Melbourne Cabaret Festival

The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is one of Melbourne’s major winter arts events. Over the past 10 years, the Festival has evolved into one which provides a perfect launching pad for new cabaret shows, and 2019 was no exception. Cabaret is a diverse, welcoming art form and our program reflects that each year. For example, the 2019 program saw:

  • a cabaret set under the sea containing messages of ocean sustainability

  • the sublime original music and captivating storytelling of Emma Dean

  • inter-generational Yiddish divas singing in the Jewish language of humour and yearning

  • award winning, international jazz chanteuse Fem Belling bringing to life the rare and racy songs of the early decades

  • a preposterously zany musical adventure tracing the birth of the piano in 1709 through to the 20th century

  • new age drag: when thinking about drag everyone expects a Judy Garland but no one expects a Serena Williams – and that’s where Nefertiti LaNegra fills the gap

  • a new Australian musical by award-winning writer / performer Bradley McCaw and featuring an all-star cast

Services to performers

By covering base costs like venue hire, front-of-house and tech costs, and providing a marketing platform tailored to the art form, we remove many of the initial obstacles a performer faces in getting a show to the stage.

The festival also invites producers and venue programmers from across the country to attend our shows, creating touring opportunities into the future. 

Taking the 20 shows from 2018 as an example, 13 have since toured across Australia and 1 internationally, with many going on to win awards in other festivals. The shows regularly feature in the annual Green Room Awards, Showcase Victoria line-ups and subsequent touring.

We’ll be back in 2020 and have already begun the search for quality new cabaret shows. If you’re a performer, pitch your ideas to us now.


The Festival is run by ‘Melbourne Cabaret Limited’, a not-for-profit entity which exists to promote the performance art of cabaret and engage and grow a broad audience base for cabaret.

The Festival is funded through fundraising campaigns, its 'Friends of the Festival' program, donations, strategic sponsorships and ticket sales.

Thanks to our partners

Many sponsors – such as the Ron and Marg Dobell Foundation, Quest on Dorcas (and now Quest St Kilda Road), Grillo Higgins and Germy Designs – have shared our journey for the entire ten years. Our newer sponsor, the City of Stonnington, sees us call this municipality home under a triennial funding agreement.  

Our partnership with the Victorian College of the Arts also continues to grow. Each year the festival is fuelled by the volunteer power of their Music Theatre students.


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Drew Downing

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Sally Bourne

Festival Ambassadors

Leading cabaret artists, Drew Downing and Sally Bourne have been announced as the 2019 Melbourne Cabaret Festival Ambassadors.

Drew said “The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is the perfect place to trial original works. There’s a show and a seat for everyone.”

Sally said “I’ve been performing in cabaret for over 20 years in Australia and in London. I was privileged to be one of the headline acts at the inaugural Melbourne Cabaret Festival 10 years ago and since then have watched the festival grow and continue to present some of the best talent around.”


Ron Dobell

Melbourne Cabaret Limited is Chaired by Ron Dobell, who has vast experience in risk management and corporate governance. He has served as a Director and Chair of several organisations including his own philanthropic arts foundation, the Ron & Margaret Dobell Foundation. Ron has served on the Melbourne Cabaret Festival’s inaugural Advisory Panel from 2009.

Executive Producers

Neville Sice (left) and David Read

Described by The Age as the 'Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse of cabaret' (they dispute which is which), their instinct and understanding of the art form has resulted in the discovery of new performers who are now household names and the presentation of hundreds of new works that have thrilled audiences and kept them coming back for more. They also tour selected cabaret performances around Australia and overseas.

They have thrilled well over 100,000 paying audience members via their activities at The Butterfly Club, tours and now the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. They sold The Butterfly Club in January 2011 in order to focus on delivering the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Neville and David are in constant demand from venues and festivals around Australia for advice and assistance in curating cabaret seasons and workshops. They can be contacted here.