Inspired by the bright lights and glamour of the Las Vegas showgirls, entertainer Warren Gooch had a vision — a celebrity female impersonation show. Bid farewell to tacky costumes, low budgets, poor lighting and dingy stages, and put your hands together for the country’s most talented and fabulous drag queens in a show sure to sparkle.
After several years of hard work, bucketloads of sweat and more than 300 kilograms of sequins and feathers, the Divine Divas was created.
Following the traditions of shows like La Cage Aux Folles, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Les Girls, Gooch hopes the show will make the art of gender illusion more popular in the wider arts community.
With 10 boys impersonating 26 stars, the Divine Divas is far from a typical drag show.
“We don’t call it a drag show. We wanted to make it very professional because we are impersonating the stars and we’re not really working in the gay drag scenes,” Gooch told Sydney Star Observer.
“My goal was to take a little show and put it on the big stage, where lots of people could appreciate it. It might change people’s perceptions of what drag looks like when you take it out of a club and put it centre stage in a huge theatre.
“For us, it’s been amazing to do this sort of stuff with really good sound, lighting and a huge video screen — throw all the production sort of stuff at it to make it more than working in a pub and club.”
After a sold-out season in Perth, the production will visit the State Theatre on Saturday, October 10.
Dressed to perfection, the all-male cast will perform tunes by Kylie Minogue, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Cher and Dolly Parton, to name a few.
“I thought it would be cool to get a bunch of female impersonators and put them together … and I thought it would be the most amazing soundtrack ever heard,” Gooch said.
“We are impersonating them as close as you can. We don’t send them up or make a satire out of them. The boys take a lot of effort to nail the characters.
“We chose any of the major mainstream divas who have had platinum albums. I don’t think there’s anyone we have missed from the past 40 years.”
Gooch plays Diana Ross, Celine Dion and Dusty Springfield.
“For me it has become second nature doing a couple of characters, but when I get to do Celine I can kick off and come out with all the dancers and perform to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” he said.
“To really impersonate the big divas you have to have a measure of respect and really do your homework.”
For Owen Moss, who performs as Tina Turner, Divine Divas is about impersonating the icons people have special bonds with.
“Tina Turner has a real distinctive style and walk that I have lots of fun performing on stage. It was hard work trying to get some of her moves down. I worked with a choreographer to really try and impersonate some of the tricky stuff,” he said.
“We have been performing all over Australia in the past few months, so now it all flows and comes like second nature.”
When Raymond Joosten (he plays Liza Minnelli, Dolly Parton, and Pink) was selecting the divas he would impersonate, he said he wanted to do something classic but also with lots of energy.
“I feel I can truly portray them and do them justice. When I get on stage I feel the energy of the crowd and I put this into my routine,” Joosten said.
“Pink is absolutely thrilling to impersonate. Her energy and drive are amazing. I feel quite honoured to have been asked to become a cast member in this outstanding show.
“Years ago, starting out as a drag queen in Melbourne, I would not have imagined I would be performing in front of thousands of people on some of the greatest stages Australia has to offer.
“Listening to the reaction from the crowd after the show, everyone so far has asked us to come back, meaning we bring an element of fun and surprise to their night and that has to be great.”
While the performers are not singing live, the music has been remixed to bring something new.
“I really love some of the megamixes we perform in the show. They’re pretty racy and the audience love all the stars working together,” Joosten said
“We have all spent hours watching videos and documentaries on our characters. By doing this we can truly get into the character’s mind and movements. Impersonation is not only about impersonating the character but becoming the character.”
With two-minute costume changes, more gay icons to count on both hands and some of Australia’s greatest female impersonators, the Divine Divas will be one of the year’s hottest stage shows.
“The show allows us to do performances with a lot more flair and finesse,” Joosten said.
“As long as there are drag queens there will always be an audience and there will always be fun and good times had by all.”
info: Catch the Divine Divas for one night only at the State Theatre on Saturday, October 10.
Bookings on 136 100 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.au The show will also visit the Illawarra PAC, Wollongong on Sunday, October 11, and the Civic Theatre in Newscastle on Tuesday, October 13, and the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre in Nowra on Wednesday, October 14.
For more details on the Divine Divas visit www.mariomaiolo.com.au