The American burlesque icon leads the inaugural selection by new Festival co-directors, Eddie Perfect and Ali McGregor.

The end of Barry Humphries tenure as artistic director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival may have come sooner than many expected, but 2016’s offering is still a star-studded affair. New directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect have kicked-off their reign with a major coup, securing the world’s most celebrated burlesque performer, Dita Von Teese, as the headline act.

The American cabaret icon will bring the high production values and titillating glamour of her variety show, Burlesque: Strip, Strip, Hooray to the South Australian capital for one show only, and competition for tickets, which have gone on sale this morning, is expected to be fierce. 

Burlesque has always been an element of the Festival, but this is the first time it has played such a pivotal role. As Eddie Perfect describes, this is all part of a plan to challenge preconceptions to the question: “What is cabaret?” “For me, it’s cabaret’s refusal to be defined that makes it such a rewarding art form,” he says. “We consider our first programme a tribute to what the form can (and must) be: original, smart, intimate and above all else, immediate.” Perfect’s Co-director, Ali McGregor, says the pair’s inaugural programme is about “taking cabaret and developing it into the most visceral, poignant and sometimes anarchic art form,” adding that Adelaide boasts an “incredibly savvy theatre-going audience.”

Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Directors, Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect

Together, Perfect and McGregor have spent much of the past year on the road, seeking out world-class productions and exciting new discoveries, and the numbers behind this year’s selection bear out this promise of diversity and originality. In total, six world premieres and eight Australian premieres will feature 42 internationally imported artists, alongside 182 homegrown acts from South Australia.

A significant proportion of this year’s programme features a roster of superb vocalists, among them West End star Helen Dallimore, Broadway baby Megan Hilty and Frankie Valli protégé, Bobby Fox. Also appearing will be legendary backup singer for Tina Turner and The Rolling Stones, Lisa Fischer, Aussie songstress Kate Ceberano accompanied by famed jazz artist and composer Paul Grabowsky and Australia’s favourite drag queen, Trevor Ashley alongside Rhonda Burchmore in their irreverent musical two-hander, Twins

Among the best comedy on offer at this year’s Festival is This Infernal Racket, featuring star of The Simpsons and cult mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, Harry Shearer, alongside soul singer Judith Owen. Brash, brassy and bawdy “punk cabaret” firebrand Bridget Everett’s Pound It, and the Aussie masters of satire, The Wharf Review, which celebrates its 15th-anniversary this year, are also set to be major draws.

Full details of the 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival are available now.