More Midsumma mania – going the lowbrow route

Midsumma’s drawing to a close for 2012, and I haven’t got to nearly as many shows as I would have liked. I left my run too late for tickets to Nath Valvo’s Grindr – A Love Story? – he’s all sold out! And while 37 Ways to Say I’m Gay, Twinkie and the Bear and Andy & Jonny present: Cocktails and Cocktaleswere all on my list, it just didn’t happen.

Glenda Waverley enjoys the company of the Leather Marys at DT's Golden Stiletto Rally.

I did get to DT’s Golden Stiletto Rally and Foam-a-Sexual at The Peel – neither event is what you’d call ‘highbrow’, but they were both a lot of fun. And sometimes that’s all you need.

I did get to see a show this week that was also a lot of fun, but where it sits on the ‘Brow Scale’ is not easy to define. I’d say it was highbrow with lowbrow inspiration.

The show is called Pageant – The Musical, and as you’d expect, it’s a beauty pageant of sorts, sponsored by the fictitious Glamouresse beauty products label. It’s set in the United States, of course, and has a great time parodying beauty pageants and American culture and sensibilities.

Miss Texas lends a helping hand in 'Pageant - The Musical'.

Hosted by Frankie Cavalier, there are six contestants: Miss Texas, Miss Bible Belt, Miss Industrial North East, Miss West Coast, Miss Deep South and Miss Great Plains. They’re men playing women, of course, but it’s not drag – not as we know it, anyway. The irony is that even though they’re presenting as women, they are obviously men. And without going overboard with self-awareness and satire, the show manages to comment on what it is to be a woman, beauty preconceptions, and what is passed off as talent in this age of reality TV competition programs.

It’s all gloriously tacky and cheesy, and while some of the ladies possess real talent: Miss Texas knows how to tap dance, Miss Deep South has impressive ventriloquist skills, and Miss Bible Belt knows how to ring those bells, but my favourite ‘talent’ was Miss West Coast’s interpretive dance. While displaying remarkable dancing skill, she also lampoons modern dance and its pretension.

Every performance, five judges are picked from the audience, and the pageant’s winner is determined by these randoms. I don’t know how or why, but i was singled out to be one of these judges. And as a result, Miss Industrial North east won the crown that night, largely because of her blissfully unaware and appalling performance on the piano accordion. For me, this alone epitomised the sly dig Pageant takes at self-delusional beauty queens.

Pageant finishes this Saturday, February 4, so get in quick if you like the sound of it. As for me, I’ll be having quite a cultural day that day, with the MSO’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in the afternoon, and A Chorus Line that evening. And then maybe Pride March on Sunday – if I’m up for it…

January in Melbourne

January’s always a crazy month in Melbourne. Not only is the city teeming with tennis tourists for the Australian Open, but it’s Midsumma too; there’s Australia Day as well, and in the middle of it all, it’s my birthday. Today, in fact. And we’re very lucky this year, because we’re blessed with wonderfully hot Melbourne summer days. So I’ll be off to Prahran Pool later, because I can.

Before I do though, here’s a little Midsumma update. Last Friday night, my partner Kieran opened his show for 2012: Glenda Waverley presents Four Dead Divas. I helped out as a stagehand, naturally, and director Kevin McGreal doubled as sound and lights guy.

Glenda Waverley at Carnival last week. She may be a diva, but she ain't dead yet!

Glenda’s show this year is something of a departure from the usual drag or cabaret show; this one’s more of a lecture with music numbers, and Glenda examines why the gays have embraced four stars in particular, Dusty Springfield, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor. They’re camp, they’re divas, and they’re dead.

It went down pretty well with the good-sized opening night audience. I think the highlights were Glenda channelling Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford as she launches into the notorious wire hangers tirade, and her performance of a slightly sozzled and tragic Judy belting out ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. She tackles Liz’s embarrassing ‘Send in the Clowns’ admirably too. There’s one more show, this Friday night, January 27 at 10.30pm.

Saturday night, after a fraught and confused trip to Docklands – and can I just say, I’m not a fan of Docklands; not one of Melbourne’s finest hours – to find the Circus Oz Melba Speigeltent, where we saw our friend George in John Henry presents: Crack a Fat Circus.

'Crack a Fat Circus' (c) HONEphotography.com

It’s a cheeky and energetic show full of humour and acrobatic dexterity. It’s not overtly gay, but it doesn’t need to be; the sensibility is definitely present. There’s a lot of sexy content, such as sexy topless aerial artists, lithe women climbing all over each other, and an infectious exuberance that keeps you smiling.

Crack a Fat Circus is on till January 28, so find your way down to Docklands, and check it out.

The sun is beckoning now; best go and see what it wants…