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Cabaret review: Sunglasses at Night - The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret

Cabaret Festival

Big hair, big voice, big audience participation – this hour of Gen X nostalgia creates great entertainment from the most serious and pretentious pop songs of the 1980s.

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There was no warm-up necessary for the crowd shoe-horned into the Artspace, with everyone singing along from the start to Geraldine Quinn’s selection of some of the more incomprehensible, dodgy and poncy ’80s songs.

Accompanied by Cameron Thomas on piano, Quinn commands the stage with her big personality, giant voice and ginormous wig.

Ultravox’s ponderous hit “Vienna” gets the show started with its Cold War-era, po-faced pretence, before Quinn has the crowd belting out the title hit – Canadian one-hit wonder Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night”. Well… we all belt out the first line before immediately realising that absolutely no one knows the second line (the hilariously nonsensical “watch you weave then breathe your storylines”).

After this one, Quinn helpfully provides the lyrics on a screen (complete with annotations about dodgy bits, mishearings and other hilarious asides).

It’s a parade of middle-distance staring affectation: Kate Bush’s “Babooshka”, Human League’s creepy “Don’t You Want Me Baby” (one half of the audience taking the role of the waitress, the other her dodgy admirer), and Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” (including a step-by-step guide to the dance routine from the video clip).

We cheer members of the audience who came in rather convincing ’80s dress during a pretentious-pop-video pose-off, and we bounce red balloons around the room to Nena’s anti-war protest song “99 Luftballoons” (sung entirely in German), before the inevitable and vocally-shredding climax of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (which gives Thomas the twin challenge of managing the eye-wincing backing high notes and smashing out the frenetic piano accompaniment).

The main part of the show was done in an hour, with the encore – of course, Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” – sending the audience out wanting more, but with smiles on their faces.

See more Adelaide Cabaret Festival coverage here.

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