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Category: Colleen Windsor Written by colleen windsor
Sydney: 2 November 2013
These spectacular arena shows are to me this day Ringling Brothers – 'greatest show on earth', a super sensory overload of colour, light and sound held together with magic and a dash of smoke and mirrors. And so it was with this the fifth concert tour by American recording artist Beyoncé Knowles.
This show was one of the most expensive productions I've seen – in the same class as a Madonna or Michael Jackson world tour shows. It contained the use of every stage effect you could possibly have, the video element was huge and I mean a huge screen that covered the whole front of stage area at times, truly pretty lighting and many many wonderful costumes.
Beyoncé and cast used a running theme referencing the look of Marie Antoinette and Queen Elizabeth throughout the show most notably in beautiful photos and graphics shown on the video screens - the ermine capes, sceptre, gilded ruffs, 'caged' skirts, tiaras and jewels.
This was cleverly blurred as the video came to life in dance and suddenly Beyoncé arrived in white and just stood there for several seconds as the whole arena stood as one to welcome the queen! 'Run the World' was the first of many of the hits from her last album 4; 'End of Time' and 'If I Were a Boy'. It's fair to say, at this show, that her voice for the first few songs was showing the signs of 'fourth night in a row' syndrome but once off and running we were treated to all of the bells and whistles of her amazing talent.
One of many costume changes and some of the popular songs we got were; 'Baby Boy', 'Diva', 'Naughty Girl' and 'Party', and by which time the whole arena was partying – everyone on their feet, dancing and most singing along with every lyric.
As the mood took a breath all round Beyoncé sang '1+1' in a spectacular blue cat suit kneeling and laying on a grand piano before being flown across the room on a wire through a glitter snow storm to a small stage right in the middle of the fans. Here she sang 'Irreplaceable' giving some lucky fans the chance to sing with her, before being joined by her dancers for 'Love on Top' and the Destiny Childs 'Survivor'.
More costume changes and everything was an opulent black and gold for the high energy dance section of the show; 'Crazy in Love' and 'Single Ladies'. Then all too soon a finale, which began with a brief tribute to her 'idol' Whitney Houston of 'I Will Always Love You', sung accapella and finished in an almost evangelistic 'Halo'.
Interestingly the audience was made up of about 75% woman and girls all dressed and made-up for a grand outing. And all power to Beyoncé for delivering on her message of positive female power and modern day feminism, everyone on stage were women, all of the band, the three fantastic backing singers and the excellent nine dancers, with just two guys 'Les Twins'.
The Aussie leg of this tour winds up this week and next plays the US through to New York on December 22. In all, at that time its expected 108 performances will have taken place and the tour is expected to gross over $180 million, the greatest show on earth – well in 2013 at least.
Category: Colleen Windsor Written by Colleen Windsor
In 1974 the CAPS Awards were the equivalent of the DIVA Awards, and like the early DIVAs, the entertainment at the CAPS was made up of numbers from the working showgirls and spots from those nominated for an Award. I had been performing in Loraine Campbell Craig’s Sunday afternoon Stray Girls talent show and was nominated in the Best Newcomer category. I was invited to perform "When You Smile" my big number at the time by Shirley Bassey. I wore a costume I borrowed from a sister showgirl who, in turn, had bought it from Carlotta. I can remember being very nervous and then disappointed when someone else’s name was read out as the winner.
For an up and coming performer in the Industry, the only interesting Award is that of DIVA Rising Star, and this year is possibly the most wide open category in years. The current Sydney Industry is in great shape with several different talent nights discovering new performers and many show great potential. This got me wondering - do the showgirls who might be nominated have a similar story to mine? I spoke with some of the possible Rising Star’s to find out.
Ivy has only been a showgirl for two years, which is amazing when you think of her impact on the current Sydney scene. Being a finalist in Tora’s Drag Race in 2012 launched Ivy on her journey to the top. The two finalists of that drag race went on to join the cast of the Midnight Shifts regular Thursday cast where Ivy began to develop and grow her talent.
