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March 31, 2022

Review: The 2022 Variety Gala at The Festival Theatre

The Variety Gala, a highlight on the entertainment calendar brings together a smorgasbord of local and international talent that makes up the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. While held earlier in the year for the first time, [blame a little show called Frozen for that] this did not deter the droves of punters ready to devour the tastings on offer for 2022.

Hosted by the sarcastic and sardonic Paul McDermott, who scrubbed up quite nicely after a shave and haircut since I last saw him, the night’s theme was decadence, magic and revelry.

This was hurled at us in spades.

Isaac Hannam, began with an enigmatic welcome to country before throwing open the stage to the incomparable and iconic Tina Arena. I must admit, I’ve never seen her sing live in the flesh, and boy oh boy, is she worth waiting for.

This years Artistic Director was silky and soulful and everything you expect from the star. Singing classics ‘Church’ and ‘Burn’ she was both gloriously effortless and sophisticated while ferocious and unstoppable at the same time. Her show, Songs My Mother Taught Me promises stories of love and legacy.

The stars of the Variety Gala were all seated scattered in Cabaret style on the gorgeous set design by Ali Jones and made their way to centre stage to spruik their show by giving a teaser of what audience members could expect.

First up, was 90s pop sensation, Gary Pinto, who sang ‘Feel It Don’t Fight It’ from his show Songs & Times of Sam Cooke. With his jazz soul rasp and incredible energy, he brought Cooke’s distinctive vocals and smooth stage moves to life.

Next to the stage is Carla Lippis joined by the State Opera of South Australia.

Oh, my.

Set against the ruched curtain backdrop and the glistening chandeliers, her baroque sounds and dulcet range had the crowd on the edge of their seats as she sang ‘The Hand’ from her show How to Kill your Husband.

The epitome of cabaret, she sings with strength, suppleness, control and vulnerability. Just sensational!

Class of Cabaret program, since 2010, provides a unique learning opportunity for talented, passionate secondary students. Developing skills through masterclasses and workshops, the participants produce shows for a ticketed public performance as part of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

One of last year’s graduates, Kieran Beasley demonstrated the power and importance of such programs. He delivered a poignant rendition of ‘Just the Way You Are’, a tribute to his adoptive parents.

Michael Griffiths and Catherine Alcorn brought their unique and immersive celebration of the golden-era music to the stage, with the re-imagined Phil Collins classic ‘In The Air Tonight’, part of her speak-easy show 30 Something. An absolute powerhouse of a performer, Alcorn’s sharp wit and raunchy vocals will make this show one not to miss.

Director of the Gala, and State Theatre Company South Australia Director, Mitchell Butel, graced the night with his dreamy and wistful jazz version of ‘Somethings Coming’.

Featuring Australian musical theatre royalty Philip Quast, Geraldine Turner, Queenie Van de Zandt, Josie Lane and Butel himself, Moments in the Woods remembers the genius and legacy of Stephen Sondheim through their personal stories and new arrangements of this legendary artists work.

This year’s Icon Award winner, and one of my favourites, Libby O’Donovan showcased her award winning, trademark voice with a gospel medley from her show Sister Elizabeth.

Based on her fascination with the holy sisters, O’Donovan will explore the famous nuns of TV, film and pop culture with her signature charm, humour and irreverent style.

Sophie Koh glided in to play her version of ‘Creep’ – a gloriously intoxicating juxtaposition of American big band and Chinese folk. Utter exhilaration and a musical fusion that was a treat for the senses.

Victoria Falconer along with Parvyn, Erin Fowler, Jarrad Payne and Flick Freeman took to the stage to present her Frank Ford commission ‘Go On’ from And Then You Go – The Vali Myers Project.

A visceral and alluring performance, her show promises to use cabaret, circus, and dance theatre to retell the story of one of history’s most infamous cult figures.

Bringing back the sequins and sass was Michael Griffiths, Amelia Ryan and Michaela Burger with a snippet from their Broadway tribute Simply Brill.
Based on number 1619 Broadway – the Brill Building – was the heart of the music scene in the 60s.

It was also home to some of history’s most prolific female songwriters such as Carole King, Cynthia Weil and Ellie Greenwich. These acclaimed Adelaide stars will pay tribute to the women who defined rock and roll! With Griffiths on piano, Ryan with her distinctive storytelling, coupled with Burger’s insatiable vocals, this is a show high on my list!

McDermott joined in with his customary political satire, poking fun at the Prime Minister with ‘Jenny’, giving us a taste of what to expect from his show The Funhouse – a sideshow of comedy and spectacle showcasing an array of special guests and his ‘plus one’, musical director and guitarist extraordinaire Glenn Moorhouse.

Rounding out the night was the queen of pop, Marcia Hines & Gospo Collective with ‘Love Me Like a Rock’ from The Gospel According to Marcia.
Honouring early memories from her childhood, Hines celebrates the joy and heartbreak that defines the art and culture of black American churches.

Mark Ferguson and his Gala House Band were spectacular from start to finish.

The Variety Gala is a pure gem of a night that wets the whistle for June!


Lia Loves.


Lia Loves
Lia Loves
Theatre. Dance. Culture. Events. Follow her adventures as Adelaide's premier theatre buff, arts contributor, educator and ambassador!

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