When the male cast of a Sheffield production of musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert had to learn to walk in heels, they called on a Rotherham expert.
The show is based on the hit 1994 Australian movie and tells of three friends who take their drag show from Sydney to a hotel in the Outback, driving their battered old camper van, Priscilla.
Their legs were hurting at the end but no pain, no gain
The show includes more than 20 hit classic disco songs such as I Will Survive, It’s Raining Men, Hot Stuff and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Oliver Gregory from Bramley, Rotherham performs as drag artist and aerialist Miss Titty Kaka at the world-famous Funny Girls burlesque cabaret showbar in Blackpool.
He was happy to help out when Sheffield group Croft House Theatre Company got in touch to see if he could help them learn how to walk and dance convincingly in drag.
He ran a day’s workshop for the cast, including the lead trio Mark Harris, playing Bernadette, Damien Ross, a real-life Aussie who plays Tick/Mitzi and Ben Loy, who is taking the role of Adam/Felicia.
Oliver said: “The musical director, David Burgess, is my old singing teacher from college. He knew I was here at Funny Girls doing drag. I got a message to see if I was available.”
He was impressed at how the cast of the show did. “It was good, a lot better than they expected, I think.
“Their legs were hurting at the end but no pain, no gain.
“They did really well. It was important for them to have fun with it.”
Ben, from Gleadless, works as a singer but his only experience of drag was playing the transgender character Angel in the musical Rent.
However, getting used to wearing seven-inch heels and dancing in huge, outrageous costumes took everything to a different level.
It’s been a dream to play Adam, Ben said, but “as the most adventurous of the three, his heels are the highest!”
He added: “Oliver was incredible, it was a really amazing thing to have as he does it for a living. His knowledge was gold dust. We had no idea what we were doing, we were just guys prancing around in heels.”
Ben admitted: “I have a new respect level for women. I would always complain about friends when we were out, saying ‘stop walking behind me’. I totally understand why they do now.”
Oliver said that he was thrown in at the deep end himself when he joined Funny Girls. “It was probably a week or two before I got used to heels but that was performing six nights a week. I’m alright now.”
He trained as a male dancer and just chanced upon an advertisement for someone to fill in as a temporary replacement in the show.
The performer he took over from had been there for 17 years and had worked their way up into a star role, so Oliver had a steep learning curve when he joined in June 2014.
He described Miss Titty Kaka as “classy and fabulous and can kick a leg”.
Oliver also performs routines on aerial silks and is building up his solo drag career.
He would also love to move into musical theatre. He said: “La Cage aux Folles came on at the Winter Gardens, so we went to the show and really enjoyed it and they came to see us. I’d love to do a show like that or Priscilla.”
He has a website, Titty Kaka
Priscilla, queen of the Desert, Lyceum Theatre, March 14 to 18