship between himself and another, Phil learns a lot about himself, romance and relating to others.

Phil Andrews is debuting in his first solo show after a very successful run with Squeaky Clean Comedy in the MICF.

‘High Phildelity takes a different look at relationships, growing up and things in between.’ Phil says of his first solo show. And he does just that and more as he explores not only his own nature but the humorous way any of us might interact.

‘A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other cliched favourites.’ 

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 1 @ 5.00pm & October 2 @ 4.00pm

Melbourne Fringe Festival - Laurence Nobes - WARNING: Contains Nuts

Take an afternoon stroll through the quirky and often dark forest of irreverent Tom Lehrer songs.

Be prepared for an unusual look at education, love, life, and death, smattered with innuendo and songs in which humans and animals are harmed.

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 4,5,9 @ 5.00pm & October 6,7,8 @ 4.00pm

Headline Show: Melbourne Fringe Festival - HEADLINE SHOW Mandaddy: Songs of Love and Love

Mid-life crisis? Start a band. What if you already have one? Start another one. Yon (Tripod) is joined by musicians Naomune Anzai (Toys of Noise) and SJ (Princess One Point Five). Songs of Love and Love is about fading beauty. Rejection. Physical attraction. Self-delusion. Self-loathing.

And love. The word love gets said a lot.

Co-Written and Directed by Fiona Scott-Norman

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 5 @ 10.00pm (9:30pm for performers) Fringe special time!

CABARET LIVE! Hosted by Nikki Aitkin

A Song - A Story - A Spotlight

Cabaret Live! is a monthly open-mic night held at Melbourne’s premiere cabaret venue, The Butterfly Club.

Cabaret Live! is an opportunity for emerging and established artists to perform to a discerning cabaret audience in a sophisticated and intimate setting.

Whether you want to realise a life-long ambition to perform or you are looking for a friendly audience to test out new material, Cabaret Live! welcomes all performers.

INFO FOR PERFORMERS: Please arrive before start time (7:30pm) to register Please bring sheet music (legible & correct key) for house accompanist, and please supply your email address when purchasing tickets online.

Full $15 / Performers $5

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 6,7,8 @ 7.00pm & October 9 @ 6.00pm

Melbourne Fringe Festival - Jo Loth Mind Games

London Time Out’s critics’ pick of the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Depression meets Dietrich. Mania meets maracas. Cabaret meets mental health! Funny, seductive and mischievous, Mind Games presents an irreverent take on depression and bipolar disorder.

With a unique combination of original music, from torch songs and ballads, to spoofs on opera, country and rap,Mind Games has surprised and moved audiences in Brisbane and the UK.

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 6-8 @ 10.30pm

Melbourne Fringe Festival - Anne Wilson What I Did For Love

What’s the most vulnerable, bizarre or desperate thing that you have ever done for love?

One love addict journeys to the insane and sometimes criminal limits of desire as she discover how far she is willing to go to find and keep love.
Journeying from Queen to Brittney, in this unpredictable cabaret the only certainty is that things are going to get messy on the rollercoaster of love.

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 13-15 @ 7.00pm & October 16 @ 6.00pm

Melissa Trickey in: Happiness 101: laughter is the best pseudo-science – Return Season

A quirky cabaret about ploys for joy, measures for pleasure, and practising what you preach.

Warning: Comedy is contagious…

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 20-22 @ 7.00pm & October 23 @ 6.00pm

Maxine Montgomery SKINNYFAT

…Does my bum look big in this cabaret?

SkinnyFat looks at the big issues that concern many of us - how big does your butt look in those jeans, how big will your butt become if you eat that maple glazed donut, and how big will your jeans size be the next time you go shopping?

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 20-22 @ 7.00pm & October 23 @ 6.00pm

Headline Show: Zack Adams : Love Songs for Future Girl

Dumped, depressed and slightly drunk, Australian actor/comedian Zack Adams figures that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you may as well let an audience do it.

A cross between a rock concert and group therapy, LOVE SONGS FOR FUTURE GIRL is a new Comedy Cabaret about love, loss, heartbreak, growing bad ginger beards and everything in between.

$27 / $24 (concession)/ $23 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 22 @ 9.00pm


…are Debra Batton and Catherine Magill - married to the moment, the immediate, the intimate and the sacred cows. Don’t miss out! It will be a while before they are back again…

$15 / $10 (concession)

Limited seating: Bookings

*No email bookings will be processed after Oct 21st  - Take your chance at the door. Pay on arrival, booked seats will be held until 7.45pm after which they will be sold to the patrons at the door.


