Warning: Undefined variable $ub in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/advanced-page-visit-counter/public/class-advanced-page-visit-counter-public.php on line 148
Warning: Undefined variable $ub in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/advanced-page-visit-counter/public/class-advanced-page-visit-counter-public.php on line 160 Theatre and the Arts – John McRae Photography & Studio
A second season of La Cage Aux Folles was staged at the State Theatre. Not only did I manage to shoot part of the dress rehearsal but I also attended the opening night and shot the red carpet at the beginning of the evening. This also meant that for the first time I got to sit in the audience and actually see the show performed from start to finish as a “normal” person.
Paul Capsis was stunning in the role of Albin. Also the chemistry between Georges (Michael Cormick) and Albin (Paul Capsis) was just magic. I loved the dancers (Les Cagelles) and the choreography (Choreographer: Veronica Beattie)…really well done. In fact the whole cast was perfectly drawn. It was a delight to be thoroughly entertained by all the colour and movement and I found myself completely engaged and invested in the story and the dialogue.
Obviously I wasn’t the only one that liked the show. Here’s a review posted in “Time-Out”
La Cage Aux Folles will be playing in Sydney at the Concourse at the end of November. Tickets available at Ticketek here:
Directed By Cameron Menzies
Musical Direction by Craig Renshaw
Choreography by Veronica Beattie George
Production Design by James Browne
Lighting Design by Karen Norris
Wigs and Make-up Design by Drew-Elizabeth Johnstone
Sound Design by Anthony Lorenz
The iconic Paul Capsis will be joining an all-star cast including Michael Cormick to delight Sydney audiences. We captured some images of Paul at the studio recently in preparation for the production. Here are some behind the scenes shots of Paul getting ready for publicity imagery. As always it is a joy to work with Paul. His ability to make you laugh is unsurpassed.
Directed by Luke Joslin Musical Director Su Hee Cho Choreographer Matthew Jensen Design Angela Meany Production Assistant/SM Alexis Worthing Producer Michelle Guthrie
Starring Penny McNamee with Andrew Cutcliffe, Wayne Scott Kermond, Octavia Barron Martin, Ava Madon, Drew Livingston, Vincent Huynh, Dean Vince, Emily Cascarino, Joel Houwen, James MacAlpine, Chloe Malek, Siena Elchaar
The Hayes Theatre, Potts Point, is well known for its staging of musicals and theatre productions. One such production is the musical, Bells Are Ringing. This piece is part of a Hayes Theatre’s initiative whereby long standing musicals are selected as part of a “forgotten musicals” genre.
What is also interesting in these productions is that the cast comes together and is given the scripts one day before the musical opens to the public. This means that the cast is challenged with the formidable task of presenting something which is almost not rehearsed…..to the point that they cast members read from scripts on stage as part of the presentations. This creates a captivating set of conditions as the audience is simultaneously invested in the outcome.
As Penny MacNammee states in a recent interview, “The unique and thrilling experience that comes with performing a Neglected Musical, is three-fold for me. Firstly, the challenge of learning and staging a show in just a day, the thrill of performing that show in front of a live audience who are invested in the process, and finally the joy of rediscovering and presenting a forgotten, but cherished musical!”
I was asked to shoot for the production on their first public performance of the show. It was a great experience to capture the moment. The following is a selection of shots…..
If you missed this production at the Hayes make sure you catch one of their works in the future. Keep up to date by visiting their web site here: The Hayes Theatre, Sydney.
Trevor Ashley is at it again! This Christmas will see Trevor flying high in a raucous parody called “Moulin Scrooge” being performed at the Seymour Centre in December, 2022.
I had the pleasure of working with Trevor again on the photography for the poster work. We hadn’t seen each other for some time so it was great to have him in full make-up and drag, bursting into the studio for the shoot.
We set up a mock trapeze in the centre of the studio as the main prop to recreate the illusion of “Nicole Kidman”. As you can imagine the whole shoot was hilarious. Trevor has a natural capacity to keep you giggling even when you should be concentrating on more serious concerns.
