America’s Got Talent searches for next big thing at Adelaide Fringe
It was the third year in a row that Adelaide Fringe acts have won over AGT audiences following the success of The Naked Magicians in 2017 and 2016 finalist Boy with Tape on his Face.
South Australian entertainment writer Matt Gilbertson’s character Hans has been a perennial favourite at the Adelaide Fringe for more than a decade and shot to global fame last year courtesy of several rousing renditions on the US talent show, which is broadcast around the world.
Hans is one of three Adelaide Fringe Ambassadors this year along with AFL footballer turned indigenous artist Gavin Wanganeen and comedian Judith Lucy.
The Adelaide Fringe’s Honey Pot program brings festival directors, booking agents, talent scouts and venue managers to the Adelaide Fringe each year to meet with local performers.
The internationally recognised arts marketplace began with 78 delegates in 2014, resulting in 28 bookings worth $196,000. By 2018, delegate numbers had grown to 204, resulting in 125 bookings worth more than $2 million.
Box office revenue at the 2018 Adelaide Fringe reached A$16.6 million from 705,761 tickets sales – up 7 per cent – to further cement Adelaide Fringe’s position as the highest ticket selling arts festival in Australia and the second-largest Fringe in the world.
The 2019 Honey Pot will be the biggest on record with 242 delegates from 25 countries and will include a dynamic matchmaking service where delegates meet with performers during the day and then watch their shows in the evening. The 78 overseas delegates include five Chinese delegates participating in Honey Pot following an Australia-China Council grant.
Organisations represented this year include the Sydney Opera House, Darwin Festival, Soho Theatre London, The Cape Town Funny Festival, Dublin Theatre Festival and America’s Got Talent.
Fringe Director and CEO Heather Croall said the Honey Pot program was unique and helped Adelaide stand out from the growing list of rival fringe festivals.
“It means that Adelaide Fringe artists are performing for the direct audience but they are also performing in the hope they will get picked up and launch into a tour around Australia and the world,” she said.
“We’re really committed to trying to help artists build a sustainable career out of their work and it would be impossible for them to meet all these delegates one on one so to bring them all together is extremely powerful for the artist.”
Croall said physical theatre acts where language was no barrier for the audience traditionally did well through Honey Pot because they could be performed anywhere in the world.
She said although much of Hans’s global fame could be attributed to his run on America’s Got Talent, he had also performed internationally as a result of connections made through Honey Pot.
“Just a few months ago he was in Budapest performing and that was because the director of the festival came to Adelaide Fringe last year,” she said.
“If you look at the success of South Australian group Gravity and Other Myths around the world they’ve been picked up in Honey Pot the past few years to the point where they are booked solid.”
America’s Got Talent averages 10 million viewers per season in the US and features celebrity judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and creator Simon Cowell.
Croall said although AGT was an audition-based show, the talent scout would be in Adelaide to identify the next potential Hans and convince them to audition.
“Hans has done a lot of work to make them aware of Australia and particularly Adelaide,” Croall said of the cabaret performer’s TV success in the US last year.
“He’s told them about Adelaide Fringe over and over again and I think he spoke about it in such glowing terms that they said ‘we’re going to have to come and check it out to see what this amazing festival is that you’re talking about’.”
Hans is performing at the Big Burns Supper festival in Scotland this weekend and will bring his Hans: Like a German cabaret show to the Adelaide Fringe from February 26 to March 17.