Guest: Ross Waghorn
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Segment overview: Ross Waghorn, also known as the drag queen Wanda D’Parke, is here to talk about the stage play, “La Cage aux Folles” written by Jean Poiret. La Cage had a Hollywood movie version known as “The Birdcage” which was released back in 1996. Ross talks about his roles in this play and the conflicts faced by the characters. La Cage Aux Folles will be staged at Nash Theatre in New Farm, from September 23 to October 14. Tickets are available at NashTheatre.com
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Talkers FM Business Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today, well my two guests really, join me from Brisbane. I have with me Wanda D’ Parke and Ross Waghorn. And I’m not sure which one’s going to answer here. Hello and welcome to the show.
Ross Waghorn: Hello Wayne, how are you? Hello listeners.
Wayne Bucklar: I’m very well. Now the reason we wanted to have a chat to you is, I believe you’re bursting onto a different stage shortly.
Ross Waghorn: Well I am. Firstly as far as the name goes, as you are the correct most people will know me on stage as Wanda D’ Parke. I’ve been Wanda for many, many years since 19 -, good Lord, 1994.
Wayne Bucklar: Well since Wanda D’ Parke was fashionable really.
Ross Waghorn: Well exactly right, it wasn’t even legal back then …. But anyway we won’t talk about that, that’s for another show. Most people will know me at least here in Brisbane and in Sydney and then overseas and what have you in certain aspects as Wanda D’ Parke. And as far as Ross goes, Ross is my boy name and boy that I’m built as in the show in La Cage aux Folles that we’ll be talking about shortly. But as far as the two people go, what I generally tell people is Ross and Wanda are the same person except one gets away with more. So Wanda’s is part of my dark side so I can get dressed up, put a mask on and she gets away with murder.
Wayne Bucklar: I think we all need one of those characters in our life, Ross.
Ross Waghorn: Exactly, so I’m one of the lucky ones. I slap on a frock and slap on a face and get away with murder. That’s my good point, I suppose.
Wayne Bucklar: Now shortly, you’re going to slap on that frock on a stage at the Nash Community Theater Group?
Ross Waghorn: I will be, yes. For those who don’t know, Nash Community Theater Group is based in New Farm but it used to be based in Nash Street at one point and it was called the Nash Street Theatre. But they’ve moved around a few times and they’ve been based in New Farm for quite a while now at the Uniting Church strangely enough in their Hall there so that’s where Nash calls home base for their theater productions and this current season is called ‘Laughter is the best Medicine.’ And they’ve been doing some plays and this is the first musical for the season and they’re all based on satire and funny this and funny that. So La Cage aux Folles is the musical for this season and I’m lucky enough to be in it. And strangely enough even though we’ll be referring to Wanda in the show, the directors made a very clear, they don’t want Wanda on-stage if that makes sense. So that’s why I’m being built as Ross, people that will come along will see there will be differences. There’s totally different face and different hair and everything, so what they see on stage won’t immediately say Wanda and I’m trying to be conscious to not bring elements of Wanda onto stage if that makes sense because in the show you’ll see me both as a male and as a drag queen.
Wayne Bucklar: Now for people who don’t know and I think it’s a very well known show but La Cage aux Folles is I guess the original that was popularized in the movie The Birdcage.
Ross Waghorn: It is, yes. It was a stage play a very, very long time ago and I think it was written by Jean Poiret I believe based on the play. I’m looking at my script at the moment, I should just read that. Based on the play La Cage aux Folles by Jean Poiret. So he was the person who wrote the play. It was never a musical originally, it was just a play and there have been one or two movie versions. One was back in the 70s I believe and then the one that most people will know is the Birdcage which was based on the play. And in between, at the musical that we are doing, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman – a very, very famous American writer and lyricist and of course and the book involved as well by Harvey Fierstein, depending on the school you went to. So he’s very well known as well.
Wayne Bucklar: So it’s got all the credentials. Leo Bradley is producing here, he’s directing here locally.
Ross Waghorn: Leo Bradley has done some stuff with Nash before and I’ve done one production with Nash many years ago. So this is my second soiree with Nash which is a very dedicated and talented and capable community theater group so they are well known in the community. But yeah, we’ve got a fantastic team on board, on stage and behind stage so we’re looking forward to a great season.
Wayne Bucklar: Now without any spoilers, what’s the plot of the story about?
Ross Waghorn: Well as you mentioned earlier, many people will know either the play or the movie ‘The Birdcage’ and there have been several musical versions on Broadway and overseas in various guises. The most recent revival I believe was in 2010 on Broadway and Kelsey Grammer, people will know him from TV’s Frasier, he played one of the lead male characters so that’s the most recent revival on Broadway. But as far as the plot-line goes and it’s actually quite still a very topical plot-line even now, even though based on the play in the book which is decades old now.
Wayne Bucklar: Very timely right now.
