Sydney’s Inaugural International Cabaret Festival

Jennifer Holliday performs at the opening of the festival at the Recital Hall, Sydney

Sydney was the original home of cabaret in Australia; it is an artform that is truly loved by all Australians.  This year organisers decided to bring back the Sydney Cabaret Festival.

Trevor Ashley is the Festival’s Artistic Director. He assembled both International and Australian cabaret stars into a 9 day extravaganza of top class entertainment. Trevor states, “I have loved Cabaret as long as I can remember. As a confused child growing up I discovered this incredible artform that celebrated unique personalities, and more than that, an irreplaceable bond between artist and audience. Seeing artists like Lorrae Desmond, Julie Anthony and Geraldine Turner live, made me believe I could be anyone I wanted to be. It changed my life.”

Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray
Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray

The 2019 Sydney Cabaret Festival features Tony Award-winner Jennifer Holliday (pictured above), appearing for the first time on Australian soil, alongside local legends like Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins, to New York downtown darling Natalie Joy Johnson. UK’s Frisky and Mannish return after a ten year hiatus, as does diva Alison JiearTim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David SmithReuben Kaye and Brian Nash, plus circus and variety show Cheeky Cabaret, direct from their home in Brunswick Heads. Tim Benzie returns to Sydney with Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote. The Festival also includes a cabaret for children, Petit Cabaret, and masterclasses with Jennifer Holliday and Alison Jiear, as well as the Grand Final of the restored Sydney Cabaret Competition.

I was the Festival’s Photographer and had the pleasure of photographing and documenting most of the action. The following is a brief visual overview of how I spent my time.

Jennifer Holliday – Headlines the Festival

Jennifer Holiday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Jennifer Holliday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Ms. Holiday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls.  Her show stopping number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece.  She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.
Ms. Holliday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls. Her show stopping number, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece. She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.

Opening Night at the City Recital Hall

Trevor Ashley gives it his all as he channels some grand diva from somewhere.
Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins at the Opening Night.
Reuben Kaye
Brian Nash at the keyboard
New York City goddess and diva, Nathalie Joy Johnson
Nathalie Joy Johnson
Kim David Smith
Alison Jiear at the Recital Hall
Alison Jiear

The solo Performances

The Piano Bar at the Seymour Centre

The Seymour Centre was transformed into the Cabaret Hub with solo performances simultaneously running in 5 separate performance spaces. There was a great buzz of excitement and anticipation as the audiences crowded to attend each show. I ran from theatre to theatre capturing the action. Here’s a visual overview…..

Alison Jiear

Alison Jiear

Cabaret Competition Grand Final

Australia’s next generation of cabaret superstars launched their careers at The Sydney Cabaret Competition: Grand Final hosted by ‘International Queen of Cabaret’ Trevor Ashley.

9 entertainers were selected as finalists (Nyssa Milligan, Irene Nicaola, Katelin Koprivec, Sarah Murr, Naomi Livingston, Rachael Gillfeather, Ali Calder, Billie Palin and Clare Ellen O’Connor), each performed their own short cabaret shows. The judges then selected the 2019 winner.

Congratulations to the runner up – Clare Ellen O’Conner with her show Plucked! and the Audience Choice and Winner – Billie Palin, for her incredible performance in ‘From Dubbo to Death’.

Cheeky Cabaret

Born out of the sleepy, picturesque village of Brunswick Heads on the north coast of NSW, birthed at the Brunswick Picture House, comes “Cheeky Cabaret”. Full of many flavours…..other than vanilla and very entertaining, Cheeky Cabaret ran for the entire length of the Festival in the Valhalla Room at the Seymour Centre.

Frisky and Hammish

Master Class with Jennifer Holliday

Kim David Smith

Nathalie Joy Johnson

Phil Scott & Jonathan Biggins

Reuben Haye

Tim Draxyl

Tim Draxyl dazzles his audience

Toni Lamond and the Finale

The Piano Bar

The Piano Bar was a big hit each night of the Festival
The Piano Bar, the place to be after the show

The Piano Bar was a popular venue, nestled in the Seymour Centre’s Festival hub. Each night heralded a plethora of pop-up performances from various artists.

Rhonda Burchmore lying down on the job!

The Sydney International Cabaret Festival was a big success and will be now on the Sydney cultural horizon….so watch out for it next year and don’t miss seeing a few of the performers in next years line-up.

“RAZORHUST” at the Hayes

Debora Kriszak plays Kate Leigh in Razorhust

Crime queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, who were bitter rivals during the 1920s when their gangs fought it out on the streets of East Sydney in the “razor gang wars”, are a fascinating pair of protagonists for a musical currently showing at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point.

