The Opportunity of a Lifetime

The Australian Cabaret Showcase is celebrating its 10th year in 2012, and Les Solomon discusses why this competition is the most exciting of its kind.

Angela Harding
Winner of the 2011 Cabaret Showcase, Angela Harding

Ten years ago the Sydney Cabaret Convention had fallen over in a spectacularly unimpressive way. After only a few years of very high profile activity, the convention had over extended itself and the City of Sydney which was the principal producer of the event pulled the plug.

There was much consternation and concern in the cabaret community and the offer of being seen in the New York Cabaret Convention which was the main prize, disappeared as did the opportunities and chance of fame and glory that the prize offered young performers.

In an attempt to try and give cabaret artists some sort of exposure and a competitive element to aspire to, a few clients and myself started up the 1st Sydney Cabaret Showcase. It was a modest affair conducted over a number of nights at the (then)popular cabaret room Villa Caprese in North Sydney. I remember the finals were very well attended and there was a certain sense of excitement about the night because someone was doing something to help keep cabaret alive in the city. I can't even remember what the 1st prize was, but it was pretty slight. For the next four years we built on this in December each year, it moved around but was mostly held at El Rocco in Kings Cross (or Bar Me as it was known in those days).

After five years, I handed over the main reins of the event to the young producer Jeremy Youett and in the next two years Jeremy lifted its profile considerably. I have always remained involved as a judge and organiser of the event. Things improved considerably when the main prize became a season at the prestigious Adelaide Cabaret festival and David and Lisa Campbell gave much time and energy to help lift the profile of the showcase. By the end of its 7th year, several other important opportunities were offered the winner; a cash prize, an invitation to perform their shows at the Noosa Arts festival, then the Brisbane and Melbourne Cabaret festivals.

Jeremy has done much to enhance the showcase each year and every year it has become more competitive. Winners have included such industry names who got one of their early breaks winning or becoming showcase winners -these include James Millar (the first winner), Lucy Durack, Marika Aubrey, Nick Christo, Elenoa Rokobaro, Tom Sharah, Gillian Cosgriff, Toby Francis and last year the exciting and promising young music theatre and cabaret talent – Angela Harding.

So you can understand my pride and pleasure as the showcase reaches its tenth year this year to see

a prize added to the long list of prizes (and prize money!) already on offer. Apart from an invite to perform at every cabaret festival in the country from this year Jeremy has added the prize of prizes – an invitation to perform the winner's entire show at the New York Music Theatre Festival complete with return air fare and accommodation in the Big Apple! This is a unique and extraordinary prize that leaves in its wake all other competitions.

Let's look at some recent competitions for theatre practitioners – the flawed and failed TV series I Will Survive gave extraordinary prize money but despite originally promising a performance on Broadway on stage (linking in with the production of Priscilla), could not even deliver a public performance on Broadway for the winner. Rob Guest Endowment is a great endeavour and it gives great industry exposure and money to travel to New York and possibly work with some top people, but it does not include a public performance. Only the Talent Development Project/ASCAP project offers any New York performance opportunity and this is only available to TDP graduates from the NSW Public School system.

This extraordinary prize offers the winner the opportunity to perform their entire show right in the New York spotlight at that town's most prestigious of music theatre festivals,where new works for Broadway blossom. It is a very highly visible festival and could be the beginning of a career in America for the winner.

One has to remember that when David Campbell first went to New York it was for one performance at a tiny (sadly now extinct) New York club and look what happened to him. Even the original Sydney Cabaret Convention did not offer a prize like this; it's prize was two songs at the New York Cabaret Convention and even though massive exposure (performing at this convention did wonders for Judi Connelli) it never seemed to do much for any of the winners of that convention, as they tended to be sandwiched amongst a whole heap of established cabaret stalwarts that often overwhelmed the local.  (Note: the person who benefited most from that prize was Maree Johnson who met and married her industry related husband as a result of her winning the convention!)

There is no doubt that this prize is the opportunity of a lifetime. If the winner makes the most of this unique offer it could change their lives and be the start of a road toward a greencard and a dazzling future. I only hope that all professionals, whether just out of a drama academy or people with some years of professional credits line up to be part of the showcase. It doesnt get any more exciting than this, thank you Jeremy Youett you have done yourself and the showcase proud.

For details on how to apply and for an ENTRY FORM, visit

Applications close on 10 December 2012