PREMIERING last year to enthusiastic crowds, coming up with a new line up of artists, shows was always going to be a tough ask for Brisbane’s MELT festival.

Running between February 3-14 at the Brisbane Powerhouse, MELT producer Adam Gardnir said to  “expect big”.

“This year’s program learnt from last year that people love variety, so we’re presenting a whole range of productions and events, from drama and dance to comedy and cabaret and so much more,” he told the Star Observer.

From the big names such as Carlotta, Courtney Act, Trevor Ashley and Steven Oliver, to emerging talent, MELT runs the gamut of local and national LGBTI artists and productions — all with Gardnir’s desire to provide a platform to present their work however they want to.

The festival’s premiere event is the community-driven MELT Picnic.

“We’re looking to build on things like Mardi Gras and Brisbane Pride Festival fair days along with the Midsumma Carnival to have something that will be a real community event held in a very open and joyous environment,” Gardnir said.

“It’s a free event running for six hours with DJs, musicians, and many other fair day-type staples.”

The “central pillar piece” to this year’s festival is Gaybies, a play sharing the real-life stories of children of same-sex parents.

Gaybies is a show we’re particularly proud of this year, so much so it leads our program as a central pillar piece. It’s a boys show, a girls show, a kids show, an adult show, it’s deeply political, it’s of the moment and it’s funny,” Gardnir said.

Carlotta makes her welcomed return to Brisbane with a night of stories, songs and obviously, costume changes.

Catching the zeitgeist that is the release of the Thin White Duke’s new album, local musician James Lees has assembled a tour-de-force of local talent to present David Bowie’s masterpiece Ziggy Stardust in its entirety.

MELT has also secured an exclusive with Mardi Gras’ global ambassador, Courtney Act, who — along with Trevor Ashley — will be performing Gentlemen Prefer Blokes.

“We’ve actually done a bit of a dirty on Mardi Gras cause they thought they had Courtney and Trevor’s show exclusively until I found out about it… and got them to come up literally the week before Mardi Gras,” Gardnir said.

“The show is an updated version of a show they did together about eight years ago before both their careers blew up. We’re so proud that Brisbane will be the premiere venue for it… sorry, Sydney.

“They’re going to do two great shows on Saturday night and we’ve released tickets to both at once.”

Headlining the list of concerts in this year’s festival includes Play School’s Simon Burke.

“He made me gay,” Gardnir jokes.

“I was about three and watching him roll around on the ground in his tight jeans singing I’m So Hungry. For me I was like, ‘yeah, I know’.”

“But getting back to business he’s doing a night of songs for us which will be wonderful.”

In perhaps the festival’s most provocative feature, the work of local Brisbane trans artist Tyza Stewart will be displayed prominently in the most public areas of the Powerhouse.

“Tyza is an amazing artist from Brisbane who is currently transitioning and has created some spectacular and very beautiful and full works based around that,” Gardnir said.

“With Tyza’s work we’ve taken a bit of a risk and instead of hiding the work away in some corner, we’re displaying Tyza’s art in the most public and visible area of the Powerhouse.

“We’ve had to work with Brisbane City Council [who own and fund the Powerhouse] to get this done as they’ve had some reservations.

“We’ll have to put up some R-rated signs around the place but the works won’t be impeded or blocked from this very public setting. I’m thinking about inviting [Queensland QCL spokesperson] Wendy Francis along. She’ll absolutely love it.”

Along with an all-inclusive portrait competition that has been open to anyone, the other major community-driven event is a pageant of a unique kind.

“Our last event will be our MELT Beauty Pageant which is in no way what you may immediately think it is,” Gardnir said.

“We’re opening it up to 10 contestants who will compete for the title of ‘Brisbane Beauty’ which is genderless — the contest is open to any drag queen, king, people from the trans community or anyone in between.

“We didn’t want to have separate contests as we much preferred the idea of having everyone from any group come together to celebrate beauty in all its forms and identity.

“We’d like this contest to sit in a genderless or gender fluid space that’s all about fun and confidence.”

With music from American rocker Cat Power, productions like Gone, Appalling Behaviour and Dangerous Liaisons, Brisbane women-only circus Fluid, Steven Oliver’s Black Queen Black King and much more, MELT shows no signs of letting up.

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