With Sydney’s most successful international event – the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras kicking off with Fair Day on Sunday, it can only mean one thing: it’s time for Aussie Theatre to give you our picks for the Mardi Gras Festival!
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 (remember when they got rid of the “Gay and Lesbian” bit because people allegedly didn’t know what LGBTQIA meant? Thank goodness that didn’t last!) looks set to be an even more glittering affair than ever. In the face of an openly hostile Federal government and the recent disappointment that was the loss of marriage equality in Canberra, it truly is time to sing out Louise and show that somewhere over the rainbow ain’t all that far off even now in darker times. The Mardi Gras Festival for 2014 is as superb a line up as the MG has ever put together. Featuring a glittering collection of concerts, plays, musicals, cabarets and artistic displays, it truly does run the gamut of genres, subjects and intentions.
A great collection of artists, both local and international will gather in and around Sydney from February 5 until the day of the parade itself on March 1st and beyond to present works classic, offbeat, political, irreverent, tragic, touching, hilarious and just downright fabulous. Though there are many (many, many!) incredible shows involved in this years Mardi Gras Festival – and you can check out the complete schedule here – what follows is our pick for the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. Enjoy darlings and stay fabulous!
With a book by James LaPine and music and lyrics by William Finn, Falsettos is a lost gem of a Broadway musical that really has no right to be considered lost at all! A masterclass in good music theatre, this off-beat and touching human story combines spectacular comedy with some deeply emotional moments. Delving into the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, it tells the story of a newly divorced man coming to terms with a life that now features a boyfriend and his attempts at harmony with his ex-wife and her new husband (their shrink) and their son. Beautifully written and featuring an extremely talented cast (including Helpmann Award nominee Katrina Retallick), Falsettos is sure to pack ‘em in at the Eternity Playhouse. Grab a ticket, bring some tissues, and if you know this show well or not, expect to leave humming the tunes and having sudden, urgent cravings to listen to the cast recording!
Falsettos is presented by Darlinghurst Theatre Company and will run at the Eternity playhouse from February 7 till March 16. Tickets and information about the show is available here.
MY OTHER CLOSET
Presented in conjunction with ACON, My Other Closet is a cabaret telling the dark, touching, and ultimately uplifting story of a man, newly involved in a gay relationship, who finds himself trapped in a cycle of depression at the hands of a physically and emotionally abusive partner. With a truly heartbreaking script that takes bold risks, the story is based on the real life experience of its performer Russ Vickery – a crooner from way back – who used music to survive and to heal. Featuring classic pop songs imaginatively re-worked, this intimately presented, true story is guaranteed to evoke tears, laughter and a new understanding of domestic violence and its wide reaching effects in the LGBTQIA community. The performance will be followed by a Q&A panel involving the production team and domestic violence workers.
My Other Closet is presented by ACON and MAROPA Productions and will run at The Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre from February 11 till February 14. Tickets and information about the show is available here.
SLIDE’S KINGS AND QUEENS OF CABARET
Oxford Street’s Slide Lounge really has become the backbone of the Sydney cabaret scene these last few years. Playing home to some of the best the Australian performance industry has to offer, from Rhonda Burchmore to Amanda Harrison, Tom Sharah to Courtney Act with long running spectacle El Circo in between, Slide has launched careers, national tours and many a spellbinding evening of song. As part of 2014’s Mardi Gras Festival, Slide will present a diverse series of cabarets from a range of performers and personalities celebrating the LGBTQIA community. Including Olympian and twink de jour Matthew Mitcham; country cabaret star Beccy Cole; indigenous, gay cabaret redux 2 Black, music theatre performer Michael Cormick, all-male revue Voyeur and Clare de Lune, get ready for some cabaret nights as only Slide can present. We recommend the cocktails and the cute, hipster waiters!
Kings and Queens of Cabaret will play various nights at Slide Lounge from February 12 till February 27. Information about performance dates and tickets for the various performers is available here.
