arts, culture, interview, Lifestyle, Reviews, What's On

The stars of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2017

For fans of the fun, frivolity and straight out pure talent enjoyment that comes with quality cabaret, this years’ Melbourne Cabaret Festival, now in its eighth year promises to be one that fans of the genre will love.

We recently caught up with one of our besties, the fabulous Dolly Diamond, who is this year’s Artistic Director, Jon Jackson from “Queen of Broadway – The Ethel Merman Story” and Danielle O’Malley, star of “You’re my world – the Cilla Black Story”

But first, darling Dolly:

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Dolly, how did you feel when you were appointed artistic director of the 2017 Melbourne Cabaret Festival?

When they first mentioned (it) I think a little bit of wee left me… (It happens) and normally I jump in where angels fear to tread, but this time I actually took a bit of time to think about it. I wanted to be sure I could commit to it and do a good job… but once I said yes I was thrilled.

How are you going to make your mark on this year’s festival?

It was important to me to make this years’ festival really focused on local Australian talent, there’s a wealth of it. We don’t have million dollar budgets so I loved looking locally rather than importing talent.

We know you can’t have favourites… but any tips for ‘must-see shows?’

Oh I definitely have favourites but when it comes to the shows I’d like you to see?…All of them!

Dolly’s Show – The Lady is a Tramp, runs from Tuesday 20 June to Sunday 2 July at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran.

The divine Jon Jackson


What is the inspiration behind your show?

I have always admired Ethel Merman’s unique vocal style, and even mimicked her voice in one of my first successful shows back in 1990. In ‘Bugle Boys’ last year, it was a big challenge to get our three male voices to sound like the Andrews Sisters. One day during rehearsals, the part I was singing was changed, and in order to sing it I went into Ethel’s voice without realising. Our musical director remarked how like her I sounded and so later, I started to experiment with taking it further. This show is the end result of that process.

What should the audience expect from your show?

 This production sees me as the legendary Broadway star, Ethel Merman returned from ‘the other side’. She died in 1984 and in our show; she’s decided to make a comeback. To do this, she needs a body to inhabit and she chooses me. I have the voice and the presence, so my gender is something she’s prepared to overlook. I sing many of her numerous hits by George & Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerry Herman, Jules Styne and Stephen Sondheim. On top of that, we have her sing some songs by people that she’s met on the other side, such as Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Amy Winehouse.

What about the Cabaret Festival gets you excited?

 The chance to see new shows, whether they are from established acts or newcomers.  I love to see things which are entirely new, because they show you the direction Cabaret is taking.

How do you recommend people get the most out of the Cabaret Festival?

 See as many shows as you can over the two weeks. Check out the programme; work out a schedule and pace yourself comfortably. Grab a bite at nearby Chapel Street and make a night of it.

What do you do during the festival when not performing?

Because my show is on at 7pm, when it finishes, I go and see other shows. I prefer to go and be an audience member, because to save my voice, I can’t go out or chat with friends afterwards. I can relax and enjoy the results of somebody else’s blood sweat and tears.

If you could name one person who inspired you to get into the performing arts, who would that be?

My drama teacher Robert Ketton really encouraged me to audition for the high school musical when I was 13. It was a pantomime called ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ and my buddy at the time, Gary Little and I were both cast as a campy comedy duo. He was tall and I was short and we did funny patter songs and gags. There was massive applause, we were a huge hit and I was hooked from then on.

Jon’s show – ‘Queen of Broadway – The Ethel Merman Story’ is on at Chapel Off Chapel, 21 – 25 June 2017, 7pm.

The Incredible Danielle O’Malley – “You’re My World – The Cilla Black Story”

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What is the inspiration behind your show?

Originally it was the music that Cilla Black recorded. Burt Bacharach, Lennon & McCartney – their lyrics and melodies speak to me in a way that current contemporary music doesn’t. Then as I started researching for the show and watching Cilla Black’s interviews and performances, I fell in love with her spirit and personality.

What should the audience expect from your show?

The concept behind this show is Cilla Black in concert. Audiences can expect to learn something new about Cilla and other musicians who were around when the Mersey beat began, through entertaining stories being told with the self-deprecating humour that Cilla was famous for – and of course, some wonderful music.

What about Cabaret Festival gets you excited?

The term cabaret is difficult to define and I love that this festival allows a platform for performers and musicians to perform such a wide variety of works.

If you could name one person (dead or alive) who inspired you to get into the performing arts who would that be?

Julie Andrews. I watched The Sound of Music on repeat as a child…and sometimes still do.

Danielle’s show – ‘You’re My World – The Cilla Black Story’ is on at Chapel Off Chapel, June 27th – July 1st, 6:30pm. 


The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is now on and runs from Tuesday 20 June to Sunday 2 July at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran. Check their website for the full program:

Interview by Kerstyn Dance