Headlining the Twisted Broadway star-studded line-up and lineage of high-profile hosts are Trevor Ashley and Erika Heynatz. A music theatre veteran and drag cabaret superstar, Trevor Ashley is no stranger to gender-bending with leading (female) roles including Edna Turnbald in Hairspray and Natalie Portly in pantomime Fat Swan. Ashley has returned to Melbourne to host Twisted Broadway from critically acclaimed cabaret seasons on Broadway and the West End, and will be seen by Melbourne audiences soon in the upcoming Little Orphan trAshley.

Trevor Ashley
Trevor, for the benefit of readers who know little about you, how did you first begin a career on stage?
I started out at the Johnny Young Talent School and at Shopfront Theatre in Sydney. I was four years old, and I had nagged at my parents – who knew nothing about show business – to take me somewhere I could sing and act. I have never known wanting to do anything else. 

A little bio, a little reflection?
I was at Shopfront for many years – I think twelve in total. It was the place I learnt all aspects of theatre from acting, writing, lighting, sound and I even spent every Saturday for six months in their editing suite when I was 11 years old, creating a short film. When I was 15, I produced my first show. It was called Ufomistic and it was a comedy cabaret. I hired the theatre, convinced friends to be in it, others to choreograph and even made my poor music teachers write charts for the band. It was the one thing I think that set me up for what the industry was like. We even made a profit of $300. 

Your earliest gender bender highlight?
I used to wear Mum's old petticoats as a dress and do a one man Sound of Music. My Nan loved it. 

Thank heavens for “the dress up box” and your earliest on stage gender bender moment?
I wrote a show called Dressing Room Drags for me and my friend Chris to star in at Shopfront. It was in revue format, and I played Carlotta Carefree and he was Mary-Ann-Libra-Fleur. I was ugly as shit, and have the photos to prove it. 

Why does gender bending matter?
It's been important, I think, for the satirical and political nature of theatre. Drag and cross-gender casting can often be used to comment on a work (of art), or a subject without having to say anything verbally. It's also often very funny. 

What does gender bending make us mindful of, alert to?
I just think that it's used to create a moment, to highlight a person's talent often, and to remind us that life is very, very funny. 

Trevor, I am thinking now about the ways songs – both pop and musical theatre songs – are re-imagined for newer, younger, wider audiences – arguably a TV program like Glee has done wonders for bringing musical theatre and queer culture into homes around the world?
I think the great thing about the mainstreaming of queer culture is the support it gives to young people. When I was a closeted teenager, I only wish we had a program like Glee to tell me that it was all ok. 

Tell me about the details of adaptation to gender bending roles from your perspective?
For me, it really depends on the subject and what it's being used for. If it's something like a flat out impersonation, I study the performer and capture their mannerisms. In this years' TB, I'll be doing a faithful rendition of a role that I would never be able to play. Though would love to.

Kate Macdonald and TheBengeGroup present
Twisted Broadway

Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
8pm Monday 22 July
Tickets $35 – 75

NIDA, Parade Theatre
8pm Monday 19 August
Tickets $45 – 65

Image credit –
Top right – Erika Heynatz and Trevor Ashley

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