Marney McQueen is an accomplished comedic actress and singer with roles in The Wedge, Bogan Pride, and the stage version of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert to her name. But pour her into a leopard skin catsuit and hand her a Tina Turner frightwig, and she becomes Rosa The Russian Beautician, the star of a one-woman Comedy Festival show, Rosa Waxes Lyrical.

The idea for the character was hatched when McQueen was still a student at NIDA, learning about the power of observation.

I was at a beautician’s in Darlinghurst getting my legs waxed, and I thought, -˜I have to do this woman’, she told Sydney Star Observer.

She had enormous hair, designer sunglasses with diamantes falling out, top-to-toe leopard skin, and was always telling me stories about her love life. She had this queeny assistant who was also brilliant.

The two of them, over the top of the cubicle, would talk about guys that they’d been with over the weekend … it was like being at a show, but getting a free leg wax as well.

Since then, the bolshie beautician has become McQueen’s most popular character, striking a chord with audiences worldwide.

I think everyone knows a Rosa -” so many people tell me that their beautician is Rosa, she said.

I’m now just on this constant pilgrimage around beauty salons to get more material.

My friend’s dad is an accountant, and he says I can claim any beauty sessions I have with a Russian beautician back on tax, and he’d be willing to argue it all the way to the High Court.

McQueen has an impeccable pedigree when it comes to character-based comedy, having studied under Barry Humphries in New York. Watching this master at work has imbued her own comedy with a carefree confidence.

Rosa’s a spontaneous kind of woman, and if she feels she needs to give out some free beauty advice, she will, McQueen said deviously, before issuing a warning to any eligible bachelors:

Rosa’s on a quest to find a man, so if she sees anyone in the audience who takes her fancy, she may just have to consider her options.

Suffice to say, this heavily-accented, sexed-up beauty therapist is as camp as a row of tents. It’s surprising, then, that McQueen said she was nervous before presenting her creation to gay audiences.

The first time I performed her for a predominantly gay audience was in Sydney for the Hats Off concert. I was thinking, -˜Why am I doing this? I don’t know anyone in the audience. This is going to bomb’, she said.

As soon as I stepped out on the stage and told them I specialised in back, sack, crack and shaft waxing, the reaction from the audience was so good that I thought, -˜Oh my God, Rosa’s come home!’

info: Rosa Waxes Lyrical plays at the Parade Theatre, NIDA, on June 24. Details: marneymcqueen.com

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