Judi Connelli has a date, which she is determined to keep. Having been out of Sydney’s gay and lesbian loop since performing at the 2002 Gay Games opening ceremony, she’s planning to make it back with a new show for Mardi Gras in 2007.

Judi, who has been living in Melbourne for the past five years, has been in Sydney for a number of shows since, most notably Sweeney Todd with Opera Australia and Sunset Boulevard at Luna Park. In the coming week, she will also play at the Opera House in the concert Showstoppers.

But as for performing at recent Mardi Gras seasons, she admits she has been an absent force.

I have been busy, she says. I really couldn’t be more thrilled about all the roles and the shows I am being offered, but it is a shame I have missed out on Mardi Gras.

But Suzie [her partner, opera diva Suzanne Johnston] and I are launching our new cabaret show in December next year and we are very excited about that as it is all-new and a very sophisticated concept.

We hope to have it in Sydney in time for Mardi Gras 2007, so that’s when we will do it. I have been missing doing cabaret in Sydney, so it’s a date! she adds with flourish.

In the meantime, Connelli will be showing off her legendary way with a song when she presents a range of classic showtunes from some of her best-known roles in Showstoppers.

Performing alongside fellow musical theatre stars Todd McKenney, Rhonda Burchmore, Peter Cousens and Rachael Beck with the backing of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Connelli will sing songs from Gypsy, Sunset Boulevard and Sweeney Todd, as well as a range of duets with the other performers.

So you will be hearing Mama Rose, Norma Desmond and Mrs Lovett, and that’s not a bad line-up of girls, she laughs. I have been performing with Rhonda and Rachael in the Leading Ladies concerts, which we have still yet to do in Sydney. This time, we are being joined by these lovely gentlemen, which means we can do duets and play out some of the great scenes from these wonderful shows. So for us, it is a case of letting the boys into the girls club.

Connelli’s performing calendar for the following year is already busy, with a season of the musical Candide in Perth, The Gondoliers in Melbourne, a new album with Johnston as well as their new cabaret show, which debuts in Bathurst. There are also rumours of another musical with Melbourne’s The Production Company concert series.

The year 2006 will also mark Connelli’s 40th year in show business, and the veteran performer says she already has a new concept show in mind.

At the 40-year mark, I am up there with Nancye Hayes, Jill Perryman and Toni Lamond. I think we should put together our own show called The Grumpy Old Ladies Of The Theatre and tour it. We will come out of our retirement villages to tread the boards again. I like the idea a lot, so I had better go and call Nancye about it right now.

Showstoppers plays at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House from 7 to 10 December 2005. Bookings on 9250 7777.

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