Life’s still a drag (Carlotta)
The Arts Centre Gold Coast, Paradise Showroom
“There’s no business like show business,” sings Carlotta in one of her show’s early songs. And as Australia’s most celebrated diva of drag, she should know, having begun her career in the 1960’s as one of the original members and later star and compere of the internationally renowned Les Girls floorshow in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
Aunty Carlotta is 72 years old now and, as is announced at end of the show’s introductory photo montage, she is still here…. and still as grand as ever. Sequins, feathers and a fabulous boa all make appearances, but this is a show that’s more about stand-up than songs, which is fitting perhaps given that Les Girls performers were not allowed to sing in the show. When she does add music to the mix, it is from the usual cabaret/dinner theatre standards list such as Sinatra’s ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ and delivery is always a display of veteran showmanship from an entertainment who certainly still has it.
The appeal of “Life’s still a drag” is her humour and she is frequently out and about in flirtation with audience. Often dirty jokes about ageing, sex and Gold Coast life (she should know; she’s been a local for over decade) play perfectly to a captive older audience able to appreciate references to Shirley Bassey, Bruce Ruxton and Ricky May. Carlotta knows how to work an audience and has a line for everything so seating locations should be chosen with care.
With support from guest star, Monique St. John who started in the chorus of Les Girls in 1966, Carlotta’s Life is still a drag” affirms her status as an icon of the Australian cabaret entertainment industry as Australia’s first transgender star. It is a perfect fit for the inaugural Gold Coast Glitter festival celebration of everything that is LGBTIQAP+. Things get political only for a moment (as well they perhaps should in this the festival’s inaugural program), with an ‘As Time Goes By’ tribute to early Mardi Gras campaigners, complete with montage of historical footage.
Through a career that has spanned over five decades Carlotta has always done it her way and this song is an entirely fitting finale to “Life is Still a Drag”, a show that stands as proof of her capacity to entertain as only she can.