October 27,28,29 @ 7.00pm & October 30 @ 6.00pm

Bradley Storer Bloodline

An hour of dark, twisted tales emerges just in time for Halloween!

Incorporating a range of songs from Nick Cave, Tom Waits and the Dresden Dolls all the way to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bradley Storer delves into the darkness of his family history to draw forth a collection forth a collection of delectably demented ghost stories sure to freeze the blood and chill the soul.

In this gothic cabaret the ghosts of the past rise to play on the eve of Halloween, and light and dark do battle in an experience akin to Tales of the Crypt being read by Justin Bieber. There will be blood…and cupcakes.

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 27,28,29 @ 9.00pm & October 30 @ 8.00pm

Headline Show: Chet Baker: Like Someone In Love

Meet Chet Baker, the ‘James Dean of Jazz’. His extraordinary talent with the trumpet and his fragile, captivating vocal style barely hid his offstage drug addiction and frequent brushes with the law.

In this thrilling, dark cabaret performance, David Goldthorpe explores the haunting, unforgettable music that made Baker famous and the visceral, self destruction that made him infamous.

The moving, raw narrative is presented alongside a live trio of superb jazz musicians.

Caution: This production contains coarse language, drug use and electrifying live jazz. 

$27 / $24 (concession)/ $23 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


October 28 & 29 @ 10.30pm

Halloween special! Jen Coles in N3RD.GIRL VERSUS THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

After her brief stint saving blogs, N3rd.Girl now has an even bigger foe; to save the world from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Join her in the last remaining all-human bunker on Earth for tips on fighting Zombies, recognising ones that run from ones that don’t, and of course, why Zombie-Human relationships just don’t work.

It might just help you stay alive…

$22 / $19 (concession)/ $18 (group of 8 or more)

Click here for bookings or call 03 9690 2000.


Tuesdays and Wednesdays @ 6.15pm


Come along and sing as loudly or softly as you like – there are no solos, no microphones and no commitment to come every week.

All tickets $10

For more information:


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NIKKI AITKEN is... THE RUNAWAY from THE ATTACK OF THE 40 FOOT WEDGE! - Melbourne Fringe Festival 




Nominated BEST CABARET 2009 – Adelaide Fringe Awards 

Special Commendation for Excellence in Original Songwriting – Adelaide Fringe Awards 2009 

What do you get when an almost-30 year old Greek-Australian heads off in search of fame, fortune and her EU passport? When your travels lead you to the Big Smoke of London and your future seems to be in fashion, you’d better beware of stepping ahead of the pack.

What happens next will make you reconsider ‘next big things’ as Nikki, fuelled by a life crisis and a cab ride to Athens, works out what she wants from the rest of her life.

It’s Devil Wears Prada meets Shirley Valentine.


‘An endearingly gorgeous show. very relaxed, very funny, truly inspiring night out.’ – DB Magazine

‘Beautifully tongue-in-cheek’ – Messenger Newspaper

‘Simply Fantastic’ – Fringe Benefits

‘A voice to die for. Picture a cross between the skills of Dawn French and those of Katie Noonan and you start to get the picture.’ – Adelaide Theatre Guide

Tuesday 6th Oct – Saturday 10th Oct at 8pm


Tickets: $22 full, $19 Concession

Bookings: Festival Tix: 03 9660 9666 or click here


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Melbourne Fringe Festival: Cabaret Shows October 5-11, 09


20 Something  

Tony Starr’s Kitten Club  7 Oct @ 8.00pm, 8 Oct @ 8.00pm and 10.00pm


The Order of Melbourne  5,6,8,11 Oct @ 8.00pm,  10 Oct 5.00pm

Karmin Suitrout… Let’s Get Mystical  

Yah Yah’s  8,9,10, 11 Oct @ 7.30pm


Dogs Bar  6,7,8,9,10 Oct @ 8.00pm

The Caravan of Love presents… Pure Kunst  

Fringe Hub - The Ballroom, Lithuanian Club  6,7,8,9 Oct @ 10.15pm ,10 Oct @ 9.15pm

When the Sex is Gone            

Dogs Bar  6,7,8,9,10 Oct @ 9.30pm 


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