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Thunder from Down Under

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The Adelaide Cabaret Festival might as well be called “Thunder from Down Under,” considering the variety of acts and the thunderous applause given to all performers night after night after night.

The festival (its artistic director this year is singer and fellow Pinay Kate Ceberano) showcases many different performance acts during its three-week run. Among those who will have completed performances by the fete’s end are Ben Vereen, Mary Wilson (one of the original Supremes), Debra Byrne (she is my favorite Fantine; I wept endlessly listening to her voice on the “Les Miz Complete Symphonic Cast Recording” many years ago), Eden Espinosa (one of the amazing ladies who have played Elphaba in the Broadway production of “Wicked”), Sheree Renee Scott (original Amneris in the Broadway production of “Aida”), Lenny Henry (legendary comic from the UK), Mark Nadler (New York-based cabaret performer), and Boylesque (its name pretty much says it all).

At the opening gala performance last Friday night, most of the acts that didn’t happen to have shows running concurrently were invited to perform. Kate and Mark did one duet to open the show, then came more numbers, one after another – Kim Smith, Eddie Perfect (yes, that’s his real name), the men of Boylesque in all their fabulousness, Eden, Debra, Mary and me … and many, many more.

The grand finale was by the Cabaret Class of 2012, a group of high school students specially chosen to participate in master classes and their own special cabaret performance at the festival.

I had my own performances at the Festival Theatre, conducted by musical director Vanessa Scammell and backed by the Adelaide Art Orchestra. The repertoire included songs from “Miss Saigon,” “Les Miz,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan,” plus other musical theater and Disney hits to round out the program.

All went very well, and I thank everyone who came to see my show! I certainly hope I’m able to return to Australia for another round of performances, as this festival was such a wonderful time.

After my second show, I was escorted to the Backstage Bar for a few drinks and time to hang out and wind down. Kate and her brother Phil performed a couple of songs for everyone first, then it was time for “Mark Nadler’s Broadway Hootenanny.”

Mark asked if I wanted to sing a song for the hootenanny, and I said sure. I picked Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen,” and it was so much fun. Mark then carried me, and made me stand atop the grand piano. Eddie Perfect, Kim Smith, and The Four Chairs performed as well.

To cap off an already fabulous night, Boylesque came out to perform its final show for the festival. The men danced to a mix of pop and musical theater with over-the-top make up, heels paired with silk boxer shorts, and matching six-pack abs. It wasn’t a strip show per se in the way that Chippendales’ would be. Besides it being entertaining, there was structure and artistry. It was a most appropriate addition to the festival.

So, to all participants still to perform at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, a big huge “chookas” to you all!

A few years ago, I got one background story on why Aussie performers wish one another “chookas.” Basically it means, “I wish you a performance so great that it earns you enough money to buy yourself a chicken to have a great meal tonight.”

‘Songs for Nobodies’

I promised myself to see at least one show during the festival, so I took in a matinee performance of “Songs for Nobodies,” starring Bernadette Robinson.

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith and directed by Simon Phillips, Ms Robinson tells stories told from the point of view of “nobodies” – an usher-turned-backup singer, a washroom attendant, a nanny aboard Ari Onassis’ yacht, a fashion reporter from the New York Times, and a British librarian – who have had their brushes with some of the most famous voices the world has ever heard: Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday and Maria Callas.

Ms Robinson’s gift for telling a good story, as well as her versatility with her singing, can be disconcerting and mesmerizing at once.

Shameless plug

Catch “Rock of Ages” starring MiG Ayesa, Nyoy Volante, Vina Morales, Jett Pangan, Jamie Wilson, Aiza Seguerra, Bibo Reyes, Jinky Llamanzares and Calvin Millado. Directed by Chari Arespacochaga, it opens tomorrow, 8 p.m. at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater of RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Call 8919999 for tickets.

To the cast and crew, break legs! To the audience, be ready to get your face melted.

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