REVIEW: Minnie Cooper – From Chorus Boy to Leading Lady, City Tattersalls Fringe Hub – Archie Rose Cabaret Club. Review by Alannah Maher.

Even if you see Minnie Cooper on club and pub stages on Oxford Street and in Newtown every week, you probably haven’t seen her like this. Her first one-’woman’ show is a rare occasion where the supreme showgirl of Sydney actually sings live. Cooper promises an intimate evening with From Chorus Boy to Leading Lady, and she delivers. 

Cooper invites us to peek behind the veil of a seasoned drag queen, and meet the man behind the woman, Aaron Farley.

She not only offers insights into her own life and coming of age as the black sheep of the family in Sydney’s Western Suburbs, but also some knowing commentary on Sydney after lock-outs, Australia after marriage equality, and drag after the RuPaul’s Drag Race juggernaut. She proclaims in her closing number: “Drag is not just for gays anymore!” 

The show is interlaced with clever parodies of musical classics, in a tribute to how much the young Farley was influenced by a fondness for Broadway and a classic record collection inherited from an uncle at 14-years-old. 

Cooper has a strong command over the Broadway canon, embodying the expression of the music. An unexpected Tom Waits cover is a stand out number and a charming change of pace. 

Cooper is a deeply charismatic entertainer, combining the polish and professionalism of a seasoned musical theatre performer with the more difficult to define components of what it takes to be a truly great drag entertainer. 

Minnie is the characterisation of all the camp and feminine traits Aaron Farley was marginalised for in his youth, dressed in a sequin gown (with costume reveals, of course) and turned up to eleven in a defiant display of glamour and wit. (She can’t even lose command of the room when she minces words or skips ahead to sing the wrong song.)

From Chorus Boy to Leading Lady appears for the Sydney Fringe at the Archie Rose Cabaret Hub at the City Tattersals Fringe Hub. It’s an unlikely and fun fringe venue, with the charm of a bougie RSL club, tucked behind a corridor of pokies. 

This is an unmissable show for everyone with a fondness for drag, musical theatre, or the Sydney of yesteryear. 

Minnie Cooper – From Chorus Boy To Leading Lady, part of the 2019 Sydney Fringe Festival, is playing until 29 September at the City Tattersalls Fringe Hub – Archie Rose Cabaret Club, 198 Pitt St, Sydney. For showtimes, information and tickets ($32-$36) visit sydneyfringe.com.

Alannah Maher is a journalist with a focus on arts and culture, and a fascination with drag and all types of underground queer performance art. She tweets (sparingly) at @alannahmaher.

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