Ipswich: Glitz, hits and kitsch as Sheila Simmonds and Viva La Drag come to the Regent

Viva La Drag's Sheila Simmonds

Viva La Drag's Sheila Simmonds - Credit: Archant

“You don’t want to know what I’m doing backstage while the girls are dancing,” laughs Richard Rhodes, aka Sheila Simmonds - Australia’s number one home shopping TV presenter all the way from Wooloomooloo as we discuss pink polyester trouser suits, Diamante flats and Werther’s Originals.

Viva La Drag comes to the Ipswich Regent this week

Viva La Drag comes to the Ipswich Regent this week - Credit: Archant

“The girls get loads of great costumes, about 30,000 outfits each; Sheila has a prison guard costume too but I will say no more on that.”

Simmonds plays close harmony group The Supreme Fabulettes’ razor-tongued manager in West End smash Viva La Drag, having to navigate band splits and solo hits against a backdrop of backstabbing, love and tears played for laughs by top UK drag artistes Vicki Vivacious, Vanilla Lush, Portia De Fosse and Silver Summers.

“We’re all a rowdy bunch of girls,” laughs Rhodes, slipping back and forwards between his own voice and Simmonds’. “They’re mischievous. I have to keep them in check but as soon as that curtain comes up they’re pure professionals.”

Described as the ultimate girls’ night out with added extras, the cross dressing comedy cum musical is directed by Kylie Minogue’s creative director, features songs specially composed by Boy George and a creative team boasting people who have worked with the likes of the Sugarbabes, Emma Bunton, Girls Aloud, Danni Minogue and on hit shows including Ghost the Musical and Rent.

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“It’s really exciting to be working with all those people, to think who they’ve worked with and now they’re working with all of us. It’s an absolute joy and pleasure.”

With Kylie’s team involved, could we see The Supreme Fabulettes open for her?

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“I think Kylie should come support us (but) you could see her at the 02, (singing) Better the Devil You Know and Sheila and the Fabulletes could come out in the midst of it, who knows.”

Simmonds, who Rhodes describes as The Supreme Fabulettes’ spiritual advisor and drag mother, narrates the show; the story of their rise from rags to queens of drag.

“It starts off as a four-piece and then, like every girl band, there’s a big disagreement. One of them leaves and goes solo, then they... well I won’t tell you what happens, you’ll have to come see the show.”

When I caught up with Rhodes he was looking forward to meeting up with the girls again after a couple of months off.

“It’ll be nice working with everyone again. I think it’ll be a case of just easily slipping back into it because we all get on so well together. The show’s really fun, we all enjoy it - let’s just hope we haven’t eaten too much over the Christmas season and costumes don’t need altering if you know what I mean,” he laughs.

“It’s not like going to work... we don’t have to get into those characters who are being dramatic and miserable, all that stuff. We can just go on and have a laugh and hopefully that translates into the audience as well.”

A lot of drag, he says, can sometimes be quite in your face and intimidating. Not Viva La Drag which has won over audiences whether they’re girls, guys, straight or gay.

Then there are the songs, which also includes Single Ladies, Stop in the Name of Love, Car Wash, Get Lucky, Rolling in the Deep, Jolene, Crazy in Love, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and more hits than you can bat a pair of oversized eyelashes at.

“There’s not one song in there we don’t like... I only sing one song, the girls do all the singing, I just run around. Whenever I’m off stage I’m always dancing round to.”

Two costumes, just one song? Isn’t he envious of the other girls?

“Not at all,” he laughs. “They have to do loads of dancing as well and Sheila’s not a dancer, she can do a cartwheel but that’s about it.”

Will we get to see that during the show?

“You might do... it depends what I’ve eaten that day.”

Expect glitz, hits and kitsch when Viva La Drag comes to the Ipswich Regent this Friday.

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