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Adelaide Cabaret Festival was conceived by Adelaide arts identity and founding father of Adelaide Fringe Festival, Frank Ford.

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Adelaide Cabaret Festival emerged during a period of change and uncertainty.

During the late 1990s the number of big stage musicals was in decline across the country forcing many talented performers out of work. At the same time, Frank Ford, had become concerned about the flood of visiting comedians in the Fringe program. "The Fringe was intended to be a national showcase for new talent in Australia but it was being upstaged by these comedians who were stopping on route to the Melbourne Comedy Festival," Frank said. 

Australians have a great tradition of musical theatre and political satire and both form a large part of the cabaret genre. And so the idea for a new festival was born. Frank approached then Arts Minister, Diana Laidlaw who committed funding to establish the first cabaret festival at Adelaide’s creative heart, Adelaide Festival Centre.

The first festival took place in May 2001 and featured Australian Jazz maestro James Morrison, musical satirist Phil Scott, and Australian musical theatre star Caroline O’Connor who was a late replacement for the legendary Nina Simone. A critical and commercial success, the state government committed to a further three years funding. “I loved that we started something from scratch where there was no existing audience and found 48,000 attendances by the second year,” said the inaugural Festival Director, Julia Holt.

The biggest festival of its kind, Adelaide Cabaret Festival celebrated it's 20th anniversary in 2020, and continues to attract truly outstanding artists from around the country and the world.

Past festivals have featured the likes of: Dame Edna Everage (AUS), Kristin Chenoweth (USA), Alan Cumming (SCT), Idina Menzel (USA), Dita Von Teese (USA), Megan Hilty (USA) Lea Salonga (PHIL), Cassandra Wilson (USA), Olivia Newton-John (AUS), Molly Ringwald (USA), Lenny Henry (UK), Ben Vereen (USA), Mary Wilson (USA), Tim Minchin (AUS), Natalie Cole (USA), Camille O’Sullivan (IRE), Paul Kelly (AUS), Bernadette Peters (USA), Stephen Schwartz (USA), Eddie Perfect (AUS), Rhonda Burchmore (AUS), Micheline Van Hautem (BEL), iOTA (AUS), Lanie Lane (AUS), Caroline Nin (FRA), Michael Feinstein (USA), Mandy Patinkin (USA) and Anthony Warlow (AUS).

Festival Directors

  • The Cabaret Collective (2023)
    Julia Holt | David Campbell OAM & Lisa Campbell | Kate Ceberano | Eddie Perfect | Ali McGregor | Julia Zemiro | Alan Cumming | Tina Arena AM
  • Tina Arena AM (2022)
  • Alan Cumming (2021)
  • Julia Zemiro (2019 - 2020)
  • Ali McGregor (2018)
  • Ali McGregor & Eddie Perfect (2016 – 2017)
  • Barry Humphries (2015)
  • Kate Ceberano (2012 – 2014)
  • David Campbell OAM and Lisa Campbell (2009 – 2011)
  • Julia Holt (2001 – 2008)

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