Lights, glitter, action… Adelaide Cabaret Festival starts with a bang.

Adelaide Festival Theatre, Friday June 6

It’s not usual to find feather boas, glitz and glamour in the streets of Adelaide, but when it’s cabaret time, anything goes! And the Cabaret Festival’s Gala Opening ensured the sedate city unleashed itself with a bit of pizazz.

Walking down the red carpet at the front of the Festival Centre, TV cameras rolled and photographers snapped. Famous or not, you were made to feel like a star! And although a few slightly shyer guests slipped in a side door to avoid the spotlight, most seemed to be enjoying every moment.

Inside, the champagne was flowing. Various local celebrities posed for photos alongside drag queens in long dresses and wigs. Everyone was surreptitiously staring at each other, desperately trying to work out who was who.

Tickets had sold out to the event far in advance; everyone was keen to discover what Kate Ceberano’s third and final year as Artistic Director would bring. What would a festival badged as ‘not your usual suspects’ be like?

As the house lights went down Gypsy Ceberano stepped out from behind the curtain, her mother’s gene pool evident in both her looks as well as confidence on stage. And then it was Kate’s turn. Dressed beautifully and with a rendition of Let’s do it my way, Kate’s Festival was underway.

As the curtains came back, an old-fashioned style boxing ring with the Adelaide Art Orchestra placed on either side was revealed. “Artists take risks when they go out on stage. Every night they come out to have a fight with their audience,” Kate explained.

There was a moment of confusion and worry. No one had turned up for a fight, and certainly no one had dressed for one. And what were the risks she was referring to? Forgetting lines, getting booed off stage, drinking too much champagne? Perhaps not the risks faced by most professions, but the beauty of cabaret is it doesn’t really matter! Make of it what you will; the show must go on.

In the capable hands of Todd McKenney, and assisted by the glamorous back stage host Amelia Ryan, the acts moved slickly from one to the next. Sunrise’s Nelson Aspen made whoopee, Melanie Beck nailed a musical medley and Rachel Beck shone as Miss Saigon. Swing on This looked good and sounded great too while Kim Smith gave one of the most polished performances of the night, and die hard cabaret fans roared when Sven Ratzke took the stage, or rather the ring.

Another highlight of the evening was the legendary Rhonda Burchmore being surprised with the Cabaret Festivals Icon Award. Caught backstage, relaxing with a glass in hand, she was dragged back into the spotlight, presented with her cabaret gong and asked to say a few words. She seemed genuinely stunned. In her glittering red sequined hot pants she was gorgeous and gracious and, undoubtedly, a worthy recipient.

The show drew to a close with Kate singing another version of I’ll do it my way, adapting the words to thank all those who had supported her through her three-year tenure. Throwing the final line to Barry Humphries, inviting him to ‘do it his way’ next year, she danced off the stage, snaking through the auditorium like a Pied Piper with her artists weaving through the crowds behind her.

Although many of the major stars in this year’s festival weren’t on the stage, the gala gave a great taster of what to expect at Kate’s third and final festival. Indeed the choice of shows on offer is so vast that the only fights that are likely to break out amongst festival-goers will be over what to see and when. But whatever takes your fancy, usual suspects or not, it’s definitely worth finding a good seat to check out some of this year’s Cabaret Festival action.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs until June 21. Visit the festival website for more information.