It’s a drag race
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.