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Cabaret Festival

Cabaret review: RocKwiz Salutes Rock Musicals

Cabaret Festival

According to her RocKwiz sidekick Brian Nankervis, when Julia Zemiro accepted the gig as artistic director of Adelaide’s Cabaret Festival she said something to the effect of “Okay, but we’re bringing RocKwiz.” Easy to say that’s what being the boss means – do whatever the hell you want – but in this case, it just made perfect sense.

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As host of SBS’s live music trivia show for 14 seasons, Zemiro was always a bit of a campy host, her theatrical affectations and humour dreamily suited for cabaret, but what makes this now-travelling show such a match for our festival is that the crowd is made to feel part of the show. We’re allowed to yell out the answers (because it’s fun to be chastised by the host, right?) and we’re allowed to sing. This particular show ended with a heartfelt all-in ‘Tiny Dancer’, which wasn’t actually in a musical but was in the film Almost Famous, so close enough.

As with the television show, the night featured a series of famous musos who alternate between entertaining us with song and pressing the buzzer to try to win their team some points. We were lucky to have Tex Perkins, Kate Ceberano, the Screaming Jets’ Dave Gleeson and “exotica soul queen” Stella Angelico singing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Godspell, Rock of Ages and Greece.

Joining them as contestants were an academic in music theory, an AFL footballer who “knows a couple of chords” and two members from the audience, aged 60-something and 16. Their introductions inevitably ended with “and what was your first rock concert”, the 60-something-year-old saying he saw the Rolling Stones play second fiddle to Roy Orbison while the 16-year-old claimed The Wiggles.

With help from the RocKwiz Orkestra – including show regulars drummer Peter “Lucky” Luscombe, keyboardist Clio Renner, bassist Mark Ferrie and guitarist Dan Kelly – the night was full of answers like ‘deaf, dumb and blind’ from Tommy and ‘Give it to the man’ from School of Rock and ‘shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen’ from Hair, mostly answers we all knew as soon as someone on stage called them out.

The Thebby was ideal for RocKwiz Salutes with the show’s classic red curtains in that iconic, ornate theatre, but when is the Thebby not ideal to Adelaide audiences?

We were all one big happy family dancing in our seats, and Zemiro and Nankervis and the plethora of guests were having a blast too. What more could one want from cabaret? I said it in my last cabaret review on the brilliant End of the Rainbow and I’ll say it again now: I vote we get Julia Zemiro back next year and the year after that, too. I definitely want more RocKwiz in my life.

RocKwiz Salutes Rock Musicals was a one-off show at Thebarton Theatre on Friday night.

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