Summer is in full swing. Consecutive hot days, overcrowded beaches, lines for gelato stores spilling out onto the sweltering asphalt of the sidewalks. These scenes are all too familiar for those who reside in Naarm throughout the first two months of the year.
However, it isn’t just the pursuit of cooling down by any means necessary that fuels summer for Melburnians. Rather, this time of the year signifies that we are in store for another Midsumma festival.
Midsumma has been the premier LGBTQIA+ festival in Melbourne for decades now, and this year the team behind the event organisation have pieced together a festival spanning three weeks that will showcase Queer arts and culture in spectacular fashion.
Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage events, exhibitions, productions and performances here.
The festival boasts parties, performances and gatherings that encompass all mediums and facilitate the celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. But perhaps the most extravagant event out of the entire Midsumma 2023 catalogue is the aptly titled Midsumma Extravaganza.
This year the extravaganza will be hosted at the renowned Sidney Myer Music Bowl, with the event acting as an opening night event for the festival. The extravaganza will be co-hosted by queer comedy royalty Joel Creasey and RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’s Kween Kong.
Creasey is so committed to the event he is making a special trip from W.A. where is currently part of the filming for an upcoming documentary series based on the rehoming of dogs.
“I am literally coming back to Melbourne to host the extravaganza,” says Creasey. “It was the lure of performing at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl that really got me. I’ve never performed there. It’s on the list. I had to beg production to let me leave W.A.”
Stacked to the brim with comedic talent, the extravaganza will see Nina Oyama, Rhys Nicholson, Kirsty Webeck and Scout Boxall present stand-up sets. Accompanying the comical side of things will be musical performances from Courtney Act, Kira Puru, Mama Alto, Dolly Diamond, Tash York, Tina Del Twist, Jordan Raskopoulos, Lou Wall, Brendan Maclean and the side-splitting Steven Oliver. All these acts will be supported by the in-house band and guided by the virtuosic musical direction of James Simpson.
The event will also act as tribute to the late Miss Candee who for over 50 years had been performing as a drag queen around Melbourne. In sensational fashion 23 drag artists including: Art Simone, Philmah Bocks, Dorreen Manganini, Sue Ridge, Fifi Bardot, Millie Minogue, Nova China, Laura Gravity, Taylor Made, Amena Jay Alura, Miss Jay, Pashion Couture, Ruby Slippers, Tequila Mockingbird, Polly Filla, Justin Teliqure, Freddie Merkin, Lexi Gaga, Leasa Mann, Bella Nitrate and Granny Bingo will take to the stage to recreate the symbolic moments of Miss Candee’s life as the matriarchal figure in Melbourne’s drag scene.
Midsumma have promised that the extravaganza will the biggest and most bold yet, and Joel Creasey is adamant that is exactly what audience members can expect.
“It’s going to be huge,” says Creasey. “The lineup is amazing. I wasn’t very across the line-up, I know I’m just co-hosting with Kween Kong, but then I just had a look and so many friends are on, Courtney Act, Reece Nicholson and people I really love, as well as good talent.
“It’s a rainbow, if you will, of Queer Australian artists. There will be a real mixed bag, I know there are going to be some huge surprises and because it’s at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl I’m fairly sure there is a bit of a budget. It’ll be a good show. It’s the kind of show that if I wasn’t performing in it, I’d grab a bunch of mates and enjoy.”
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A seasoned veteran when it comes to attending Midsumma events, as well as having performed at a number of festivals, Creasey is aware of the significance that the extravaganza maintains within the festivals roster.
“I’ve always attended fair day,” says Creasey. “Drunk too much and gotten burnt to a crisp. I’ve done several shows at Midsumma, I did one years ago called Twunks. It’s just a fun time in Melbourne because the weather is great, everyone is in a good mood. I’m so glad the extravaganza is now a yearly event, it’s a big flagship Midsumma event.”
However, this year being a co-host will extract a different approach from Creasey, who despite never having shared the stage with friend Kween Kong, is excited for what they may be able to generate collaboratively.
“Well, I’m sure I’ll do a set on my own, which I’ll tailor to the audience about the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and it will probably be very Carols by Candlelight heavy. I’m hosting with Kween Kong from RuPaul’s Drag Race, who is a friend of mine, but we’ve never been on stage together.
“We are just feeling each other out at the moment. I do stand-up and she lip-syncs, so they don’t naturally go together, but we’re trying to work out what our double act looks like.
“I’m sure It’ll be fun though, I’m not much of a crowd work person, but I think she might be, so I’ll send her out and I’ll hold down the fort on stage.”
The unlikely combination of Creasey and Kong’s performative skillset is sure to bring about a style of performance well suited to scale of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
“It’s a massive venue, so you’ve got to get up to people up the back,” says Creasey. “Plus, normally the people up the back is where all the good times are, they’re the heavy drinkers, they’re near the bar.”
The pressure of performance and playing to a large crowd aside, Creasey is incredibly proud to be a part of a celebration of the Victorian Queer community, a festive take on a meeting of community members.
“I think it’s great that there is a celebration of the Victorian Queer community on such an iconic, huge stage. It’s not like 30-40 years ago where it was all a bit cloak and dagger. It’s now become out, loud and proud with people who are killing it in mainstream media and entertainment. It’s nice for us to all get together because we don’t normally perform together. It’s like a community catch-up, a meeting.”
A feat which without the support of the Victorian Government would not be able to exact the scale it has amounted to.
“They [The Victorian Government] have been incredibly supportive, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of Midsumma and the St Kilda Pride Centre and the community in general.”
Ring in this year’s Midsumma Festival in extravagant fashion. Find out more info here.
Beat is an official media partner of Live at the Bowl.