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Published May 7, 2014

melbournecabaret14On the last Tuesday of April at a little before 8pm and once again in the illustrious confines of the Kew Court House, a rapt audience gathered to hear Chairman Ron Dobell officially launch the program for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival‘s 2014 run. Joining him on the stage, “self-appointed MC” Neville Sice (who along with his “partner-in-crime” David Read have had the unenviable task of deciding which shows made it to the final cut), and Boroondara Councillor Phillip Healey.

Cr. Healey
Cr. Healey

The council’s partnership with the Festival began in 2012, a year after the completion of the Court House’ dramatic transformation and reopening to the public as the Kew Court House Arts Precinct. Coincidentally, the 2012 Cabaret Festival was this writer’s first review.

“Not only has the Melbourne Cabaret Festival brought a variety of dynamic entertainers to Boroondara, it has showcased Kew Court House, helping it become a first-class destination for the arts,” says Cr. Healey. “Our City’s boutique arts venue has gone from strength to strength since, and we are looking forward to hosting six shows in June and July as part of the 2014 program”.

In addition to the six shows at the Court House, over the three week run a further twenty-four, highlighting world class, diverse and local talent, will be hosted at Chapel Off Chapel, fortyfivedownstairs, The Butterfly Club, Draculas and Village Melbourne. Venues that, in the words of Chairman Dobell, “reflect the often missed importance of emphasis on artists”.

If the evening’s entertainers – Drew Downing and later Alana Coway – are any indication, there’s a lot to be excited about. Downing’s show, Rebel, reflects a young man pursuing a rock-n-roll lifestyle away from his small town upbringing in the ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ 60s. Alana Conway displays an amazing voice and exceptional harp playing in Songbird – Songs of Eva Cassidy, including a rendition of (in my opinion) one of the most moving songs of all, Fields of Gold. And yes, I did get teary.

Things of excitement include; the Opening Gala on June 19, Amanda Harrison – whose previous rolls include Elphaba in Wicked – in Up Close and Reasonably Personal, Backward Anorak‘s Here’s Lucy! about what it’s like to be a born entertainer and Ruler of Hell, Geraldine Quinn‘s Sunglasses at Night: The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret and Mike McLeish‘s Message To My Girls.

We contacted Mike and Geraldine about the Festival, and the following is what they had to say:

mikemcleishCabaret exists to confound expectation. No matter what you think you might get, you really just never know. There are no fixed parameters; no boundaries. The only real rule is to make a tangible connection with your audience. But then, that should be a basic rule for any piece of art.

I’m still a relative stranger in the land of cabaret, but its possibilities give me the tingles. Good tingles.This year I’m feeling fearless and very bloody keen to say exactly what I want to say. So often as a performer, my job is to interpret someone else’s words and be a piece of someone else’s puzzle. In writing Message To My Girls, I feel like I’m putting together a puzzle without having the picture on the box as a reference point. But I love flying blind. It’s scary in all the right ways. And I love writing songs. I’m not really interested in exploring somebody else’s back catalog or rearranging existing songs (both of which I’ve seen done with incredible skill and passion, by the way. It just ain’t my thing). I’ve been extremely lucky to be involved in some great new Australian work.

And that’s what I hope to continue to be a part of. And that’s what I hope to create.

Go and see a bunch of shows, my friends. There’s an embarrassment of riches in this year’s festival. And afterwards, as you bask in the joy of everything you’ve seen, ask yourselves why such a glorious Melbourne event receives no funding whatsoever from the state government.

Mike McLeish

geraldinequinnIt’s so great to be a part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival alongside some of my favorite people and performers. David and Neville were already cabaret crusaders when I started in 2004 and their passion for the patchwork beast that is the art-form remains undimmed.

This year I get to lead audiences in a sing along to some of the most arty, poncey, pretentious songs of the 1980s in the relaunch of Sunglasses At Night: The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret ([previously] sold out in Melbourne and Perth) with Cameron Thomas. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun, there are crappy prizes for dressing up in moody Euro 80s glamor, and the whole show is a reminder that the real 80s had a lot of intense posing and Cold War references, not just mismatched fluro socks. Plus I get to make as many Midge Ure references as I like (he’s retweeted me thrice – yes, three whole times! I think I’ve arrived).

– Geraldine Quinn


The Melbourne Cabaret Festival will run from 19 June to 6 July. For more information – especially about the shows – as well as ticketing, see their website.

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