Tilly Devine (Amelia Cormack) confronts Kate Leigh (Debora Krizak) on stage

From the 1920s until the 1930s, two vice queens, Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine, ruled the Darlinghurst underworld. Their rivalry was infamous, leading to a litany of violent crimes enacted by their razor gangs as each struggled to gain dominance in a world of sly grog, narcotics and prostitution.

In 2019, Kate Leigh’s former sly grog shop is about to reopen as a trendy coffee spot. The shop is being gutted for renovation, but there are still ghosts in the walls who aren’t done settling old scores.

Razorhurst explores what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, forced into a life of crime by circumstance. At turns crass and hilarious, Razorhurst is a “compelling meditation on the explosive cocktail of gender, class, and power underlying an infamous period in the history of crime” (Newark Star-Ledger).

Book & Lyrics by Kate Mulley, Music by Andy Peterson

Presented by Hayes Theatre Co

Director Benita de Wit
Musical Director Lucy Bermingham

Starring Amelia Cormack & Debora Krizak

RAZORHURST
Was Commissioned by and received its World Premiere at
Luna Stage, West Orange, New Jersey
Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director

TICKETS*
Previews: Full $60 | Concession $55
Mon – Thurs: Full $65 | Concession $60
Sat Matinee: Full $65 | Concession $60
Fri & Sat Evening: Full $70 | Concession $65
Wed Matinee: Full $60 | Concession $55 | Fab Four Offer $45

Razorhurst is part of the 2011 Postcode offer. Residents of 2011 can obtain half price tickets 30 minutes prior to performances Mon-Thurs with proof of address. Subject to availability.

BOOK NOW BY CLICKING HERE

PAULINI & HUGH – STAR IN NEW PRODUCTION OF HAIR

Paulini & Hugh Sheridan star in the new production of Hair the musical

A brand new Australian production of the much-loved rock musical HAIR will come alive in the Concert Hall – Sydney Opera House from 3 – 6 October as part of a national tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show’s Australian premiere.

Leading the cast in this new production of HAIR is award-winning TV and theatre star Hugh Sheridan (Packed to the Rafters) in the role of Berger and powerhouse vocalist Paulini as Dionne. Sheridan’s one man show, Newly Discovered, sold out Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2009 and, in 2012, he starred alongside Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

I recently captured some promotional images of both Paulini and Hugh at the Sydney Opera House.

Paulini is one of 10 Australian female solo artists to have a #1 album in the ARIA Charts and her critically acclaimed performance as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard (2017) has cemented her as one of Australia’s most exciting rising stars.

With book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragini, and music by Galt McDermott, HAIR will be produced by David M. Hawkins and directed by Declan Greene. The show brings together a talented local creative team with Set Design by Michael-Scott Mitchell, Choreography by Amy Campbell, Musical Direction by Glenn Moorhouse and Costume Design by James Browne.

HAIR plays at the Sydney Opera House from 3 – 6 October 2019. For more information, visit: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

HAIR also plays His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth (22 August – 1 September); Geelong Performing Arts Centre (4 – 8 September); The Art House, Wyong (19 – 21 September); Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong (25 – 29 September); and Home of the Arts, Gold Coast (11 & 12 October). For more information, visit: www.hairthemusical.com.au for details.

I think this production will be fabulous and can’t wait to hear that rousing score….this is a must see. So Book and get yourself a ticket!

Western Sydney Performing Arts Centre

Construction has begun on a world-class performing arts centre and multi-use entertainment space in Rooty Hill. It is deemed the biggest cultural development to hit Western Sydney. The centre is set to become an icon for the West, with construction due for completion in late 2019.

The project has been designed by Cox Architecture and is currently under the construction expertise of Hansen Yuncken.

Hansen Yuncken commissioned me to capture some mid-construction images of the work in progress.

The complex which houses the Sydney Coliseum Theatre will offer some impressive facilities:

  • Multi-modes theatre capable of hosting musical, dramatic theatre, live music and more.
  • Nine metre Proscenium Arch offering the latest in front and back of house technical capabilities.
  • World’s best practise technology including full immersive sound and acoustic design
  • the latest in state of the art theatre technology and sustainable LED lighting
  • 80 line fly system (important for international standard productions)
  • Orchestra pit for 30
  • Excellent sight-lines
  • Rehearsal room and production office with stage access
  • Comfortable and spacious production amenities including 11 dressing rooms
  • Adjacent 4&1/2 star Novotel Hotel offering 164 rooms

THEY’RE OFF AGAIN

The two leading ladies of Australian theatre and cabaret are at it again. Firstly, it was ABBA-SOLUTELY FABULOUS. You may remember……

Rhonda and Lara as Abba-solutely Fabulous

It is always a pleasure to work with these talented woman of the entertainment world. There’s no stopping Rhonda and Lara’s comic wit and sense of good fun which they freely share with all. They have a new show called “Partners in Crime” and they will be touring nationally.

