Confessions of a Drag Queen

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

26/01/2011 - 29/01/2011

BATS Theatre, Wellington

25/11/2009 - 28/11/2009

BATS Theatre, Wellington

18/03/2011 - 19/03/2011

Production Details

A cacophony of colours with style, flair, attitude, glitter and glamour straight from the steamy shores of Brazil. And that’s just the first outfit!

This show tells the story about a young drag queen, from his (or her?) childhood to discovering the gay nightlife and the drag world and its consequences.

A night of fun in the theatre filled with classic gay tunes, hot men, comedy and a spicy Brazilian flavour to it.

BATS Theatre
25-28th November, 9.30pm
to book:  or 04-802 4175

Auckland Season 2011


Colour, style, laughs, drama, live singing, lots of fun and glamour is what people can expect from Confessions of a Drag Queen a play set to hit Auckland’s Basement Theatre this summer.

Confessions of a Drag Queen tells the story of a young boy who after discovering his sexuality in the steamy shores of Brazil, moves to the land of the long white cloud, Wellington to be more exact, where he is introduced to the Gay nightlife and the Drag world along with its exciting consequences.

Written, produced and performed by Toi Whakaari recent Performing Arts Management graduate, Brazilian and Drag Diva – Ricky Beirao. Beirao and his alter ego Rhubarb Rouge was crowned Miss Drag Wellington in 2009. He has been doing drag for four years and is very excited about his one ‘wo-man’ show.

“For me the show is an honest portrayal of a young man’s struggle with language, culture, internalised transphobia, sexuality, Catholicism, self-love and sequins with lots of laughter and some tears,” tells Beirao.

Ricky makes a promise to the audience, used to seeing lip synched Drag Queen shows, of something new and exciting: Rhubarb will be singing live, with original music written by the show’s Musical Director Hayley Sproull.

After the Auckland season, the show will be back by popular demand for 2 nights only at BATS Theatre, Wellington as part of the 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames. 

Stay in touch with what is going on through the Rhubarb Rouge blog .

Directed by William Donaldson, Confessions of a Drag Queen runs for an exclusive season at The Basement Theatre.

WHERE:The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
TICKETS:$20 / $18 concessions
BOOK: or from Real Groovy, 438 Queen Street, Auckland or Conch Records, 115 A Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby. 

Bats 2011 
March 18 & 19 


Ricky Beirao / Rhubarb Rouge

Kay Smith

Hayley Sproull

Auckland Season | Bats return season

Ricky Beirao - Producer, Performer, Writer

William Donaldson – Director

Sophie Kendrick – Performer

Hayley Sproull – Musical Director, Performer

Morgan Whitfield – Lighting Designer

Alana Kelly – Sound Designer

Set Designer – Violet Wilson-Baird

Costumes by Helen Suman and Ricky Beirao  

I was interested, I was engaged, I laughed …

Review by Hannah Smith 19th Mar 2011

Rhubarb Rouge bought the accessories to her first drag outfit at places of the highest couture: the Warehouse, $2 shop and Amcal Pharmacy Cuba St. That is probably where most of tonight’s costumes came from as well. But a Drag Queen’s life is not all glam and glitter.

Confessions of a Drag Queen is written, produced and performed by Ricky Beirao, telling the story of his personal journey – both physical and emotional – from boyhood in Brazil, to schooldays in the Hutt Valley, to dancing in drag at BATS theatre. 

While it is not exactly confessional, the material is certainly honest, told in a combination of direct address and skit style sketches with loosely justified musical numbers peppered throughout. Beirao is ably supported, under the direction of William Donaldson, by back up singer/dancers Hayley Sproull and Sophie Kendrick who are fabulous: funny, flamboyant and adding a necessary dash of humour and girl-on-girl competition to the mix. 

There are some really enjoyable moments: silhouette sequences, including a rocking flight from Brazil to Wellington and a heated fight between siblings, and a scene where Ricky’s mum ventures into the audience to confide in us her experience of having her son come out. The deadpan, tongue-in-cheek humour, acknowledging the schlocky nature of the piece, comes off the best. A particularly successful example is when the chorus girls come out waving ribbons and thrashing around as lights flicker on and off muttering, “It’s a storm, a storm.”

The story has many points of interest, there are great moments in the staging, the back up performers are comic, and what Ricky himself is doing is brave, honest and exciting. But the whole does not synthesise into great theatre. It is a vanity piece, there can be no doubt about that, and its greatest flaw is that there is simply too much Ricky in it. 

Some song and dance numbers work nicely – the ones that involve all the performers. The ones that just involve Rhubarb fall flat. There is something weird about the story structure – it feels like it’s building to something that never quite eventuates. At the end Rhubarb removes her make up and walks out of the theatre. What does it mean? Does it matter? Is this even a statement? If it is, the wider implications are lost on me. 

However, last night the house, which was nearly full, had a grand old time. They laughed in all the right places and even clapped along to some of the more popular songs.

