After sell-out seasons at the 2010 and 2011 Sydney Festivals, the iOTA and Craig Ilot-created gem that is Smoke & Mirrors comes to the Seymour Centre next month for what’s being billed as one final Sydney season.

But, with audience appetite showing no signs of abating, is this really the last chance Sydneysiders will have to see the show?

“Like John Farnham, forever retiring,” cast member Queenie van de Zandt laughed.

“If this season goes well, who knows — we might keep touring. But I think this really is it for Sydney.”

While van de Zandt’s bearded lady is one of the characters with the least stage time in Smoke & Mirrors, she arguably packs the most emotional punch.

The musical theatre veteran told the Star Observer it was longtime friend Ilot’s understanding of her hidden talents that landed her the plum role.

“Because Craig’s known me such a long time, he knows and loves one of the things I can do, which is move and transport an audience with my voice. I hardly ever get to do that, because in musicals I’m always cast as the old bag or the crazy lady,” she said matter of factly.

“No one ever hears my real singing voice.”

Until Smoke & Mirrors. After a saucy comic striptease in the first act, van de Zandt returns in Act Two to deliver a powerhouse performance of the soaring, bruised ballad Candyland, hitting otherworldly notes without getting a (beard) hair out of place. While Ilot and iOTA penned the song, van de Zandt explained it had been tailored to her talents — and backstory.

“Craig asked me to think of some ideas for songs, and the idea we struck on was about someone who’s unloved because she’s a freak. Craig mentioned that that was very close to my own life, so it’d be perfect for me,” she laughed.

“I get a lot of comments about the song, and I’m always very humbled because I know how little it has to do with me.

“The song, to start off with, is brilliant. It’s performed by an amazing band. It’s placed in such a great slot in the show, where it packs a punch. Matt Marshall has given it the most extraordinarty lighting, which really draws the emotions out of the audience.

“I’m not saying I don’t bring my own skill, but there are a lot of parts to it. That’s why I’ve always refused to perform it outside the show — it needs all its parts.”

Van de Zandt also said her earlier striptease in the show was an opportunity to confront some of the more chauvinistic males in the audience.

“As I said, I always play old bags, and to have men look at me doing my little striptease before the beard’s revealed — men having been disgusting, leering at me and licking their lips.

“Then when I reveal the beard, I always make sure to look at the same people. So often, they look really disgusted or angry that I’ve fooled them. It’s fascinating!”

info: Smoke & Mirrors plays at the Seymour Centre, May 4 – 14. Tickets through Ticketmaster. Photo: Prudence Upton

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