Doing the photography has given me a glimpse of what’s in store and I can tell you it will be hysterical. Thanks to talents of James Carroll for the design work on the poster.

Go to: www.rhondaburchmore.com to see the venues and dates and BOOK IN quickly for a fabulous night out.

SELECTED AS SEMI-FINALIST IN HEAD ON PHOTO FESTIVAL

How exciting….I been selected as a semi-finalist in the Head On Photo Awards 2019.

The image will be projected on screen with other semi-finalist’s images at the Paddington Town Hall between 4 May – 19 May, 2019.

Jaden, 2018 (from the series “Spot the Arab”

Artist Statement:

As part of my investigation into stereotypes and identity I photographed Jaden, a young Aboriginal man of the Wiradjuri Nation, dressed in middle eastern clothing.  With Jaden’s consent, I then draped him in an Aboriginal flag as a symbol of how he identifies.  Afterwards when I showed this photograph to a group of white middle class Australians, I asked them if they thought this was a portrait of an Arab man.  Most thought it was.  I replied, “He’s not an Arab but can you tell me how he identifies?  There’s an obvious clue, it’s draped over his head”.  I am left puzzled that most people still don’t see it.

Easter Break in Victoria

The Grampians

I made a trip down to Victoria over the Easter break. My family hail from the dry, flat region of the Wimmera Mallee and I joined my sister and brother on a small farm at the foot of the Grampian mountain range, near the village of Dadswells Bridge.

Here a few images from the trip……

This is my sister looking relaxed and happy. The weather was great during the day. The mornings were brisk and sharp, softened by the warmth of an open fire

The end of the day was a moment where everyone would come together, relax, sit around and chat.

The bbq open fire was a treat.

The farm was nestled at the foot of the Grampians. This was the view from the creek that ran beside the property. It was really hard to deal with as you can imagine.

Lunch at the local Vietnamese street vendor in Horsham.
Lunch with Denise at the Great Western Hotel

I went to the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Williamstown in Melbourne……..

My hosts in Melbourne where I spent the night before returning to Sydney.
Home, back to Sydney with Virgin

Upgrades at Macquarie University

I recently photographed the completed refurbishment of several facilities at Macquarie University. An entire fit-out was executed in the buildings of the International College, including testing rooms at the English Language College.

It was a thrill to photograph this project. Prime Constructions meticulously implemented the designs of Marc Oberhauser of Gardner Wetherill and Associates, the architect.

If only design was this good when I was at University all those years ago…..

VALE RON AUSTIN

Ron Austin, 2012

On Sunday I woke up to the sad news that Ron Austin had passed away on the weekend at the age of 90.

Ron was a gay rights activist and a member of the legendary 78’ers. He played a major role in the beginnings of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which took place in 1978 after his famous words, “Why don’t we have a street party?” The rest is history.

I had the pleasure of working with this humble, joyous man in 2012. Ron was one of the portrait models I photographed in a celebratory mood as part of the 2012 Mardi Gras promotional campaign.

RIP Ron Austin

Trans & Gender Diverse Health – my portraits for ACON’s new campaign

I recently spent a very busy and rewarding day at the ACON headquarters near Sydney’s Central Station, taking proud and confident portraits of some of the members of our trans and gender diverse community in an informal, temporary studio on the third floor. The single portraits and group shots of Riri, Brielle, Te, Andrew, Peta, Sage, Emily, Farren and more than 30 other models are being published as part of an important document and campaign aimed at improving health issues for this particular group of our fellow human beings.

It is an uplifting and joyful experience to be able to photograph a group of socially-aware, ground-breaking people from such diverse backgrounds. The open-hearted, positive campaign initiated by ACON is so powerful that several of the models decided they would allow themselves to be professionally photographed for the very first time. I am very proud to be part of this process.

The new health strategy released by ACON aims to address key health issues and barriers experienced by trans and gender diverse (TGD) people. It was launched in April at Parliament House. The landmark “Blueprint for Improving the Health & Wellbeing of the Trans & Gender Diverse Community in NSW” provides a detailed overview of the health issues facing TGD people, and outlines key priority action areas that need to be addressed and implemented to ensure their health and wellbeing. To view the blueprint go to: acon.org.au

Brielle, trans woman, she/hers
Te, man, he/his
Riri, woman, she/her
Emily, woman, she/her & Farren, Transgender woman, she/her
Andrew, man, he/his
Peta, trans woman, she/her
Sage, non-binary, they/them