From Broadway Stars to Local Legend: Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024

For over 20 years the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has delighted, enthralled and fascinated Adelaide audiences, making our wintery June the hottest month of the cabaret calendar year.

WORDS: Libby O’Donovan OAM

This year’s program is a full platter of artistic variety that directly reflects the incredible breadth of talent of the 2024 Artistic Director, Virginia Gay.

With her signature energy and enthusiasm, Virginia talks about her desire to explore the broad church of cabaret, the importance of honouring the great cabaret titans and tips on how she will stay energised through the three weekends of ‘beguiling chaos’.

“I have been all over the globe looking at fringe festivals, cabaret festivals and live music festivals. Alex Sinclair (Executive producer of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival) and I have been piecing the program together over months and months. I wanted it to be inclusive, diverse, queer, joyful and a space of great celebration and community. Really, we are looking for world class talent. When we ask people from across the world to be a part of it, It’s really exciting because I get half way through my sentence and they have already heard about the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and they want in! It is a testament to the incredible legacy of past Artistic Directors, programming directors and the wonderful audiences.”

Traditionally the revelation of the incoming Artistic Director is made on the final night of the festival, however Gay was announced as the 2024 Artistic Director in the middle of last year’s Cabaret Festival.

“I am first and foremost a fan of this festival. I said to the team, would it be okay if we announced me earlier because I want people to be able to talk to me in the foyers, I want people to know that this is a line of communication that is open.”

“The feeling in the foyers is electric, and it’s unlike any other festival in the world. The way that we make a community, we make a family for those three weekends in the middle of winter; outside it is cold, but inside it is warm.”

Gay plans to see as many shows as she possibly can and to be part of that foyer community before and after each show.

“I will be in every damn foyer! My tips for surviving the beautiful mayhem of the three weekends of shows is hydrate, hydrate hydrate.  And apparently you can’t just hydrate with champagne! How rude. Oh, and eat some food with the great variety of food trucks and options available right there at the Adelaide Festival Centre. Grab some dumplings and some liquid and then straight back in to see shows.”

Included in the program is three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, the incomparable Dame Lisa Simone who will perform iconic classics of her mother, Dr. Nina Simone and iconic  UK trio Fascinating Aïda, who will present The 40th Anniversary Show.

The festival also boasts some of Australia’s most incredible and much loved talent, including Kate Miller-Heidke, Emma Donovan, Mahalia Barnes, Rhonda Burchmore and Australia’s leading kings of swing, Swing on This. Among this exceptional line-up includes Adelaide’s own Johanna Allen, Victoria Falconer and Michelle Pearson.

“We have put so much thought into things that we thought would excite the beautiful, loyal Adelaide Cabaret audience and we have world class talent right here in Australia”, Gay passionately exclaims.

“Cabaret is very simply ‘stories into song’, so I’m interested in how much we can expand the boundaries of what that means. We have a live cabaret book club, a madcap, who-done-it  where two people play eighteen roles and a grand piano, Jullian Cosgrove who creates a new song every night which she writes with the audience and  the Late Night Festival shows that give you the last flavour in your mouth of each night.”

“We want to throw those doors open and say Cabaret is a very, very broad church and we would love to welcome everybody to celebrate there in the most cabaret possible way.

It’s live, it’s vital and it’s the most beguiling chaos. We want the audience to say ‘we trust you and we will go anywhere with you.’

Libby O’Donovan is renowned for her nuanced interpretations and extraordinary voice. She is the recipient of the 2022 Cabaret Icon Award and has received an OAM in recognition of her service as a critically acclaimed Jazz and Cabaret performer and an award winning Musical Director. 

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 is from 7th – 22nd of June at Adelaide Festival Centre.

  • Staff Writer

    Made up of a small, tight knit team of writers and contributors who are passionate about all things FIFTY+ and the New Age. We love Adelaide and wider South Australia and sharing with you all of the l...


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