Ross Waghorn: It is very timely. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not but it’s so timely. But anyway the story is, it’s set in the South of France, Georges is my husband and I play Albin who is also the lead star drag queen Zaza in the club in the south of France in Saint Tropez which is La Cage aux Folles. And they have a son, so Georges dabbled in females when he was younger and he has a biological son. But, Albin, my character, raised the son John Michell with Georges as a couple. So gay couple raising a son who is straight decades and decades and decades ago. So in the South of France that would have been frowned upon to start with, plus the fact that they run the gay club. I’m the headliner, Zaza and then the plot-line continues where John Michell is getting married and his intended and her parents are very conservative political figures. Him at least – the father – and the wife is very meek and mild. For those who have seen the Birdcage there’s a pretty much a pigeon pair copy of ones that have you’ve seen in that moving rather. But I won’t give away anything more than, but as far as it being timely, yes it is very timely so it touches on gay marriage as far as that goes, equality as far as drag queens go, relationships in general. And that’s the main thing, it’s about relationships and how they’ve changed and how they captured views of different things and you know be confronted by things. So George and Albin, my character Albin and my husband Georges, we are confronted with the fact that John Michell who’s our straight son wants to marry this girl who is the child of a very conservative left-wing politician who wants to outlaw drag queens and outlaw gays and out this and out that and very disapproving of gay marriage. And there’s lots of laughs and twist left, right and all that. So I won’t say anything more than that, it is very timely and it’s amazing how timely it is to be perfectly honest and we’re feeling lucky enough.
Wayne Bucklar: A few famous songs in here too.
Ross Waghorn: There are some very famous songs, the one that most people will know what, I’m so glad that I get to do it. ‘I am what I am’ most people will probably know Shirley Bassey’s version, Gloria Gaynor did an amazing dance version at one point but that’s the main ballad. And other some beautiful songs in it as well.
Wayne Bucklar: As a matter of fact following straight up this interview we’re going to play ‘I am what I am’. Not a track we often put on the radio but we’re going to give it a run.
Ross Waghorn: Well depending on which version you’re doing because the Shirley Bassey of course is the big power ballad but there are some really good 70s and 80s mixes of that song … So people, look for those online if they need to.
Wayne Bucklar: I’ll have to have a look through the record box and see what I can find in amongst the 70’s, there have to be something there somewhere.
Ross Waghorn: True, but Gloria Gaynor’s version is very, very good as the dance version.
Wayne Bucklar: And it’s probably the most famous of them I guess.
Ross Waghorn: Well, yeah, Gloria Gaynor was around in the 70s and the 80s. Shirley Bassey probably got the most recognizable version, Gloria Gaynor has a really good dance version as well.
Wayne Bucklar: Now I was talking to one of the committee members down at the Nash Theater and they told me that there was a free glass of champagne for anyone turning up to opening night in drag.
Ross Waghorn: Oh, that hasn’t been run by me, I’ll have to hit them up for my free glass of champagne.
Wayne Bucklar: Well at the very least you should get one. Yeah, so I believe that’s the case but you may need to check when you buy your tickets people.
Ross Waghorn: Yeah, even though I’m one of the leads I’d be happy to honor that to be perfectly honest. With the way that Leo’s bringing this musical to the stage, it’s a very interactive presentation. So it’s not that you buy a ticket, come in, sit down and everything happens on stage in front of you. There’s a lot of interaction with the audience, we bring certain parts or certain scenes of the play right down onto the floor. A foot away from the action as far as the audience goes so it’s very interactive, and we have entrances and exits down the center of the aisles and things like that. So we’re doing our best to involve the audience as much as possible and make them have the best time while they’re there.
Wayne Bucklar: Now it should be a simply fabulous show and I am looking forward to seeing it. We are sending our reviewers along on opening night to check it out and we will have a report on air afterwards but for those of you who are looking for tickets the season is from September the 23rd so it’s coming up very soon, don’t leave it too late. And the show runs through October the 14th. Now you can get tickets online, I think it’s probably the best place to go.
Ross Waghorn: That is the best place to go.
Wayne Bucklar: nashtheater.com will take you to it and book your tickets there. Ross and Wanda, thank you both for joining me today. I hope you both have a fabulous show and it’s been a pleasure to chat with you today.
Ross Waghorn: Thank you my love and we will have a fabulous show and just to remind people, it’s a very short season. Nash always do very short and sharp seasons I’ll say. It’s 9 shows only, but we do have a preview night on Friday the 22nd but our official opening is the following night, that Saturday the 23rd as you said. So it runs Friday, Saturday for 4 weeks and we have one matinee which is the Sunday, the 1st of October. So for those that can’t make it on an evening, we do have a Sunday afternoon performance on the first of October if that’s better. So you’ll get to see me do day drag, for those drag queens that are listening – day drag is the worst to do. But I do hope all your listeners will come along and say “Hi.”
Wayne Bucklar: And as they say in theater, “Break a leg.”
Ross Waghorn: Thank you very much.
Wayne Bucklar: Thank you for your time today.
Ross Waghorn: It’s been a pleasure talking to you and then I hope to get a chat again with you again soon.
Wayne Bucklar: Now if you just joined us on talkers.fm I’ve been in conversation with the star is the right word of the upcoming production of La Cage aux Folles with Nash Theatre in Brisbane. Ross Waghorn or Wanda D’ Parke, they’re just the same person in different shoes really. But if you’ve missed our conversation the good news is, we have an audio archive on SoundCloud and on iTunes or you can catch it on our website where there’s also a transcript of the interview at that www.talkers.fm. My name is Wayne Bucklar, you’re listening to talkers.fm.