It’s a drag race

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - EGuide Television - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

HUGH Sheri­dan sinks into a lounge chair at an Alice Springs ho­tel, fresh from a shower shak­ing off the red dust of the Out­back.

The host of TDT’s new re­al­ity gam­ble, I Will Sur­vive, looks much as his act­ing al­ter ego Ben Rafter from hit drama Packed To The Rafters al­ways has. Ex­cept for the trace of blue glit­ter on his cheek that the shower hasn’t shifted.

It’s a dead give­away to Sheri­dan’s new jour­ney on a new net­work.

Hav­ing turned host and men­tor for a crazy odyssey across the Out­back, re­trac­ing the jour­ney of hit movie Priscilla Queen Of The Desert to hunt down Aus­tralia’s next ‘‘ triple threat’’ star, Sheri­dan is on the road trip of a life­time.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, I Will Sur­vive is not ‘‘ just a show about drag queens’’.

Yes, it is 12 hope­fuls, mostly drawn from a mu­si­cal the­atre back­ground, who do per­form in drag each show. But they also spend plenty of time as their nor­mal, ev­ery­day selves, hon­ing their act­ing, singing and danc­ing tech­niques. The drag queen an­gle be­came more di­luted when pro­duc­ers had to change the orig­i­nal prize of an ap­pear­ance in the Broad­way ver­sion of Priscilla be­cause the show ended in New York. Now the vic­tor will re­ceive a chance to per­form on Broad­way.

Sheri­dan, who sang from a young age, took dance classes at the in­sis­tence of his par­ents ‘‘ be­cause I had two left feet’’, and trained for years as an ac­tor, knows how hard it is to find the com­plete pack­age. ‘‘ I’d never make it in a com­pe­ti­tion like this,’’ he says. ‘‘ And these guys don’t start with the full triple- threat pack­age – the idea is to round them out with all three.’’

Sheri­dan him­self has found the tran­si­tion from ac­tor to pre­sen­ter dif­fi­cult but, through more than two months of shoot­ing, has found his own voice.

‘‘ I have been asked to present other shows in the past and I’ve al­ways said no, but this con­cept just got me,’’ Sheri­dan says.

‘‘ As an ac­tor you shouldn’t as­sume you can present well. It’s hard to cross over.

‘‘ Pre­sent­ing ter­ri­fies me. I get scared pre­sent­ing or speak­ing at the Lo­gies, so it’s been a learn­ing curve for me.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways de­liv­ered scripts in some­one else’s voice, and I want to host in a way that’s re­laxed and con­ver­sa­tional. It’s nice to be a bit more elo­quent and find my own voice.

‘‘ I’m men­tor­ing as well with the act­ing parts of the com­pe­ti­tion, and while I have no say in the judg­ing, I’m cer­tainly speak­ing up for the con­tes­tants.’’

If it all sounds a lit­tle se­ri­ous, life on the road with I Will Sur­vive is far from it.

‘‘ It has been an ab­so­lute riot,’’ Sheri­dan laughs.

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