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Event Spotlight: Q&A with David Read, director of Melbourne Cabaret Fest

Monday 13 May 2013

Event Spotlight: Q&A with David Read, director of Melbourne Cabaret Fest

Melbourne Cabaret Festival is just around the corner, so we had a chat with the event's artistic director about its shaky start in 2012, the crowd-funding campaign that saved it, and why this year is the biggest yet.

After the 2011 festival, there were doubts surrounding a 2012 event. Why was that?
We're not a government funded festival so it's a bit more difficult to raise the required money to stage it. We had a shortfall in early 2012 so ran a successful crowd-funding campaign to raise funds. We’ve been expanding our funding base over time. The Ron and Margaret Dobell Foundation and City of Port Phillip have been with us from the start. City of Stonnington and City of Boroondara joined us for the first time last year and have returned this year.

Which crowd-funding source did you use and what can you tell us about the campaign?

We undertook a crowdfunding campaign via Pozible in early 2012 whereby we asked the community direct to support us. They did to such a degree that they donated more than what we asked for!

2013 marks the festival's fourth year, and with 150 performances across 16 venues over 12 nights, it's looking to be the biggest yet. Did you expect such a comeback?

The growth of the festival continues to surprise us. There were many other shows that wanted to participate this year that we turned away, simply because it would have meant growing too fast.

As far as the lineup goes, can you tell us about a few of the highlights?

Let me get straight to the point: there are a lot of shows in this year’s festival. So much so that at first glance it may appear daunting to decide what to see. With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips on how to get the best out of the festival.

1. See an international show.
We are presenting eight overseas shows never before seen in Melbourne. Six of them are appearing in our Opening Gala at the Palais Theatre on Wed 26 June, so that provides an excellent opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ a ticket to their full length shows. Headlining is Motown royalty and founding member of The Supremes, Mary Wilson, who will be performing at Melbourne Recital Centre. New York cabaret icon, Joey Arias, will showcase his channelling of legendary jazz and blues singer, Billie Holiday. The grandson of the American musical theatre virtuoso Richard Rodgers, USA’s Tony Award winning theatre composer/lyricist Adam Guettel – composer of the acclaimed The Light in The Piazza – takes to the stage with Haley Bond.

USA’s award-winning composer/performer, David Pomeranz, who has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, stars in excerpts from his show Chaplin: A Life – in Concert, based on the life story of the cinematic genius.

From London comes jazz harp goddess, Tara Minton, in a show featuring the music of Joni Mitchell, and, following the knock-out success of the 2012 show Candice McQueen: Nasty!, cabaret star Spanky returns in a brand new show.

Outside of the Gala, Melbourne Recital Centre will also present Mary Carewe from the UK and Lady Rizo from New York.

2. Think of your favourite performer in the world. Chances are someone has incorporated their songs and stories into their cabaret.

So, alas, we may not be presenting Blossom Dearie, the ‘childlike’ vocalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians, however Fem Belling will be bringing her independent spirit and wistful romanticism to life. Likewise, Michaela Burger presents an intimate, original presentation of vintage French pop songs made famous by Edith Piaf. And Melissa Langton, Libby O’Donovan and Mark Jones will be messing about with the Lennon & McCartney songbook.

Other famous names featured include:

- Naomi Price invites you to spend an evening with Adele.
- In 2011, Oprah Winfrey closed the book on 25 years of world dominating television, but now she's back to present to you the ultimate interview.
- Spanky celebrates the 35th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac’s legendary album, Rumours, by presenting the album from start to finish with a little help from his/her artistic cabaret family. Meanwhile Catherine Alcorn sings the story of Christine McVie, the ‘other’ woman in Fleetwood Mac.
- Jersey Boys star Michael Griffiths has plumbed the lyrics of Annie Lennox for new meaning.
- Award-winning pianist and vocalist, Craig Schneider, presents the music of Peter Allen.
- Sally Bourne and Mark Jones sing the darkly hilarious songs of Randy Newman, featuring the delusional monologues of bigots, petty criminals, slave traders, drunks, despots, deities, dirty old men and Lexus drivers.
- Marika Aubrey presents the music from Sophie Tucker’s brilliant career, along with her own personal connections to a country that got left behind.
- Countertenor diva, jazz singer and cabaret artiste, Mama Alto (Benny Dimas) creates a new interpretation of Porgy & Bess.
- Tamara Kuldin celebrates the songs and stories of female Jewish singers from the 1920s to the present, including Sophie Tucker, Madeline Kahn and Carole King.
- A Saucy Little Secret follows the lives of five women – Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Gladys Bentley, Ethel Waters and Alberta Hunter – whose music and attitudes influenced the development of modern blues, queer lifestyle and racial tolerance.

3. Pick by genre
Featuring dark, edgy, queer, burlesque, twisted and downright hilarious shows, with musical theatre sensations and theatrical masterpieces – we are proud to present a wide spectrum of cabaret throughout the Festival, so peruse the program and there’s bound to be something to your taste. And if you like your cabaret political, we’re proud for the fourth time that our Closing Gala will be themed in support of equal marriage rights. This has been a hallmark event in previous years and this year promises to be no different.

4. Mix it up with the late night experiences
This year The Butterfly Club hosts the ‘Best Of The Fest’ which gives you a sampler of acts from across the Festival. Over at the Bohemia Cabaret Club, sing along with the crowd in the Festival’s riotous late night piano bar. Or, if you prefer a moment longer in the spotlight, head to The 86 which is hosting the Festival’s open mic night, called ‘Cabaretoke’.

5. Now stop playing it safe – take a punt!
We’ve spent 12 months putting this program together and our partner venues have been saving up their best cabaret for this Festival period, so chances are the show is good.

With names like Trevor Ashley, Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet, Yana Alana, Suade, Jon Jackson and Mic Conway sprinkled throughout the program, you just know it’s going to be an excellent night out.

Then there are plenty of names you may not have heard of, but once you see their show will never forget. Like the guy who won the 2012 Australian Cabaret Showcase, Bradley McCaw, or the runner-up Amelia Ryan. There are dozens more, so put on your cabaret fineries and take a punt this Festival.

Which one event is a must-see for any first-timers?
I think the Opening Gala which provides a sample of headline acts - that way you can decide what you like the look of before committing to their full length show.

 

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