Minnie Cooper is one of Sydney’s most eminent drag queens. Her career spans decades and she hails from the flamboyant, golden years of drag in Sydney in Oxford Street. Most recently she has done a sterling job starring in the latest series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under (currently showing on Stan). Minnie made it through to the fourth episode, before she was ceremonially ejected from the line-up by Ru Paul herself. She departed with enviable glamour and style.
Minnie asked me to organise a shoot to document some of the original looks which “she rocked” during the four episodes of Drag Race Down Under. Here are some images from that shoot. Think Lucille Ball, operatic diva, Madame Butterfly, Penelope Pitstop. It is always great to work with Minnie, who is a real pro, an authentic Sydney icon and a generous mentor to upcoming talent. I know that Minnie has further show-stopping looks which deserve to be properly documented, and so I look forward to our next photography session together.
As a “flashback” moment I went through a few images of shoots I have done for various covers of SX, the Sydney weekly magazine. SX no longer exists, having halted operations in 2017 but I do remember having a great time with the broad selection of people with whom I had the privilege to make portraits in my studio and on location.
The very first cover I did for SX was in February of 2008. Brad Johnston was the editor at the time and he asked me to shoot a series of images of Verushka Darling, the well-known drag identity in the LGBTQI community. Brad said about her; ” When is a drag queen not just a drag queen? When she’s also a model, corporate MC, TV presenter, producer and scriptwriter”.
Verushka was performing that year at Mardi Gras (30th anniversary) and SX had devoted an article to her take on fashion.
Another early cover was of the well known DJ Kitty Glitter, who used to hold court as resident DJ at the rooftop club at Home in Darling Harbour. This cover was shot in my Lilyfield studio for the September 2009 issue.
There were so many covers and so many wonderful experiences. Now and then I am going to post flashbacks from some of my old shoots. Below are out-takes from studio visits by Verushka Darling and Amelia Airhead. Sometimes it’s great to be able to re-visit the past.
Each week Brooke and Matty will deliver an unfiltered version of their world and their experiences being part of the First Nations and LGBTIQ+ communities, while navigating mainstream media.
Entrepreneur, influencer and reality TV icon Brooke Blurton and TV presenter and actor Matty Mills grew up without standard parental guidance. Not So PG is a podcast and guide for anyone who has pulled themselves up and taken control of their life.
It was rewarding to meet both Brooke and Matty and to work with the NOVA team once again, plus the wonderful Ariela Dundovic (hair and makeup). To create promotional images for their podcast, we shot in my studio at Lilyfield, capturing a diverse series of images.
WorldPride is a global Pride celebration that in 2023 is coming to Sydney. Previous WorldPride celebrations include the first in Rome in 2000, New York in 2019 marking 50 years of the Stonewall uprising, and Copenhagen in 2021 celebrating both WorldPride and the EuroGames.
As part of the early ticket marketing of the event, the organisers arranged a photoshoot at my Lilyfield studio. My brief was to capture a diverse selection of individuals who could communicate the joy and vibe of this unique celebration. In doing so the models including Sveta, Faustina, Jules, Maria, Paul & Johnny and Sina, help to motivate both Sydney-siders and the international public to attend one or several of the line-up of events.
It was a vivacious day with great energy. The studio was humming with creativity … from stylist Hannah Cooper with her racks of clothes and accessories, to the vast array of colours splayed out on the table by make up artistYvonne Trans. The team fromMC Saatchi watched the results unfold on the computer screen while coffee and sandwiches arrived at appropriate moments. It was inspiring to be part of a team completely focused on creating the best possible results.
Sydney WorldPride events will take place from February 17 until March 5, 2023. The official Opening Ceremony will take place on February 24. Other events include a First Nations Gathering Space, a game-changing Human Rights Conference, an unforgettable Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a closing ceremony and a sensational party on Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach (plus many more events still to be announced)!
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.
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.
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!”
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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 Jiear. Tim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David Smith, Reuben 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
Opening Night at the City Recital Hall
The solo Performances
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…..
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’.
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
Toni Lamond and the Finale
The Piano Bar
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.
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.
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….
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.”