Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety Nite Nite {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Review

During the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there are so many genres to pick from that I find myself spoilt for choice. These range from the classic stand up, to musical comedy, cabaret, sketch, improv and even circus but it can be hard to fit everything you want into your schedule. Thankfully, there is one show that gives you a little taste of almost everything, all rolled into a single sitting.

Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety Nite Nite is exactly as the name suggests, a late night show, consisting of a variety of acts, at night and has been a festival staple for as long as I can remember. In fact, Ali McGregor has been curating guest appearances at her show for over 17 years! McGregor even joked that there are likely patrons in the audience that weren’t even born back when the first run of shows occurred, and there was!

For the uninitiated, Ali McGregor is more than just a gracious host, she is an incredible professional singer and an even more talented comedian. Each show consists of three acts that range from a variety of genres and are hand-picked by McGregor herself. For the show I attended, we had comedian Geraldine Hickey, circus act Anna Lumb and chaotic festival queen, Reuben Kaye.

Between acts, McGregor loves to sing, but does more than your traditional cover, she puts her own jazz-infused spin on the track and even mashes together two songs to create a new masterpiece, and does so with a live, three-piece jazz band behind her.

For the performance I attended, McGregor performed covers of KISS’ ‘I Was Made for Loving You’, Blur’s ‘Song 2’, and closed out the show with Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. She also created two mash-ups that are arguably better than the original songs in their own right. First, Neil Diamond & Barbara Streisand’s ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ with Miley Cyrus’ ‘Flowers’. A song about not getting flowers to one about, not needing anyone and buying them for yourself, so clever! Second mash-up is from Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ and Jessie J’s ‘Bang Bang’. Each cover and mash-up are just as good as the next and really showcased McGregor’s vocal ability. Just hold out for the notes and whistle-tones McGregor reaches – they will give you chills!

First up on the bill was Geraldine Hickey, a comedian I have always seen on TV, but never had the opportunity to see them live. When McGregor introduced Hickey, she said that Hickey’s show is on directly before hers at the Fairfax Studio, and loves hearing the whole set as she gets ready for her own show, and I can see why.

Hickey went on to describe a new medical condition that she was diagnosed with called Raynaud’s disease. Hickey described it as a numbing sensation, typically in the fingers or toes, as a response to cold temperatures. It doesn’t sound all that fun or exciting, but Hickey’s delivery was hilarious! I am glad I finally got the chance to see her live. Whilst it may have only been a 10 minute spot, it was amazing. Hickey’s dry delivery and quirky sense of humour really impressed me. Not only that, but I also actually learnt something.

Of course, a Late-Nite Variety Nite Nite wouldn’t be complete without some quirky and wild circus performance. This time, a hula-hoop extravaganza from solo performer Anna Lumb. Now, I have seen many hula-hoop performances in my time, but Lumb brings a whole new vibe to the genre. Yes, she can spin multiple hoops at once and her synchronicity is incredible, but it is her delivery that was hilarious! She incorporates a banana into the act, whilst spinning a hoop around her neck, she somehow manages to take quick bites out of the banana. An incredible feat of precision timing. But it wasn’t all perfect as she dropped a piece of banana that then became part of the act moving forward, pretending to step on and slip on it throughout the performance. So, I am unsure if it was accidental and Lumb just leaned into it, or if it was carefully planned. Either way, the performance was fantastic. A perfect choice by Ali McGregor for the show.

Last, but by certainly no means least, is Reuben Kaye. Having seen his show the night before, I knew exactly what we were in store for. His brand of political comedy was in full swing and he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Having performed in the Fairfax Studio the year prior, Reuben was excited to be back in the space, meandering up and down the stairs, taking full control of the show.

Meanwhile, McGregor was at the back, lounging in her chair and just enjoying the show. The best thing about Reuben’s part, aside from Reuben himself, was watching Ali McGregor react to each of Reuben’s punch lines. It was entertaining in its own right and I kind of envied her role for a moment. Setting up a show, sing a couple of songs and just watch whilst those she handpicked performed in front of her. What a gig to have!

Of course, Reuben being Reuben, ran over the 10-minute timeslot, but nobody seemed to care. Reuben even jokingly asked McGregor how long it has been. But eventually, McGregor was given the wind-up request from venue staff, and it was time to close out the show. And McGregor did it in style with her epic performance of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.

Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety Nite Nite is one of the most unique and entertaining shows at every Melbourne Comedy Festival and I am grateful that I was able to slot in her show at least once. Her show will have its final session of the festival at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne on April 7.

For more information on the shows of the artists listed, please visit the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival links below.

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