Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Opening Soiree

MCF2023-Sun-RisingFolks outside of Melbourne might not appreciate how much was disrupted by Covid. Last held in 2020, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival is back, but not quite as you remember it.

The festival’s new home is the Memo Music Hall in St Kilda, with some acts presented in the Ruby Carter Jazz Lounge upstairs. The festival runs from 4 – 9 July, with the Opening Soirée at The Memo, hosted by “St Kilda icon” and comedian Rachel Berger, presented a decent taste of two shows from the programme.

Berger had clearly gone to some trouble for the evening, with a glamourous frock, and a hairstyle that approached the Elizabethan in its dimensions. She kept the evening moving along smoothly, and barbs of the salty and tangy kind aimed at the audience seemed appropriate for this daughter of former St Kilda deli owners.

Frankly is a young performer from Adelaide who lived up to her stage name. Accompanying herself on piano, Frankly delivered songs inspired by events from her life. Topics included working in hospitality, her relationship with her grandmother, and some oversharing about family grooming.

Unfortunately, over-amplification caused lyrics to be lost in the mix at times. However, Frankly looks certain to deliver confessional cabaret with some unusual time signatures in Ten Carat Cranium, Sunday 9 July at 7.00pm

Looking like what happens when glam rock meets a white Christmas, Matthew Hadgraft gave a preview of his show Elton John – Your Song. Having presented the show at this festival from 2017 – 2020, Hadgraft must be doing something right by Sir Elton’s devotees. Again, volume probably conspired against the performer, likely hiding some of Hadgraft’s finesse at the piano.

Maybe some of the banter didn’t deliver all that much, but the audience enthusiastically sang along on well-known tunes such as Crocodile Rock. Hadgraft said that it was only in learning Elton’s songs that he realised how difficult they are to play on piano.

Was that a taste of what these songs mean to our performer, as we would get in the full show? As Hadgraft said himself, if you want more of the Elton story, you’ll have to come along to the show!

Another show returning to the festival is Sun Rising: The Songs That Made Memphis. The six-piece featured Damon Smith (piano and vocals), David Cosma (acoustic guitar, vocals and narration), Adam Coad (druns), Trent McKenzie (upright bass guitar), Adrian Whyte (electric guitar and vocals) and Lisa Marmur (vocals).

Those with even a casual knowledge of Rock n’ Roll probably know about some of the storied history of Sun Records, started by Sam Phillips in 1952. Yes, songs sung by big names, Elvis, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis had a run here, however, it was pleasing to also hear some anecdotes and lost gems from Sun’s catalogue.

A bit of extra volume didn’t hurt these raucous selections, and the dance floor at the rear of the venue showed the crowd’s appreciation. The show isn’t in the festival, but we could imagine that if you saw this somewhere like the Brunswick Ballroom, you’d have an enjoyably lively night out.

Continuing to Sunday 9 July, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival has a range of acts on offer, including The Kransky Sisters and Prinnie Stevens, and a chance to see why the Adelaide Cabaret Festival likes Trevor Jones so much. Music fans, peruse the programme, there’ll be something to catch your interest.

Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Opening Soiree
Performance: Tuesday 4 July 2023
Memo Music Hall, Acland Street, St Kilda
Festival continues to 9 July 2023
Information and Bookings:

Image: Sun Rising Band – photo by James Thomas Photo

Review: Jason Whyte