Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 11th June 2017
There is no argument that Carlotta is a legend: long-term show-girl at the famous Les Girls revue in Sydney, the “queen of the cross” has always been a figure-head for the queer community, and was one of the earliest, and most famous, Australian trans-gender women.
At the age of 74 she is still sparkling, sassing and singing: the range is a little reduced due to age, but the power is still there.
A packed and excited audience lapped up her show at this year’s Cabaret Festival, although not the sort of audiences she would have played to in the 60s and 70s. This was generally a “mom and pop” group, many of whom have probably never been to a drag show before. Carlotta did not disappoint, delivering a piece of performance history: the audience may have changed, but the show hasn’t. Eschewing contemporary developments in drag, “Aunty Carlotta” gave us the kind of humour and show-tunes that we would have seen in the Cross back in the day.
Opening with the inevitable There’s No Business (Like Show Business), she moved through the usual gamut of tunes such as The Lady is a Tramp, For Once in my Life, Nobody Does it Like Me, and As Time Goes By. A high-light was Sondheim’s I’m Still Here, with lyrics specially written for Carlotta. Musical Director and accompanist, Michael Griffiths, supported her in outstanding fashion, playing beautifully and joining in some of the banter.
My issue with the show was this historic quality. Had Carlotta presented an evening of more memories and anectdotes, sprinkled with songs, then this might have worked better. But the fact that drag has moved on since her hey-day, as have queer rights, made much of her humour puerile, offensive and sadly dated. As a night of living history, this was fabulous: as a contemporary drag-show, it failed.
But hats off to Carlotta, for all she has done, and for her longevity. With a theatrical director who might be able to drag her (pardon the pun) into contemporary material, she could still wow an audience more than she did on Sunday night.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 5: 3
Venue: Magic Mirrors Speigeltent