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!”

BRENDA, CALL ME!

One calm Friday morning in January, I walked onto a retro set which had been constructed at Sydney Props Specialists in Marrickville. I love this place. It’s like walking through the door of a “dressing cupboard” into a magical universe in a parallel dimension.

Vanity Fair and Courtney Act were putting the final touches to their make-up, as they were getting ready for their close-ups. I quickly set about constructing the lighting rig on the set so we could commence shooting. Playing the roles inspired by two friends in a 1980s chat show, Vanity and Courtney posed on the two main sets … one a “high-tech” office reception area with a huge desk-top computer and antiquated Eighties technology, and the other a pastel pink bedroom scene reminiscent of a Barbie boudoir.

These images are being used by NOVA Entertainment to promote their upcoming podcast by Vanity Fair and Courtney Act entitled “Brenda, Call Me” beginning on February 11. Here’s the promo blurb….

Drag sisters in crime, Courtney Act and Vanity have a new podcast: Brenda, Call Me! Friends for over twenty years, they’ve gone through it all together. Catch up with them each week as they let it all hang out discussing everything and nothing. It’s the Seinfeld of podcasts. Coming soon.

Vanity Fair
Drag sisters
Courtney Act

The Incomparable Bob Downe fronts the camera….again!

I have been photographing the legendary Bob Downe for many years now and I feel that I must comment on the fact that for some reason Bob never seems to age. See for yourself in the images from my latest shoot with this iconic stage, cabaret, theatre and television personality. Like many of his ilk, Bob never gives away his ageless grooming secrets, although in a recent post he did mention that he “sleeps in a rubber mould”. However, I suspect he was pulling our proverbial leg.

Bob was wearing some of the magnificent creations of Maude Boate.  Maude is one of the true originals of Australian drag, as well as an incredibly talented designer and dress-maker. Maude’s trademarked polystyrene wigs were adapted for the movie and stage-play, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Bob’s good friend and confidantMark Trevorrow  feels that Bob should be at Madame Tussauds. In his sequinned leisure suits, sometimes he almost looks like he is. (Incidentally Mark Trevorrow is performing on March 4 at Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salonin Oxford St, Darlinghurst). Others have described Bob as “naturally fabulous”, and “ageing like indestructible Tupperware”. All I can say is that I always have loads of laughs with Bob on every photo shoot in my studio. He’s a real pro and he makes my job so much easier, despite the highly flammable fabrics.

Check out the pink track suit!

Catherine Alcorn hits the stage for the Sydney Festival

In preparation for her Sydney Festival show next January at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre Catherine Alcorn is starring in FNL (Friday Night Live) with Paul McDermott. Produced by Tenacious C this is a musical revue which incorporates Daniel Edmonds as musical director, Glenn Moorehouse as band leader, Ted Robinson as director and featuring the luminous talents of Verushka Darling .

Catherine Alcorn

Backstage at the photoshoot for FNL, Sydney Festival 2021, with Catherine Alcorn, Paul McDermott, Verushka Darling and Glenn Moorehouse.

Paul McDermott, Verushka Darling, Daniel Edmonds and Catherine Alcorn
Verushka Darling

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.

Matthew Mitcham MMXVIII

MMXVIII
Pigment Inkjet on Cotton Rag, 112cm x 80cm
Edition of 9 (2AP)
John McRae, 2018

Every year I photograph Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s gold-medal Olympic diver, award-winning cabaret performer and television entertainer, in my studio. This portrait is added to a series of similar portraits, one taken every year, which commenced in 2008, before his rise to Olympic fame.

Each portrait is taken under similar conditions. MMXVIII marks the 11th portrait and the 11th year of this ongoing series.

Thank you Matt for your support in continuing this series, in allowing a very public view of your “personal time-line”. I am still wondering if you will ever age?

The complete sequence can be seen at
https://www.johnmcrae.com/exhi…/annual-matthew-mitcham-portraits/

The series is printed by the artist in an edition of 9, with 2 artist proofs, and is available for purchase.

Contact: John McRae mb: 0419 619 161 e: john@johnmcrae.com w: www.johnmcrae.com

JUNE – UP-DATE

It’s half way through the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. 

I am embracing the fact that there is only 6 months to go until Santa comes again and looking forward to the next 6 months of interesting challenges and achievements.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the highlights from the month of June…..


George Michael – Listen to your heart  

I was asked to cover the George Michael tribute concert at the Opera House Concert Hall on Sunday 8 June.  It was truly fabulous.  I mean you can’t go wrong with a 35 piece orchestra, some of Australia’s best voices and the classic beauty of George Michael’s exquisite writing.  Casey Donovan, Rob Mills, Hugh Sheridan, Andrew De Silva, Bobby Fox and Sheldon Riley were lead by the orchestra leader, John Foreman.  The crowd was as diverse as George’s musical career, spanning all age groups and demographics.  They were united in their enjoyment of what was coming from the stage.  Here are a few pics….


James Squires Landing

I enjoyed shooting for Xenia Contructions at the Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  What a superb locaton.  I shot in the early morning to catch the best light and avoid some of the foot traffic in that area.  Seeing the sun rise over the Opera House was golden.  Vivid was on at the time, so I managed to get a few shots with the Vivid light show in the background.  Here are some examples.


