Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 Variety Gala leaves audiences keen for more as an icon is crowned

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 Variety Gala
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Last night, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival opened with the 2024 Variety Gala, showering Adelaide in sequins, glitter and fun. The opening night variety gala offers performances from across the breadth of the festival with something for everyone.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 Variety Gala
Photo: Claudio Raschella

The 2024 Variety Gala started with a welcome to country by Isaac Hannam, who is familiar to Adelaide crowds. As always, he found a way to bring humour, joking about no one leaving the theatre when he asked bad spirits to leave, and that it was a bit cold in his traditional dress which left his torso and legs exposed.


Virginia Gay, mistress of ceremonies and this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director, made a show-stopping entrance appearing in a bathtub and stumbling out of it onto the floor in her long gown. This year’s tagline is “Soak it in” so the bathtub is very apt. Gay then launches into the song Adelaide, a tribute to our city.


Gay then welcomes Fascinating Aïda to the stage from the UK who sing Prisoner of Gender, a song about Adèle Anderson, one of the three singers in the group’s gender reassignment surgery. It includes an questionable line “if in doubt, have it off”, which is clearly terrible advice and may lead to you regretting your decision like many sadly have. Their Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 show is simply entitled The 40th Anniversary Show


Of Mauritian ancestry, Bert LaBonté is the newcomer to the group Swing on This. He had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment we first heard him with his rendition of Let’s Get it On. What a voice! I think plenty in the audience would have happily accepted the invitation to get it on after that performance.

Bert LaBonte Swing on This Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 Variety Gala
Image: Claudio Raschella

Australian Gillian Cosgriff who is presenting her award-winning show Actually, Good at this year’s festival had the audience in fits of laughter with her song Presents, which she sang while playing the piano. We’ve all received a gift that made us scratch our heads and wonder how the gift giver thought it was a good gift at all.


Millicent Sarre, who is an Elder Conservatorium Graduate and Mentor to the festival’s Class of Cabaret, performed I Can Cook Too which transported us back to a bygone era.  


One of the highlights of the 2024 Variety Gala for us was Flo & Joan performing Lady in the Woods. Just as 12 days of Christmas adds more items to its refrain each time it is heard, Lady in the Woods adds more ailments and problems suffered by the poor lady in the woods. This was absurdist song at its absolute best and has cemented our decision to see Flo & Joan’s show Now Playing.

Flo & Joan Image: Claudio Raschella
Image: Claudio Raschella

Jess Hitchcock who wowed us at last year’s variety gala returned and shone just as brightly as her voice soared in her rendition of Olivia Newtown John’s Suspended in Time from Hopelessly Devoted: A Celebration of Olivia Newton-John with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Hitchcock is also appearing in her own show A Fine Romance


Taking us to the interval was festival favourite Mark Nadler performing I Love a Piano from his show Hootenanny, which is sure to be a highlight of the opening weekend. His talented piano skills, plus the signature Nadler humour and wit, made this performance flawless.


After the interval, Reuben Kaye performed I want Ya from his show and appeared genuinely surprised, and humbled, to be awarded this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival Icon award after the performance.

Image: Claudio Raschella

Gabbi Bolt & Matthew Predny performed the piano-only version of their Encore Duet from their show Murder for Two.  It would have been nice to hear them sing to get a better idea of what to expect from their show. 


Rhonda Burchmore stunned the audience with her performance of Moving The Line from her show Tall Tales. Sparkling in her gown and with her voice, she showed why she is one of Australia’s enduring talents.


Christie Whelan Browne and Virginia Gay performed Olivia Newton John’s You’re the One That I Want to give another taste of Hopelessly Devoted before Mahalia Barnes & The Soul Mates closed the 2024 variety gala with her powerful version of River Deep Mountain High which showcased the strength and beauty of her voice. For the final part of the song, she was joined by others we’d seen perform throughout the night. 

2024 Variety Gala Bert LaBonte, Virginia Gay, Jess Hitchcock, Christie Whelan Browne and Mahalia Barnes - Photo by Claudio Raschella

This year’s gala had a lot of familiar faces with far fewer unfamiliar performers than we’d hoped. It featured performances by predominantly Australian female artists, which is representative of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival program.


One of the great things about each year’s opening night variety gala is that audiences get snippets of a bunch of shows, a degustation of the delectable delights that await in that year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival program. Last night’s 2024 Variety Gala was no exception, giving us plenty of shows to add to our lists. We are ready to soak in all that Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 has to offer us.


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival


For other events with links to France and the Francophonie happening this month, check out our What’s on in June

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