Ivy told me “It’s about 2 years ago when I decided I wasn't going to stop until I became a Sydney showgirl. Setting goals and achieving them much sooner than I would have ever thought is crazy. It just shows you can do anything if you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the time”.
Ivy lists her mentors as Minnie Cooper, for encouraging her to do what she wanted when everyone else said the opposite. Kitty Glitter for giving her opportunity's she’d only dreamt of and encouraging her to dream big and reach for them. And tells me Decoda Secret is truly an inspiration, teaching her and prepping her for everything that could possibly happen.
Ivy is a busy showgirl and performs in the current smashes, Kylie - Made in Heaven at the Imperial Hotel and Manuf#cktured at Arq. She hosts her own night at The Gay Bar and recently produced and starred in the spectacular Shakedown party show for In the Dark.
Ivy told me that “One day I hope to be an inspiration and support to many other baby queens and help them reach their dreams, as so many of us wouldn't be here without the help and support from our showgirls and showgirls before them.”
At 19 years of age (just 3 and a half years ago) Karen entered Drag for Dollars, a long running weekly talent quest at Arq nightclub. He had never seen a drag show before but won for the evening. This threw the switch and Karen continued to enter Drag for Dollars and performed at Pollies Follies. At the Taxi Club Karen won second place in their very popular Make Me A Drag Queen competition and was offered her first job.
Just a year and a half into starting drag Karen was approached by Minnie Cooper to join the Friday night cast at the Imperial Hotel in Hair Spray which lead to being a permanent cast member in several award winning Arq shows - You Are Soul and Thank God It's Thursday - The Katy Perry Tribute Show and currently the brilliant Drag n Fly.
Karen tells me that Pandora Box and Ricki Renee, the girls behind Make Me A Drag Queen, were fantastic in the early development of what has been a very quick and notably climb to the present where Karen says it’s Minnie Copper and his friend Charisma Belle who are his mentors;
“They have taught me to be a good person above all else while working on the scene. There are no egos or jealousy and no competition - we are all here to do the best shows we can and support one another!”
Karen’s style comes from the foundation of being a trained dancer who leans towards the musical theatre song book, and is equally fabulous in a cast routine or a dramatic spot number.
One evening in 2008 Krystal saw the Arq show ARQEDEMIC and knew what she wanted to do. Befriended by Tora, Krystal returned and entered Drag for Dollars and fell in love with it - so much she continued doing that for a couple of years, learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience. Next was Tora’s Drag Race with Krystal winning first runner up, she entered again and was fourth but on the third and final time she was crowned the winner.
Part of that prize was to perform a season in the Midnight Shift’s Thursday night show and Krystal told me working in that show was possibly the most informative and observant journey a showgirl could have. “Minnie taught me so much about performing; the minor details that just finish off a performance and about the business side of drag.”
Penny Tration booked her for Tranny Bingo and taught her microphone skills, comedic pacing and the very specific hostess techniques. Charisma Belle is Krystal’s biggest inspiration and mentor who she says has been a huge influence on her career.
Krystal has certainly found her footing in the drag scene and works six nights a week. She hosts Tranny Bingo at four different pubs; at the Imperial she is in the cast of Glamorous Life and hostesses the very popular Retro Sundays. It’s good to see a new performer with such potential join the ranks with a microphone in her hand.
“Even though I've been at it for 6-ish years, it feels like I've just begun. I'm so excited to see what the future holds and where drag can take me. I'm truly honoured to be able do what I love”.
Since 2010 Marie Clare has been a showgirl in main stage nightclub productions - as big-time as it gets. But she had much more humble beginnings, in social drag in fact. She tells me it was Venda Machine and Tora Hymen that helped in those first outings, but with Marie’s big personality it wasn’t long and she was working a nightclub door, before being invited by Will Sabin to join the cast of Controversy at the Midnight Shift.
As part of Controversy, Marie has been seen in some of the most memorable Oxford Street shows of recent years: X-Posed, Carnival and one of this year’s biggest hits MirrorBall. It’s not every day an up and coming showgirl gets to be part of a DIVA Show of the Year as Marie was in the 2012 winner Aquatica.
