After a tough 18 months for the arts, Adelaide has achieved a superb Cabaret Festival to shake off the doom and gloom. The program was necessarily short on international talent but who needs that when Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis are here to bring all the razzamatazz of Eurovision to Adelaide?
Billed as an Adelaide exclusive and a world premiere, Rockwiz Salutes Eurovision follows the huge hit of the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Rockwiz Salutes The Rock Musical.
The format was exactly what the eager audience expected – random contestants picked from the sell-out audience, amazing guest stars, the very fabulous five-piece EuroWiz Orkestra, and the hosts with the most, Julia and Brian. You absolutely know you’re in for a fun night when you arrive at the theatre on a wintry evening to find Nankervis chasing unsuspecting folks through the foyer with a megaphone to rustle up contestants for the show.
We all know that Australian audiences adore the ridiculousness that is Eurovision, so this was a hit waiting to happen. And Adelaide is also in love with Zemiro, who was Artistic Director of the very successful 2019 Cab Fest. Zemiro was a vision on stage in a voluminous gold sparkly gown and oversized silver tiara reminiscent of Kate Miller-Heidke’s 2019 Zero Gravity crown.
Zemiro is warm and authentic on stage and the comedic synergy between her and Nankervis is great to watch. They were joined by four successful audience contestants – Simone, Con, Lynne, and Max – with special guest star team leaders Alan Cumming and singer-songwriter Montaigne.
Scottish-American personality Alan Cumming is the first international appointee to the role of Artistic Director in the Cabaret Festival’s 21-year history and had to endure two weeks of hotel quarantine before he could hit the ground in early June. He’s since made himself the darling of Adelaide, performing his own shows and being seen at everything. His rendition of ‘Mein Herr’ from Cabaret was a lesson in captivating stage presence.
Sydney-based singer Montaigne was the Australian contestant at Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam (albeit virtually, due to travel restrictions), having been originally selected for the cancelled 2020 contest. She gave a high-energy performance of her Eurovision song ‘Technicolour’.
True to the TV format, the show gallops along on an assortment of trivia and tidbits about the world’s longest-running music competition. From 1967’s UK winner Sandie Shaw to ABBA in 1974, the depth of knowledge from these Eurovision tragics was astonishing. And the surprise star of the night was contestant Max, still in high school and studying year 10, who had a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of Eurovision from long before he could say ‘Terry Wogan’.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be an Adelaide Cabaret Festival show if our own sequinned superstar Hans didn’t make an appearance. The winning song of 1958’s Eurovision, ‘Volare’ was given the full Hans treatment, complete with accordion. It goes without saying that our only chance of Australia winning Eurovision 2022 is if we select Hans as our official competitor.
As the 2021 Festival closed, Alan Cumming announced that Tina Arena is the new Artistic Director for 2022. From her early days as ‘Tiny Tina’ on Young Talent Time, she has gone on to become one of our most successful performers with a career spanning some 40 years. On the penultimate night of the 2021 Cabaret Festival, Rockwiz Salutes Eurovision was an evening of pure laugh-out-loud musical fun.
5 stars: ★★★★★
Rockwiz Salutes Eurovision
Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2021
25 June at the Adelaide Festival Theatre