Trevor Ashley smashes it again!

I love working with this talented and intelligent artist.  Trevor Ashley is well known in the entertainment industry for his many portrayals of famous woman such as Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, musical theatre roles such as Miss Understanding in the original cast of Priscilla, Queen of the desert and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, Thernadier in Les Miserables, many cabaret performances….and heaps of other things…if you want a better bio, head to wikipedia and search Trevor Ashley.  I can’t do him justice here.

I have shot many incarnations of Trevor over the years….I love working with him because he makes things seem easy.  They are only easy because this man is a conceptual genius and enjoys what he does.

During the most recent shoot we came up with this leading image for a new production that Trevor is appearing in at the City Recital Hall on 22 September, 2018, entitled, Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two decades of Divadom

Lead image for “Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two Decades of Divadom


 

Abba-solutely Fabulous

You know you’re in for a fun shoot when you have Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy (mega-stars and mega-nice people) coming to the studio to work on a few new shots for their brilliant show, Abba-solutely Fabulous.

We originally met last year to shoot for this new show (Rhonda and Lara were both in the original cast of Mamma Mia)….and now it has become bigger than Ben Hur, packed houses all over Australia, and they need more images to continue the promotion machine.

Apparently the show is fabulously funny and entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing it when it next comes to Sydney.  Have a look at the programming and see if they are appearing near you, because I know they would be delightful to see. Click here for dates etc.

Look at the “teaser” below and tell me you’re not going to have a good time with these two lovely larakins.

Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy for “Abba-solutely Fabulous


 

Shauna’s new look

I always love shooting the gorgeous Shauna Jensen…amazing vocalist with a long and impressive career in the entertainment industry….again look her up in wikipedia, Shauna Jensen for the full bio….or go and see her next performance.

Shauna has a new look and here’s a sneak preview from the shoot we did together, earlier this month.

The glamorous and talented Shauna Jensen with white hair…chic!



Taboo Talk

I have been shooting for a group of young people who meet once a month, in an open forum, to discuss various “taboo” subjects.  The images from the nights are used in their social media to promote future “Taboo Talks”.   Taboo Talks are the brain child of a couple of social workers, Amirah and Kosta and have been running for a good 18 months, discussing diverse subjects, frrom domestic violence to racism and everything in between.  The idea is to create a safe space where people feel free to share ideas and experiences with each other on a given subject.  A new topic is chosen each month and the discussion is headed and administered by nominated facilitators.  If you wish to know more they have a facebook page which you are welcome to visit.

 


The Wild Sculptural Interpretations of Margarita Sampson – Honey Funus

I have been shooting for Margarita for some years now and I am always pleasantly surprised with what she comes up with.  I know that when she rings to book photography that I am going to encounter the next wonderfully weird, beautiful and strangely animated, creature she has given birth to.  

This month was no exception.  I met “Honey Fungus” in all it’s glory of gaping orange deliciousness.  Honey Fungus’ friend looks a bit overwhelmed, I must say.  I always enjoy getting to know her little creatures as I click away.  For a look at more of Margarita’s work, click here.

 

Margarita working in her studio


Abbotsford Wharf

Hansen Yuncken together with Waterways are really stepping up the pace on the wharf up-grade roll-outs.  I shot another wharf this month.  The Abbotsford Wharf up-grade was opened to the public…so I ventured along the Parramatta River to an idyllic location for a ferry terminal at the end of Great North Road.  I really like the design of these new wharfs….in my opinion they look slick.  Here’s a few shots from the shoot….

 

Well there’s a few highlights from my month.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or queries on john@johnmcrae.com


 

Shoot The Chef Competition 2013 Winner – John McRae

Ali & Osso Buco

Ali & Osso Buco wins the 2013 “Shoot The Chef Competition”

I received fabulous news on Tuesday.  I knew that I had been selected as a finalist in this years “Shoot The Chef”, what I didn’t know, until I read the paper, was that I had won!  I always assumed the winners of these types of competitions were gently informed before hand.  I wasn’t…. and when I received a text from my friend, Domonic, I merely said, “you can”t believe everything you read in the newspaper”.I’m happy to say it’s true and I’m going to collect my prize money on Thursday night at the opening of the “Good Food Month” at the Sydney Opera House.

This image is my interpretation of what a contemporary chef might look like, and a parody on the concept of fine dining.  It is part of a series of photographs I have been working on with the Sydney chef, Robert Zampogna.  Robert was the Executive Chef at the East Lakes Golf Course for about 10 years and last year he approached me with the concept to produce a cook book together, titled Hungry. Ali & Osso Buco, as the name suggests, is our visual rendition of Rob’s Italian dish, Osso Buco.  Ali  plays the role of the inverted aristocrat beautifully. He is seated, bare-chested, alone at a  table, his napkin to one side as he chews his candle-lit meal.  He stares provocatively at the viewer.  The setting is “grand industrial”, and the backdrop is a shot I captured on a recent visit to the disused White Bay Power Station.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing the images each year from “Shoot The Chef”.  I like the subject of food and the idea of the chef, it showcases some amazing creativity and this year I decided to be part of it…and I can tell you I’m glad I did.

Thanks to Ali and Rob for their brilliant contribution  and collaboration to this win.