THE DEATH OF KINGS
This verbatim theatre work is based on a series of interviews conducted in 2012 with multiple gay men living in Sydney during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s. The production focuses on the lives not only of those taken by the epidemic, but also those who survived and their story of living in the face of death even as their friends and lovers fell around them with seemingly no end in sight. The work is performed by four men in their 20’s and 30’s speaking as the voices of those interviewed with a fifth to round out the troupe as “ringmaster” and MC. Featuring laughter and tears, a must see for anyone who made it through the dark days of the 80’s and with memories of those who came before us and the vibrancy that was the gay nightlife of Sydney at the time. A reminder of an oft ignored but never forgotten chapter of Australian history and a call to remember and to celebrate – in style!
The Death of Kings will play at Gingers Cabaret Lounge at the Oxford Street Hotel on February 13, 18 and 19. More information and the show and tickets are available here.
JUMP FOR JORDAN
This is the story of Sophie, an archaeologist who left home aged 20 to the despair of her Jordanian mother and her story as six years go by and she attempts to piece together just where she is going and what has brought her to where she is. Being petrified by the judgment of visiting madcap Arabic Auntie Azza, hiding an Aussie girlfriend Sam and dealing as best she can with a chasm-like cultural divide are all just grist for the mill for Sophie! This comedic, fantastical presentation of a second generation Australian searching for a cultural identity will strike a chord not only with those who came out against the traditions of their cultural heritage but also for those attempting to live under the sometimes crushing scrutiny of the ones they love. The presence of this production at Griffith Theatre gives this the kudos to make it a must see. Directed by Ian Sinclair and starring Camilla Ah Kin, Alice Ansara, Sheridan Harbridge, Anna Houston, Sal Sharah and Doris Younane, grab your tickets and settle in for one hell of a ride!
Jump for Jordan is presented by Griffith Theatre Company and will run at the Stables Theatre from February 14 till March 29. More information about the production and tickets are available here.
HATS OFF! TO THE LEGENDS
Of Hats Off! the following can be firmly stated, it is without doubt the concert highlight of the Sydney music theatre season and has been so now for a decade at least! The most likely concert to deliver an unforgettable evening of showstoppers, dance, drag, divas, comedy and all for the most wonderful cause – Oz Showbiz Cares and Equity Fights AIDS – Hats Off! is a night to remember for all the finest reasons. Hosted this year by Chloe Dallimore (The Addams Family) and Tom Sharah (It’s Raining Me!) and featuring entertainment industry icon Paul Capsis as Equity Ambassador, the concert will feature performances from Queenie van der Zandt (King Kong – making her eagerly anticipated Sydney return performance!), Margi di Ferranti (Carrie), Trevor Ashley (Les Miserables), Luke Kennedy (The Voice), Euan Doidge (A Chorus Line), Matt Hetherington (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) along with a host of the best of the best of Australian showbiz performers. This concert sells out every year! Grab your tickets now and get ready for a spectacular night!
Hats Off! To the Legends will be held on Monday, February 17 at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre. Information about the concert, its performers and tickets are available here.
If you watched RuPaul’s Drag Race you’ll get instantly why this is a big deal! Internationally acclaimed drag artiste Jinkx Monsoon with co-star Major Scale in their Australian debut present a tale lushly told of music, passion and industrial theft. Throughout the 1920’s, Kitty Witless (Jinkx) and Dr Dan Von Dandy (Major) toured the vaudeville circuits presenting their edgy and original music until one day, while on tour in Antarctica, they were hit by a freak avalanche of ice and trapped, frozen alive. Not thanks to global warming they are back – but horror of horrors, their music has been stolen by lesser artists from the various decades and passed off as pop! With songs like “Drop it like it’s Hot” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (originally written about women’s suffrage), they duo reclaim their legacy and perform their originals as they were written. This is a show that was won laughter and applause around the globe and is eagerly anticipated in Sydney. Put yourselves in the hands of Jinkx Monsoon and prepare to have everything you ever thought you knew about pop music altered forever!
