Top picks at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Everybody Loves LucyBe prepared for dark, edgy, twisted and downright hilarious cabaret as the 5th annual Melbourne Cabaret Festival kicks off tonight. Thirty hand-picked shows offer a selection of something special – from sublime vocals to new original songs, 80s sing-alongs to deeply personal and revealing autographical shows. Arts Review takes a look at eight shows you should consider attending!

Twists and Turns
The award-winning show by diving gold medal Olympic champion, Matthew Mitcham. Premiering in Perth in February where it won the coveted Fringe World Festival’s Best Cabaret Award, this will be his last show before his Commonwealth Games appearance in Glasgow. Matthew invites you to share the highs and lows of his incredible life through theatre and song, along with a few surprises.

Up Close and Reasonably Personal 
A candid evening of song and conversation with one of Australia’s most prolific musical theatre stars, Amanda Harrison. With a hand-picked repertoire by the woman herself, and a fair dose of humorous self reflection about wrestling the glamour of stage life with the realities of day-to-day domesticity, this show is an intimate, colourful and rare insight into the life of a wife/mother/diva.

Mama Alto: Countertenor Diva
Mama Alto is a voice that defies gender: the Countertenor Diva. With collaborator Tiffanni Walton on piano, and singing by Mama Alto which has been called intoxicating, ethereal and bewitching, this is a cabaret about fragility and power – of the diva, of the voice, and of the human heart.

The Beautiful Losers: Despite Popular Demand
Another magnificent regurgitation from those multi award-winning exponents of cabaret’s dark arts … for your viewing, listening and tasting pleasure! The Beautiful Losers are back with a heart-warming celebration of humanity at its most depraved. A toe-tapping horror show of Serial killers, Underachievers, Dog Handlers, Emotional Cripples and Pre-School Carers. You’ll laugh, feel a bit wrong, then laugh again.

Drew Downing plays Rebel, a 60s rockstar who finds a new life away from his humble hometown. Rebel recalls the men that shaped his life and helped him discover the true meaning of rock and roll. Supported by his band, he reflects on the closeted lifestyles of those around him in the original era of ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’.

Everybody Loves Lucy
Lucille Ball was the Queen of American comedy for decades. After years paying her dues in B-movies, she won the public’s hearts and reigned supreme as television’s biggest star in I Love Lucy – the most popular sitcom in American history. Wacky, fearless, and totally endearing, Lucy broke the mould for the way women were allowed to behave on TV. Brimming with Lucille Ball’s irrepressible spirit, acclaimed Australian theatre star Elise McCann (Mamma Mia, South Pacific) presents a tribute to a true trail-blazer.

Songbird – Songs of Eva Cassidy
Songbird brings to life the relatively untold story of a performer who has touched the lives of millions of people with her music. On first hearing an Eva Cassidy interpretation, many listeners are unaware of the songstress with the beautiful voice or the fact that she departed this earth much too soon. Melbourne’s singer and harpist Alana Conway and some wonderful musicians will perform chosen songs from across all ten of Eva Cassidy’s albums in a night of storytelling and heart-stopping eloquent melodies.

Sunglasses at Night: The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret
The real 1980s wasn’t all parties, rah-rah skirts and side-ponytails. It was the Cold War. Chernobyl. The Berlin Wall. And the best poncing about in pop music history. Enter a world of artsy, decadent 80s pop music excess as your host Geraldine Quinn gives you a crash course in apocalyptic 80s – inviting you to sing along to the gloriously pretentious hits of the era!

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Image: Elise McCann in Everybody Loves Lucy