Pol Roger Backstage Club – Libby O’Donovan @ Space Theatre, Adelaide 16/6/2018

Tim Minchin! Tim Minchin! Tim Minchin!! Wow wow wowsers! Weren’t we a lucky bunch at the Pol Roger Backstage Club for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on Saturday night, when Tim surprised us with a song or two!! But he wasn’t the only international sensation who graced us with their presence and left us excited and breathless for more! For the uninitiated, the Pol Roger Backstage Club is a late-night show which promises a variety of acts and entertainment based on a whimsical arrangement with whomever is around or performing at the Cabaret Festival at that time.

More on Tim in a minute, but first to some of the other stellar performances which were in no way eclipsed by the appearance of “Mr Matilda” himself.  First and foremost, I was there to see my main gal, Libby O’Donovan belt out a number of jazz standards.  Libby’s beautiful alto tone is one that many amateur classical singers can only pretend to emulate.  She has a vibrancy and depth to her lower range, which evokes a soulful, yet zestful past.  Her controlled vibrato in Misty, whilst hamming it up for the audience, giving away tickets to her show, rolling around on the stage and never missing a beat denoted a stage presence that had every person in the full Space Theatre eating out of her hands.  Hailing from Broken Hill (or as she likes to call it, Broken Heel!), her rendition of At Last sung in a hammed-up Aussie accent had the audience on their feet and in fits of laughter.  But this wasn’t the only standing ovation for the evening. As we hoped, there was a special guest appearance from the one and only Mrs O’Donovan, Beccy Cole as well as mother-in-law Carole Sturtzel.  Triple Golden Guitar winner Beccy Cole wouldn’t usually find herself singing country music at a cabaret festival but by virtue of her amazing talent and connections to Adelaide (not only her afore-mentioned wife), the audience was again on their feet slapping their knees to a very country-esque family cabaret routine.

We were certainly in for a stellar night on Saturday, with some festival sensations coming in to grace us with a song or two. Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum, half of ensemble Them There Eyes, brought vocalising and genre-traversing to a new dimension with their couple of songs. Tom Thum especially was a wizard with his microphone and vocal gymnastics, but Jamie’s triple-time-sung I will survive was a feat to be reckoned with.

Joey Arias was confronting and attention-grabbing but had the audience in shocked stitches at his lewdness. Accompanied by Charly Zastrau on piano, the true genius behind this performance showed his talent and versatility in the few improvised solos.  Zastrau is a musical force and one to watch on the international music scene in the future!

Mikelangelo performing Balkan Elvis’ Eastern Bloc Rock took us on a journey behind the iron curtain in piano accordion-accompanied songs.  Calls for Hans rung out throughout the space theatre when Libby mentioned the piano accordion and it was clear that to this audience, no one could compete with our own European accordionist.  Unfortunately, Hans was unavailable, perhaps due to his commitments with America’s Got Talent, but we certainly were not disappointed with the talent line up for the evening.

The highlight upon highlight of the evening was when Libby announced the presence of the one and only Tim Minchin to the stage.  Humbly taking to the upright piano to bang out a few new songs, Tim expressed his gratitude being back in Australia and the receptiveness of Adelaide audiences over the years to his new music.  Singing about choosing to be alone in a world full of adulation and sycophants, followed by a new tune about his time in La La Los Angeles, Tim showed his prowess on the ivories as well as his impeccable timing.  Joining amazing artistic director Ali McGregor on stage for an improvised yet polished version of Creep, Tim left the stage amidst rapturous applause and the third standing ovation for the evening.  The version of Creep by this duo left me, and I’m sure others, with goose bumps – you can find a rendition of Ali and Tim’s version on YouTube, but nothing could come near the experience of being in the same space as these two consummates in a flawless performance!!

Folks, if there’s only one show you can get along to at this year’s Cabaret Festival, it should be the late night Pol Roger Backstage Club.  The show is great value for money, the line-up is guaranteed to be spectacular and whilst you won’t see Libby O’Donovan again this year, the host for the final weekend is Sven Ratzke – an internationally-renowned cabaret performer.  Props to Libby O’Donovan for shining as a wonderful host and to the artistic and musical genius of Ali McGregor for a highly-sophisticated, intelligently-curated show and festival.

Adelaide Cabaret Review by Kim Burley

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