Marie’s been lucky in the mentors chosen to help develop her talent. She tells me that Decoda Secret has taught her so much and Vanity in helping evolve her look and expand her stage presence, then as quick as a flash added “I’m still learning all the time and look to all those around me as everyone has something unique to offer”.
“I love being able to walk in a venue and have a whole room know who you are and as you begin to establish yourself punters actually look forward to seeing you and I look forward to seeing them”.
Over the last few months Marie has expanded her skills and produced No Girls Aloud and Apocalipstick for the Stonewall Hotel and is chosen to represent the youth of the Industry in this year’s DIVA poster.
Prada started in the talent shows at Arq Nightclub and the Midnight Shift before making drag a career choice in 2008. Since then she has become very successful in the Sydney Industry both as a performer and entrepreneur.
The first queens Prada met were Minnie Cooper and Tora Hymen at the Stonewall Hotel who took her under their wing; helping with her makeup and hair, even put Prada in her first production show Dream Gurls at the Midnight Shift. Prada hasn’t stopped working as a professional showgirl since.
Prada tells me she is inspired by Chelsea Bun who taught her the business side of the Industry and Penny Tration who taught her the skills to be a great hostess.
Prada told me “Working in the scene can be very rewarding, having fans say 'Thank you’ for singing my favourite song tonight; or I’m your biggest fan, can I have a picture. It’s these messages that make what I do all the more rewarding. When you get kind words saying how you have made someone’s day. That’s what it’s all about!”
Whilst we don’t see much of Prada on Oxford Street these days she is one of the busiest showgirls in the industry. For four years she has been the hostess and featured performer at Tharens in Kings Cross and for three nights a week she’s at different venues with her Prada's Comedy Bingo.
She is popular as a live drag artist on the corporate circuit with her Prada's Priscilla's show, runs the very successful Clutching at Curls, has recently opened "Sydney Drag Queen" a new talent agency and is preparing a new club show Drags To Bitches with Laydee Kinmee.
So it seems to me some things don’t change. All very different kinds of showgirl but all are making their mark in the Sydney Drag Industry right now. We need our mentors, as I did, and as these five showgirls have shown. It’s the Sydney showgirl way – sure it’s an industry, but it’s also a community. Anyone of them would be a deserving nominee for DIVA Rising Star, and whilst for some there will be disappointment, the class of 2013 is full of variety, talent and a heap of passion. For me, my envelope opened many years ago, for these girls its right here, right now, and we should celebrate them all!
You can follow Colleen Windsor on Guidetogay.com
Category: Colleen Windsor Written by Colleen Windsor
Almost impossible to belief that the 35th Sydney Mardi Grass festival is about to begin. This year the program leans more to the quality than content trend with favourites returning and some exciting shows playing for the first time.
I’m excited and looking forward to three weeks of fabulous GLBT slanted culture. For all the details visit www.mardigras.org.au or pick up one of their cute little programs and get out and enjoy.
What am I looking forward to the most you ask – well this is my five must see for 2013.
Leading the start of the festival is one of my all-time favorites and never to be missed - Hats Off! This wonderful gala variety of musical theatre and cabaret stars gathers to raise funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS and since 1997, Oz Showbiz Cares / Equity Fights AIDS Inc. have raised over $750,000.Since 1997, Oz Showbiz Cares / Equity Fights AIDS Inc. has raised over $750,000 for critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV and HIV-related illnesses.
This year is just bound to be special featuring the iconic, timeless and landmark sounds with Hats Off! to the Classics. Including hits from Motown, Disco and every Broadway show, Hats Off! to the Classics promises to be a dream evening for everyone who enjoys the delightful world of musical theatre.
Expected to appear this year are David Harris, Josie Lane, Stephanie Grigg, Deborah Krizak, Monique Salle, Fiona Sullivan, Tom Sharah and of course the always wonderful, Garry Scale. Topping the bill is theatre royalty Nancye Hayes and Toni Lamond with classic Broadway showstoppers.
Taking host duties this year are the fresh and fab Chloe Dallimore and Josh Horner and along with the shows ambassador, winner of Channel 10's I Will Survive Mike Snell the lineup promises to kick the festival off with one huge bang of celebration.
