Hayes Theatre, February 28


Paul Anka bought the rights to the song that became My Way for $1, rewriting the lyrics for Frank Sinatra, whose signature it became. What a shame Anka was unaware of the person for whom the words were perfect: Carlotta.

From starring in Kings Cross’ glamorous Les Girls drag show in the 1960s to gender reassignment surgery in the ’70s, and on to mainstream successes including TV’s Beauty and the Beast; from being a Balmain boy called Richard to a Gold Coast resident, Carlotta has done things her way on an epic scale.

Carlotta. Photo supplied. Top: with Michael Griffiths. Photo: Daryl Wallace.

Now 80, she still performs with more sheer chutzpah than most performers at 60, still dons larger-than-life costumes bedecked with sequins and feathers, still sings, reminisces, is bawdy and ribs audience members.

The title, of course, is a Nellie Melba-style fib. The party’s not over. “I can’t really retire,” she said. “I’ve seen my retired mates. They’re so f—ing boring!”

She’s in no danger, herself. The humour may often be as coarse as 40-grit sandpaper, but you can’t help laughing, because she delivers it with such sparkling warmth of heart – even when lacerating a front-row audience member whose cardinal sin was attending in shorts and thongs. Just as often, you see, she’s the fodder, herself. She told us of her name still being engraved outside the Les Girls site, with “pigeons shitting on it”. A special serve was reserved for a certain recently retired PM: “It’s blokes like him,” she said, “that make blokes appreciate women like me.”

Aided by a trio led by Michael Griffiths, she swaggered and swayed her way through short renditions of such classics as When You’re Good to Mama (Chicago), Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Gypsy) and The Lady is a Tramp (“I like the free, fresh wind in my wigs”). Can I dare to say we could have done without I Go to Rio and I Still Call Australia Home? Probably not. Infinitely better was her reworked version of Sondheim’s I’m Still Here. Long may that remain the case.