Following its show-stopping debut in 2014, the Queensland Cabaret Festival is back.

The 2015 program is undoubtedly the best yet, with a dazzling array of Australian talent and some very special international guests.

All are primed to thrill, excite and even scandalise us with their fabulous songs and heart-warming storytelling. This year we’re invited to get up close and personal with Mary Wilson, a lady who just oozes Motown royalty. A founding member of The Supremes, who dominated the airwaves in the 1960s with 12 number-one singles, Wilson (now in her 70s and still incredibly glamorous) tells the story of her life with songs such as Smile, Fields of Gold, New York State of Mind and My World Is Empty Without You.

And it’s an extraordinary story too – her early years in the most successful vocal group in American history, former US Cultural Ambassador, bestselling author, and advocate for women’s health in developing countries.

“After being in a group of three people it’s kind of like my turn to talk about me a lot,” she laughs. “I talk about our Supremes history and other things I’ve accomplished. I’m re-inventing myself and introducing who I am as a single artist. At this stage of my life I want to do the ballads and standards that I feel I can do well – songs that I really enjoy singing.”

“She was Motown, she was one of the Dreamgirls,” exclaims an excited Kris Stewart. The Brisbane Powerhouse artistic director suggests Up Close, the title of Mary Wilson’s show, typifies the appeal that cabaret has for performers.

“It’s all about intimacy, a connection with an audience, a kind of informality. They come back to cabaret because they enjoy that relationship.” Stewart says another fine exponent of this is Storm Large.

“Storm is a legitimate downtown New York cabaret performer, a top-shelf international talent.”

Storm Large is best known for her appearances on Rock Star: Supernova and as lead singer for the eclectic mini-orchestra Pink Martini.

“I talk about experiences with love, music, something I read or saw on television; always trying to find a unifying connection with everybody there and sometimes it can be things that make people uncomfortable like sexual politics,” the sultry singer says.

Storm Large and her four-piece band Le Bonheur deliver a unique twist on songs by Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Cole Porter. “I think love songs are saying the same thing, whether they are done by a 1930s torch singer or by Ozzy Osbourne,” she says.

Stewart says he and Festival co-director Alison St Ledger strive to uphold the traditions born December 2000 when the Brisbane Cabaret Festival was hatched over a glass of wine between friends.

“It’s a kind of forum for the best of Queensland’s creative stuff that doesn’t normally get enough oxygen. Works such as Cienda McNamara’s UnPC and Tyrone Noonan’s Vegas!

Standards Reborn will be seen for the first time as will Voices of Vice, our opening gala which has a beautiful ‘down and dirty’ sense to it.”

“Voices of Vice is a bit of a taste-test, a collection of Festival artists who are letting their hair down and being a bit naughty,” says St Ledger, a founding director of the original Brisbane Cabaret Festival. She was surprised that many of the Voices of Vice participants already had sinful songs prepared.

“These people are walking on the wild side. There’s Bethan Ellsmore’s drunken Queen of the Night party girl and Rebecca Grennan is doing a show about stalking Cyndi Lauper… that has to be a criminal act.”

The Queensland Cabaret Festival runs from 10 to 20 June at Brisbane Powerhouse, QPAC, Judith Wright Centre, Burke Street Studios and regional venues.

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