The Vaudevillians will play the Vanguard Theatre from February 18 to March 2. More information about Jinkx Monsoon, the show and tickets are available here.
BOB DOWNE IN BOB, SWEAT AND TEARS
What can be said of Bob Downe? The Sydney Entertainment legend and prince of polyester is back in a new show set to send it up – Downe style! Appearing by arrangement with Mark Trevorrow, Bob is manning up and presenting a whole new live show replete with shocks, frocks, mile-a-minute laughter and a fabulous new line up of classic hit songs. Including a collection of special guest stars (Sydney diva and Mardi Gras mainstay Shauna Jensen – we hope you are one of them!) and a stunning band led by John Thorn, Bob, Sweat and Tears looks set to be a surefire winner. A fixture of the LGBTQIA community’s host of incredible talent, a Mardi Gras icon and a comedian with his finger eternally on the pulse, Bob Downe is, as always, un-missable! Did it just fabulous in here? Bob Downe or Bust!
Bob Downe in Bob, Sweat and Tears will play at the Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay on February 26 and 27 as part of Mardi Gras at Sydney Theatre. Information about Bob, the show and tickets are available here.
TREVOR ASHLEY IS LIZA (ON AN E)
Does Trevor Ashley need any introduction or hyperbole these days? The hardest working man in showbiz just goes from strength to strength. Having conquered the Australian cabaret and music theatre scene, last year he likewise conquered the West End and later in 2014 he joins the cast of Australia’s eagerly anticipated revival of Les Miserables. One of the most bankable performers in Australia, Ashley has the chops to back it up, reminding audiences at every turn just what the term “talent” can mean. Sydney is beyond lucky to see a return season of Ashley’s smash hit show Liza (On an E) which, starting out in Melbourne in 2010, has now toured the country and gone global and rightly so – you will never see a Liza Minnelli show so fabulous, so bombastic, so powerful, so brassy, unless of course you actually manage to see Liza herself live! Secure tickets by any means and prepare to laugh yourself silly and cheer yourselves hoarse – this is a cultural icon on the rise.
Trevor Ashley is (Liza on an E) will play at the Sydney Theatre on February 28 as part of Mardi Gras at Sydney Theatre. Information about the show, Trevor Ashley and tickets are available here.
And that’s a wrap up for the highlights of the Mardi Gras Festival for 2014!
The festival is seemingly more important than ever as the 21st century progresses as a reminder of the incredible freedom the LGBTQIA community in Australia has compared to other places in the world, the struggle, the pain, the strength and the laughter that has brought us this far, and all that is still to come. This year, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott was asked to contribute a short message to the Mardi Gras program (this is customary) – a message of welcome to visitors from overseas and the LGBTQIA community at large.
He declined to respond.
The attitudes at present of the federal government towards refugees (can we stop calling them illegal immigrants? Or worse, “boat people” (!) yet?), some of whom are homosexuals escaping countries where death is all that waits for them, along with the directly homophobic legislation passed in 2013 by the Newman government in Queensland paint a bleak picture of the future of civil rights in Australia at present.
That said, while there are events like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Festival it hosts, there will always be stronger images of love, life, laughter and hope in this country. The Mardi Gras Festival is a unique event in the Sydney cultural calendar and a chance to see bold work both old and new told by some of the finest artists Australia has to offer. The festival’s continued existence – it’s resilient growth each year! – can only speak to the hearts and minds of the people of Australia.
Make sure you get out and enjoy everything that the Mardi Gras Festival has to offer in 2014. No matter your background, your age or your tastes, there will be something incredible that speaks to you therein.
Now that’s one fabulous festival!
Mardi Gras Festival kicked off on February 7 and will continue until March 2, the day after the Mardi Gras Parade itself. Information about the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Mardi Gras Festival and events involved is available here.