After four sold-out performances in Sydney last year, Tina Arena is returning to the Mardi Gras Festival for an encore performance with her Band and the magnificent Sydney Symphony conducted by young Melbourne conductor Nicholas Buc.
Tina Arena is one of our most successful international recording and performing artists with a career spanning four decades and millions of album sales worldwide; at this show she sings all her hits and a few wonderful standards.
Tina is once again joined on stage by Anthony Callea, Aria Award winner best known for his record breaking single The Prayer, who will sing two outstanding duets, including The Prayer with Tina.
Tina Arena has been a long time friend of the Sydney GLBT community and has performed at many of our celebrations including several of the Post Parade parties, Sleaze Ball’s and the closing of the Gay Games celebrations. She will be the perfect headliner for this our anniversary festival.
Torch Song Trilogy
Making the most hype in lead up to its opening is the Tony Award-winning Torch Song Trilogy whichreturns to Sydney for Mardi Gras 2013 in a bold new production directed by Stephen Colyer (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Paris Letter, Hello Again). Funny and poignant, Harvey Fierstein’s intensely personal collection of three works chronicles a Jewish New York drag-queen’s quest for love, respect and a life of which he can be proud.
Gaiety Theatre, who play at the small Darlinghurst Theatre have over recent years really given the Festival its dramatic soul – if anyone can bring this 80’s play of 3 and a half hours to life for today it’s this company and Stephen Colyer.
Stephen has assembled a strong cast, led by the experienced and acclaimed Amanda Muggleton with Simon Corfield, Thom Jordan, Mathew Verevis, Christian Willis and Belinda Wollaston.
The search for love, family and acceptance is a universal story and this classic gay play fits well with this festival’s focus of ‘Generations of Love’, I’m looking forward to seeing it in this new light.
British playwright Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing comes to Sydney for its 20th anniversary as part of the 2013 Festival. This exciting new production, directed by Brandon Martignago, tells the story of an urban fairy-tale of two young men who find each other on a London housing estate.
Beautiful Thing is a love story between two young men coming to grips with their sexuality and the effect it has on the people in their lives. It tells the story of teenager Jamie's relationship with classmate and neighbour Ste. Together the two boys find comedy, warmth and the music of Mama Cass through their loud-mouthed next door neighbour Leah.
Many will remember the wonderful 1996 cult film version also written by Harvey but revised from the play and how it heavily featured the music of the Mama Cass Elliott.
This is our chance to see the story in its original form but still at its heart is the story of what it means to be sixteen, in the first flush of love and full of optimism – good for all our souls me thinks.
In Pursuit of Glamour
This is billed as a one woman show with a supporting cast. It’s one of the shows we’ve been waiting to see for years. Dallas Dellaforce is the creation of Daniel Cater and has been part of the Sydney scene for just over ten years now. It’s been an evolving, ground breaking and inventive career to date – all of which will spill into In Pursuit of Glamour.
Dallas is drag queen and performance artist, cleverly mixing both or showcasing the singular. Daniel is an extremely creative soul trained in fashion and design and is the best example of the artist who won’t be pigeonholed.
Dallas is a DIVA winner costume designer, has showcased in a RHI Mardi Gras party show and appeared in every season of the show DRAG at the Sydney Opera House. Dallas headlines mainstream and alternative nights – it’s this that makes the idea of In Pursuit of Glamour such a must see this festival.
Appearing with Dallas is Lillian Starr, Betty Grumble, The Amazing Ari and DJ Sveta. This show will blend performance art, drag, burlesque and multimedia, whilst drawing heavily on the themes of fashion and popular culture. Guessing this will be special and we’ll be talking about it forever.
So that’s where I’ll be over the next three weeks, sipping champers in foyers, taking in our community vibe and enjoying all our wonderful local talent. Happy 35th Mardi Gras Festival to all - enjoy!
Category: Colleen Windsor Written by ColleenWindsor
One of my old Les Girls numbers, music & lyrics by Peter Allen and sung by Julie Anthony circa 1974. Sure I’m being a tad nostalgic, but it seems to be very much the fashion devoir!
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