In a triumphant return to Adelaide, the transgender entertainer aims to light audiences up with her torch songs and tell stories, combining her vocals with her vigour and love for performing.
Mama asks that you let your imagination take flight throughout 'Exquisite', and here she answers some questions so you can get to know her a little better.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself for those who aren't familiar with your work.
I am a jazz singer, a cabaret artiste, and a gender transcendent diva. In Cuba, they called my voice 'divine', and in my home town of Melbourne critics have called me 'near flawless', 'breathtaking', and 'exquisite' – hence the name of my new show. I believe in music, love and storytelling.
What will you be bringing to Adelaide Fringe?
'Exquisite: An Evening with Mama Alto' is a fabulous cabaret performance, with stunning jazz standards, soaring ballads and heart-wrenching torch songs. We premiered it as a commission for the National Theatre in St Kilda, Melbourne, and now the Adelaide Fringe Artist Fund have selected us to perform at Adelaide Fringe. We're performing at the fantastic Gluttony, in their new venue at the Freemason's Lodge on North Terrace.
You've said you were first drawn to music through your dad's music collection. What about his collection captured you?
I loved the glamour and empowerment of the stunning jazz, blues and soul singers – fabulous women of colour who became icons, who touched people's souls, and who helped change the world. And I realised I could, in a much smaller way, try to do the same.
You're all about challenging the expectations of cabaret. Why is this?
In a way, cabaret as a genre is about limitless potentials, and the power of storytelling. Many people now have a preconceived notion of cabaret as simply risqué songs and bowler hats – which of course is fabulous – but we must challenge their expectations and invite them into the incredibly complex, multifaceted, layered and glorious house of mirrors, of endless prisms and reflections and refractions and wonder, which cabaret encompasses.
Do you have any comments in general about the current state of representation/opportunity for people in the LGBTQI+ community?
Representation and visibility hold immense power, and we are always making such progress in our journey towards equality, dignity, respect and safety. There's still a way to go, though, so we must all find our own ways to contribute. And mine is through art.
Who is your favourite iconic cabaret performer, and why?
I love the genius of Billie Holiday, the magic of Le Gateau Chocolat, the rich vocals of Mary Wilson, the endurance of Marilyn Maye, the truth speaking of Hot Brown Honey, the bite of Eartha Kitt, the reckoning of Moira Finucane, the pathos of Lena Horne... I could go on, and on!
Why does 'Exquisite' belong at Adelaide Fringe?
The Fringe is a place for us all to belong – the misfits, the strange, the beautiful. Like ugly ducklings, we hatch into exquisite swans.
How are you hoping people leave this performance thinking and feeling?
My hope – and my true belief – is that music lets people get in touch with their feelings, their emotions, their interior psychological worlds. It allows you to feel, deeply and intensely, and understand a bit about yourself and the world.
Describe your show with a lyric of a cabaret song.
"Here's to life, here's to love – and here's to you."
What do you do in your day-to-day life?I work in retail at Lovisa, I’ve ranged from a casual all the way up to assistant manager, but now I’m settled part-time. Besides that, I’m always planning performances for the future, and also supporting my fellow performers. And eating. Ooft!Read more: