CABARET – Hayes theatre production with Paul Capsis

One of my favourite photo commissions this week was shooting the very talented Paul Capsis for the cover image for SX magazine.

As well as being a ground-breaking actor/singer and all-round performer, Paul is cheeky and fun to be around. Over the years, I have photographed him in numerous disguises. The new portraits of Paul show him in the role of the unhinged, slightly diabolical Master of Ceremonies, from the stage production of Cabaret. They were staged at my Lilyfield studio, which overlooks Callan Park. (It’s only a coincidence that I work in a studio which overlooks an abandoned insane asylum).

“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome,” sings the MC. “Leave your troubles outside! Life is disappointing? Forget it!”

With Mariel McClorey on make-up and Drew-Elizabeth Johnstone on hair, excellent results were assured. Here are some shots of the preparation in my studio and three finished portraits which demonstrate Paul’s dramatic flair.

 

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BRENDA CALL ME – Season 2

Courtney Act and Vanity are at it again. Following their very successful first season of the NOVA podcast of Brenda, Call Me, where our two partners in crime would meet each week to “chew the fat” on what had got them all fired-up, Courtney and Vanity will be back on the airwaves from this Thursday, May 19, 2022. 

In mid-April, we shot these promotional images at Sydney Props with the team from NOVA, as well as Stephanie Liebeck (On-site Stylist) and Russall Beatie (Head Stylist), both from Giant Panda King, who were responsible for the concept, set design and additional photo re-touching.

But wait…..there’s a narrative!

According to Courtney’s instagram (@courtneyact), while she was exploring the planet Octopoda, Courtney “has gotten herself into trouble” while on an Intergalactic Lady Grindr date gone wrong. 


“You don’t look anything like your picture! You have 9 arms instead of 8! BRENDA, CALL ME!”
“Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you.!”

While aboard the USS Brenda, in orbit around the planet Octopoda, Vanity hears a distress call from Courtney, whose intergalactic Grindr date has gone horribly wrong. “Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you!”

Vanity finds Courtney hand-cuffed to a Chick-Feather-Boa Tree and tells the 9 armed catfish, who looks more like an octopus, to scarper before she zaps him with her stun-ing gun.
Courtney and Vanity beam back up to the “USS Brenda” to relative safety.
Finally, the two friends celebrate in the safety of the mother-ship.

Catch these two characters from this Thursday on a weekly basis at NOVA Podcasts (Brenda Call Me). As Courtney states….”Vanity and I are bringing you more astounding honesty, friendship and some queer history!”

Cherry, Katia & Nadia step into the studio

Nadia, Katia and Cherry photographed in one of their extravagant performance costumes

It was an afternoon of colour and movement in my Sydney studio photographing the three Thai beauties Nadia, Katia and Cherry. These hard-working showgirls make up a dedicated trio who entertain across the country in clubs and entertainment centres, performing with Las Vegas glitz and Hollywood glamour. 

Coming out of lockdown hibernation, the girls required some new, beguiling imagery for their upcoming performances. Filled with costumes, feathers and diamantes, my studio was like a backstage dressing room and performance space for Mardi Gras. Setting up the shoot was a lot of fun.

Cherry, Katia and Nadia

Qween Lear as part of the Sydney Festival – Ruled by drag qweens, fuelled by love.

I was asked to produce imagery for the production of Qween Lear which will be one of the headlining performances in the 2022 Sydney Festival. So along with Dee Dee as a fierce Sydney drag identity, we set up a photo-shoot in the mens toilets of the Cricketers Arms pub in Surry Hills to promote this immersive theatrical performance. As part of the festival programme, Qween Lear will take place in the Hordern Pavilion, itself the site of so many parties in the age of excess and ecstacy.

Part rave, part theatrical extravaganza, Qween Lear explores the demise of Sydney’s party era through the tale of an ageing drag matriarch played by Minnie Cooper (AKA Aaron Farley), abdicating her nocturnal throne. Set over one night around the turn of the millennium and stacked with Australia’s fiercest performers, a dazzling light show and throbbing original score, it’s a joyous love letter to the legends and legendary stories of Sydney’s lost nightlife.   

The story of Sydney’s nightlife is inseparable from its queer history. Sparked by the 1978 Mardi Gras protest, the birth of house music, and a flourishing queer counterculture, our fair and feisty city gained an untouchable reputation for hedonistic nightlife in the eighties and nineties. Hordern Pavilion parties were the red-hot and sweaty epicentre of this fantasy world of love, fetish and house music.  Now it will the home of a queer version of the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear.

Producer, Adam Lowe (ALG – art and culture events management), prompts Dee Dee on set.
Sydney Festival Guide, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November, 2021

Post-show Exhibition:  At the conclusion of the Qween Lear performance in the Hordern Pavilion, ticket holders are invited to a free digital photography exhibition representing some of Sydney’s most iconic parties from the late twentieth century. This project has been proudly supported by the Powerhouse Museum.

Book your tickets here: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/qween-lear

“The Lyin’ Queen” hits the Opera House with Todd McKenney joining the cast.

Todd McKenney

At the end of November, the new season of Trevor Ashley’s production of “The Lyin’ Queen” begins at the Sydney Opera House.

Trevor came to the studio to complete a series of new publicity shots with Todd McKenney (Dancing with the Stars, The Boy from Oz and numerous TV and stage productions) who has just joined the cast going into the new season in Sydney.

Todd as eccentric billionaire Dr Richard Rabbitborough and Trevor as Gaye Wray

The day after the shoot, the Sydney Morning Herald published a story (30-31 Oct, 2021) promoting Trevor’s show and the return to normality in the theatre world, reproducing a still from our shoot (see below).

The Weekend Telegraph ran an article in “Sydney Shortcuts” on the weekend with a one of my production images from last year’s sell-out season to promote the 2021 season (see below).

Production still of Trevor Ashley on stage as Gaye Wray, The Lyin’ Queen.

As Trevor says; “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Todd has joined the cast of the show. He’s an Aussie legend and has the best sense of humour, so I can’t wait to be on stage with him in this outrageously hilarious comedy.”

Expect dinosaurs, politics, parodies and an inflatable gorilla in this laugh-a-minute musical extravaganza and wild romp.

Todd McKenney and Trevor Ashley ham it up in my studio for The Lyin’ Queen

Book a ticket now! Follow this link to The Lyin’ Queen at the Sydney Opera House

Sydney’s Inaugural International Cabaret Festival

Jennifer Holliday performs at the opening of the festival at the Recital Hall, Sydney

Sydney was the original home of cabaret in Australia; it is an artform that is truly loved by all Australians.  This year organisers decided to bring back the Sydney Cabaret Festival.

Trevor Ashley is the Festival’s Artistic Director. He assembled both International and Australian cabaret stars into a 9 day extravaganza of top class entertainment. Trevor states, “I have loved Cabaret as long as I can remember. As a confused child growing up I discovered this incredible artform that celebrated unique personalities, and more than that, an irreplaceable bond between artist and audience. Seeing artists like Lorrae Desmond, Julie Anthony and Geraldine Turner live, made me believe I could be anyone I wanted to be. It changed my life.”

Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray
Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray

The 2019 Sydney Cabaret Festival features Tony Award-winner Jennifer Holliday (pictured above), appearing for the first time on Australian soil, alongside local legends like Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins, to New York downtown darling Natalie Joy Johnson. UK’s Frisky and Mannish return after a ten year hiatus, as does diva Alison JiearTim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David SmithReuben Kaye and Brian Nash, plus circus and variety show Cheeky Cabaret, direct from their home in Brunswick Heads. Tim Benzie returns to Sydney with Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote. The Festival also includes a cabaret for children, Petit Cabaret, and masterclasses with Jennifer Holliday and Alison Jiear, as well as the Grand Final of the restored Sydney Cabaret Competition.

I was the Festival’s Photographer and had the pleasure of photographing and documenting most of the action. The following is a brief visual overview of how I spent my time.

Jennifer Holliday – Headlines the Festival

Jennifer Holiday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Jennifer Holliday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Ms. Holiday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls.  Her show stopping number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece.  She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.
Ms. Holliday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls. Her show stopping number, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece. She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.

Opening Night at the City Recital Hall

Trevor Ashley gives it his all as he channels some grand diva from somewhere.
Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins at the Opening Night.
Reuben Kaye
Brian Nash at the keyboard
New York City goddess and diva, Nathalie Joy Johnson
Nathalie Joy Johnson
Kim David Smith
Alison Jiear at the Recital Hall
Alison Jiear

The solo Performances

The Piano Bar at the Seymour Centre

The Seymour Centre was transformed into the Cabaret Hub with solo performances simultaneously running in 5 separate performance spaces. There was a great buzz of excitement and anticipation as the audiences crowded to attend each show. I ran from theatre to theatre capturing the action. Here’s a visual overview…..

Alison Jiear

Alison Jiear

Cabaret Competition Grand Final

Australia’s next generation of cabaret superstars launched their careers at The Sydney Cabaret Competition: Grand Final hosted by ‘International Queen of Cabaret’ Trevor Ashley.

9 entertainers were selected as finalists (Nyssa Milligan, Irene Nicaola, Katelin Koprivec, Sarah Murr, Naomi Livingston, Rachael Gillfeather, Ali Calder, Billie Palin and Clare Ellen O’Connor), each performed their own short cabaret shows. The judges then selected the 2019 winner.

Congratulations to the runner up – Clare Ellen O’Conner with her show Plucked! and the Audience Choice and Winner – Billie Palin, for her incredible performance in ‘From Dubbo to Death’.

Cheeky Cabaret

Born out of the sleepy, picturesque village of Brunswick Heads on the north coast of NSW, birthed at the Brunswick Picture House, comes “Cheeky Cabaret”. Full of many flavours…..other than vanilla and very entertaining, Cheeky Cabaret ran for the entire length of the Festival in the Valhalla Room at the Seymour Centre.

Frisky and Hammish

Master Class with Jennifer Holliday

Kim David Smith

Nathalie Joy Johnson

Phil Scott & Jonathan Biggins

Reuben Haye

Tim Draxyl

Tim Draxyl dazzles his audience

Toni Lamond and the Finale

The Piano Bar

The Piano Bar was a big hit each night of the Festival
The Piano Bar, the place to be after the show

The Piano Bar was a popular venue, nestled in the Seymour Centre’s Festival hub. Each night heralded a plethora of pop-up performances from various artists.

Rhonda Burchmore lying down on the job!

The Sydney International Cabaret Festival was a big success and will be now on the Sydney cultural horizon….so watch out for it next year and don’t miss seeing a few of the performers in next years line-up.

Mardi Gras Parade 2019

Rather than photographing the parade, this year at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, I photographed the spectators gathered at Taylors Square, the hub of the procession.

I embraced the importance of an event where people from all different walks of life come together to celebrate a sense of community with joy and pride. It’s more than political. It not only reinforces the idea we are all in this together it provides an opportunity to shed the hum-drum and throw your hands in the air without shame.

The following crowd images are a quick selection of some of my favorites….

More images can be seen at: Click here

Hayes Theatre – The Room Upstairs

I had the pleasure of photographing production shots for the “Off Broadway” sensation, “The Room Upstairs”.

I would certainly recommend treating yourself to a night of pure entertainment and head to the Hayes Theatre….details below.

Music, Book and Lyrics by Max Vernon

PERFORMANCE AND BOOKING DETAILS

Presented by Invisible Wall Productions and Sugary Rum productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co

Directed by Shaun Rennie
Musical Direction by Nicholas Griffin
Choreography by Cameron Mitchell
Set Design by Isabel Hudson
Costume Design by Anita Yavich
Lighting Design by Trent Suidgeest
Sound Design by Neil McLean

Australian PremiereCast includes Henry Brett, Thomas Campbell, Nick Errol, Ryan Gonzalez, Martelle Hammer, Anthony Harkin, David Hooley, Markesha McCoy, Madison McKoy and Stephen Madsen

The View Upstairs pulls you inside the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant 70s gay bar in New Orleans. The forgotten bar regulars come to life when a young fashion designer from 2017 buys the now abandoned space and is transported back in time. He gets to know the joys and struggles of this community and in turn learns about his place in the world.

 From the opening piano chords of this Off-Broadway sensation, the five-piece band and cast of ten blast into the glam rock world of the 1970s. In our ever-changing world, this show looks at the then and now to explore our ideas of love, regret, defiance and resilience. The music will give you goosebumps, the story will make you both laugh and cry. See why Ru Paul said the show was “FABULOUS! It was fantastic.”

“DRAG BECOMES HER”

No rest for the wicked!  Even though I was technically on holidays, over Xmas I agreed to do a job for a few cool performers that I have worked with before.

I took the job because they’re great fun to work with and at the same time, very professional in their approach.

The task on hand was to loosely re-create the “Death Becomes Her” poster image for a new drag show these guys were about to launch at Stonewall in Oxford St, Darlinghurst.

Below is a shot of the guys together during the shoot……

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Well the poster is ready and the show is about to launch on a Friday night at Stonewall.

See the final result below and go along and have a look at what these guys are capable of…..

LRPoster

 

Purse of the Mummy

Loads of fun shooting with Liesel Badorrek and Annabel Lines for their promotional image for a new show they were performing.  We ended up with a great image.

Purse of the Mummy

Below are some of out takes of the proceedings…….

Purse of the Mummy Purse of the Mummy Purse of the Mummy Purse of the Mummy Purse of the Mummy Purse of the Mummy