Trevor Ashley launches new looks

Trevor Ashley, the Australian musical theatre actor, cabaret and drag artist based in Sydney, is continually inventing new characters and new looks.

Currently he has been working on the Drag Hag podcast and providing re-caps of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under (to see episode 4, click here).

At the studio Trevor posed under the lights showcasing a series of vibrant, extravagant and fun new alter egos with costumes by Frida Las Vegas, under the master touch of Daniel Cater (aka Dallas Dellaforce) who took care of hair, make-up and styling.

Daniel and Trevor in the make-up chair

As a chameleon and from my experience of working with Trevor since the early 2000s, I never quite know who is going to be channeled on set…..Liza, Shirley, Edna or one of his brand new superstars.

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!

Prinnie Stevens in LADY SINGS THE BLUES

Finally the announcement has been made, and I’m excited to post the latest from Prinnie Stevens. Her one woman cabaret show is being staged as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, 2021, and Prinnie will be performing at the Chamber at THE QUEENS from March 4-7.

Here’s what they say about LADY SINGS THE BLUES…..

A story about women in song, their hurts, struggles and pain whilst their beauty remains the same.

Featuring the songs of the greats such as Billie Holiday, Etta James, Nina Simone & Ella Fitzgerald along with the modern day voices of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Sade you will be transported from the speak easy setting to the very heart of our Lady.

Prinnie as a woman of colour in Australia will tell these tales through her own eyes and experience.

We first met Prinnie on season one of The Voice where she battled best friend Mahalia Barnes and stopped Australia in it’s tracks. Prinnie then went on to star on the West End in Thriller Live in the UK as well performing in the Australasian Tour before returning to the stage back home in The Bodyguard and HAIR the Musical.

Prinnie during the shoot for her poster at my studio, with hair and make-up by the talented team of Joe and Drew.

Well known for her roles in theatrical productions of Rent, Thriller Live, The Bodyguard and Oh, What a Night, for which she was nominated for a Helpmann Award, Prinnie rarely sits still. It was a pleasure to work with Prinnie, Joe and Drew on the day of the shoot last November. I wish her all the success in the world and look forward to seeing her perform in Adelaide.  Tickets are on sale. Click the link.

©johnmcrae

Samantha Leith updates her image

Samantha Leith, with Sarah Damichi putting the finishing touches to make up.

It was a joy to photograph Samantha – performer, business strategist and motivational speaker – who is forever on the move. She is a great communicator with a vivacious energy and we had a fun afternoon shooting new imagery for her branding and corporate profile.

As Samantha says, “If you haven’t noticed, I’ve stopped listening to the ‘experts’ that tell you to only have one business. I happen to love and excel at being a multi passionate entrepreneur.” To find out more about Samantha visit her website here.

Samantha Leith in the makeup chair, with Sarah Damichi

Prinnie Stevens hits the studio to work on images for new show

Performer, singer and finalist on Australia’s “The Voice”, Prinnie Stevens came by the studio to work on images for a brand new show.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of Prinnie getting ready with Joe and Drew doing hair and makeup. Stay tuned for further information about show dates and the release of the finished imagery from the shoot, highlighting the talents of Prinnie, well known for her roles in theatrical productions of Rent, Thriller Live, The Bodyguard and Oh, What a Night, for which she was nominated for a Helpmann Award.


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.

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

 

 

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.