For the past two years, Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect have been co-Artistic Directors of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. But this year, for her third and final Festival as AD, McGregor is flying solo.
“It’s mine, all mine!” she says with a laugh. “But I never felt that my wings were clipped having Eddie on board. We have similar tastes in artists so in a way I feel like I’ve just continued to do my job really. There was a little bit of good cop/bad cop going on. Eddie is very clear about some of the things he doesn’t like so every now and then I had a little voice in my head saying ‘what would Eddie do here?’ So he was with me in soul,” she adds.
Artistic Director Ali McGregor will perform in a new show about Peruvian singer Yma Sumac. All photographs supplied by Adelaide Cabaret Festival
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is the world’s largest cabaret festival. Running this year from June 8 – 23, McGregor has announced a program that features 52 performances by more than 330 artists from five countries, including 280 Australians, 118 of them from South Australia.
Cabaret is a very broad church and McGregor has certainly taken a broad view with a very diverse program that includes Broadway star Patti LuPone, Modern Maori Quartet (billed a suave Maori ratpack), jazz and blues singer Madeleine Peyroux, Archie Roach and Tiddas, The Cat Empire, Mark Holden, who tells his own story while drawing on his family’s travelling circus history, Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney sharing stories about their theatrical highs and lows in Bosom Buddies, Andrew O’Keefe in a new show about his legendary uncle Johnny O’Keefe, and a Family Gala.
McGregor herself will also star in a new show about 1950s Peruvian songbird Yma Sumac. She also directs Glorious Misfits featuring her favourite variety/burlesque/cabaret acts, some of whom she met while performing in La Clique, and Mikelangelo in Tom Waits for No Man. “And I had to direct the closing gala because it is my very final hurrah,” she says.
Archie Roach and Tiddas
Discussing the spectrum of work covered in the Festival McGregor says: “When I came on board I’d already had experience as a performer at the Festival and as I travel around I have seen that the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is really seen as the benchmark for cabaret, certainly for western cabaret, and I think it’s our duty in a way to give a broad spectrum of what cabaret is to many different people. I think it’s really important,” says McGregor.
“You want to make sure there is lots of family stuff. Being a mother of two young girls myself, I want them to see as much live music and theatre as possible, so I think it’s important to have shows that you can bring your kids and parents to, so there can be three generations coming together and no one is bored. So we have the family gala and Tom Flanagan doing Kaput, which is a really fantastic, Chaplin-esque show. I’ve got rock shows and comedy shows and slightly more twisted alternative cult favourites and then your absolute Broadway stars like Patti LuPone,” says McGregor.
“I think this year it is the most diverse program. I wanted to make sure that any age group could come along and literally find something for everyone. Also cabaret is seen as a bit elitist and I want to try and break that down a little bit. We make sure our ticket prices are reflective of that. There are star big tickets shows obviously but there are also shows that are really affordable. Not only that but because our festival is all under the one roof we have the luxury of being able to create a world at the Adelaide Festival Centre. If you can only afford to come to one or two shows you can still come and stay the evening and soak up the atmosphere, you can have a drink in the bar or eat in the restaurants and we’ve always got free live music playing in the open public spaces as well. I wanted to make sure that no one feels that they are excluded from this Festival.”
Tom Flanagan will perform a family show called Kaput
The number of international submissions continues to grow. “It used to be that we would go and seek the overseas [artists] but the reputation [of the Festival] is growing so we now get a lot of overseas submissions. Luckily with me being ensconced in the cabaret scene already – I spend a lot of my year in London and I travel to new York every year to do shows – I am out there seeing a lot of cabaret so a huge percentage of the shows we have in the Festival this year are people I know and shows that I’ve seen, so it is an absolutely hand-picked festival in that regard,” says McGregor.
“There are a few shows that came out of the submissions that I hadn’t heard of but then I try and see them, I ask people about them, I watch what I can online. I really make sure that everyone we book is really high quality and shows that I would want to go and see personally.”
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
PATTI LUPONE, DON’T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY
The Broadway diva brings her critically acclaimed show described as a love letter to the Great White Way, featuring show tunes by the likes of Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein.
JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, THE ORIGIN OF LOVE
The Tony Award-winning co-creator of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch sings songs from the show and shares stories of his experience of living with Hedwig for more than two decades. He will also play music from his upcoming musical podcast Anthem.
ANTOINETTE HALLORAN, TAKING IT UP THE OCTAVE
The Australian soprano performs a new show subtitled A Liberating Libretto Sung Writing on a Day Bed, which tells the story of a woman trying to make sense of the complexities of modern day life.
NANCYE HAYES & TODD MCKENNEY, BOSOM BUDDIES
The leading lady of Australian musical theatre and popular song and dance man, who are long-time friends, share backstage stories and reminisce over the highs and lows of a life on the stage.
ALI MCGREGOR, YMA SUMAC, THE PERUVIAN SONGBIRD
McGregor in her new show about Yma Sumac, a mysterious Peruvian beauty who was the queen of mambo in the 1950s. “People don’t realise that in the 50s she was the highest selling recording artist for Capitol Records and Bing Crosby was on their books. She was massive. But she has been largely forgotten,” says McGregor. “She wanted to be taken seriously as an opera singer. She was also a Peruvian folk singer but she also did these mambo albums. It is an incredibly fascinating life and the most challenging music I have ever had to sing. I have had to bring to the fore my operatic training as well as my jazz and cabaret voice. I have absolutely adored putting it together and I can’t wait to present it in Adelaide.”