Don’t get me wrong, Confessions of a Drag Queen is a fun time: I was interested, I was engaged, I laughed … I just feel that a bit of judicious editing, both of script and performance, could turn this from an enjoyable hour’s entertainment into something substantially more.
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Not so much of a confession but certainly not a drag

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 27th Jan 2011

Confessions of a Drag Queen is less about confessing the delinquent details of a Drag Queen’s life, and more about distressing over the lack of acceptance of Drag Queens by the gay community. At least, the latter half of the play pines over this issue – and it is certainly an interesting concern to be let in on.

The first half of the play is, arguably, spent pandering to all the cliches of gay culture and gay humour; however hilarious. The complex issues of cultural identity and sexual ostracisation only come out (excuse the pun) after Ricky Beirao – or “Rhubarb”, as his Drag character likes to be know – has gained the approval / acceptance of the largely male gay audience.

(There is an assumption here of course, but I think it a fair one, given the hand holding, the lack of a single audience member dressed in drag, and the fact that I was one of the handful of females in the packed Basement Theatre.)

I always feel it imperative that the Producer has their place in theatrical productions, as should the Director have theirs – and it goes without saying that the writer would have an entirely different skill set to acting. Every so often it happens that a writer is also a gifted actor, but even still they tend to excel in one area over the other. Whenever I see a play produced, directed and/ or written by and starring the same person, I can’t help but be on guard for weaknesses in one of these areas of expertise. Confessions is both produced by, written by and starring Ricky Beirao in the lead role. In fact, I overheard Beirao saying: “Did you like my show,” to a friend after the performance, and for me, this is its weakness.

As humorous and talented (particularly in the Drag Queen persona) as Beirao is, I felt that the show would be far more original and compelling if the first few scenes (which include a rendition of ‘It’s Raining Men’, scenes of schoolboys discovering their sexualities, the gay child playing with Barbies, impersonations of religious neighbours praying for his gay soul, along with scenes of mothers in denial) were cut. This would have been the writer’s decision, but Beirao’s desire to portray these scenes as an actor may have overruled that decision?

The same can be said of other elements in the play. Even the fact that Beirao produced the show meant that its marketing attracted a very particular audience, and was perhaps exclusively marketed to that audience, which I feel is a pity. It is a pity to be one of the only females in the audience, not to mention one of the few heterosexuals. The play longs for the approval of the gay community, as does its protagonist. But is the approval of the female and/or heterosexual community of no worth? I would hate to think it all comes down to sexual gratification. 

The performances of Hayley Sproull and Sophie Kendrick – Beriao’s backing singers and assistants – are pitch-perfect. Their physical performances are can’t-take-your-eyes-off, and there’s musicianship to boot. Director William Donaldson choreographs the pair beautifully, with the right amount of momentum and flair to keep the audience transfixed.

A well-timed line towards the end could almost have closed the show in its summing up of the play and its justification of the Drag scene: “And it’s all because there wasn’t enough gayness in our childhoods.” In short, the show is so much of a confession but certainly not a drag.
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Flawed but still a hoot and fun wee night out

Review by Uther Dean 01st Dec 2009

Confessions of a Drag Queen rides a very fine line. It is half drag floor show with the glamourous Rhubarb Rouge backed up by the equally glamourous Kay Smith and Hayley Sproull dancing and lipsyncing to all the camp classic standards with energy and joy saturating the stage like some kind of obscene fun factory. The other half is more dramatic, an autobiographical monologue from Ricky Beirao, Rouge’s real world counterpart.

Beirao shows a direct and wonderful honesty in his performance and you cannot help but feel privileged to be invited to share in it. As refreshing as this honesty and directness is it does not really compensate that much for the fact that Beirao is clearly not that comfortable on stage when not Rouge. There is an awkwardness to his delivery that director William Donaldson has clearly worked hard on with Beirao but just not enough to stop a degree of cringe morphing into the audience.

You can also see whipped throughout Confessions of a Drag Queen all the little blips that come from the dangerous writer/performer combination. The structure needs a lot of work, there is an extremely interesting story in this show fighting against an awkward order and presentation to get out. The pace falters often, especially during the middle period of the piece. One feels that the work would have really benefited from an outside script editor or dramaturg to come in and really lash the script into a shape.

Donaldson’s direction is inventive and eminently watchable. He displays a wonderful understanding of when good old theatrical tricks are needed – shadow play and the like – and when just a body in the space is enough.

There are many powerful images contained within Confessions, Beirao staring himself down in a mirror as he removes his makeup comes very quickly to mind, and you really wish that they would just trust those images a bit more and let them sit. Paul Tozer’s lighting is delightfully evocative, gloriously playful and, honestly, worth the price of entry alone.

Confessions of a Drag Queen is a lot more promise than delivery. But the promise is so great and the energy is so crushingly joyous that it is only in retrospect that most of the issues become apparent. Flawed and desperately in need of a major reworking as it is, Confessions of a Drag Queen is still a hoot and fun wee night out.

Here’s hoping that this is not the end for this show because with a few more work shops under its belt it could really be something.
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Charmer with nuts needs a few bolts

Review by Tony Richardson 29th Nov 2009

The publicity for Confessions of Drag Queen cautions the performance "may contain traces of nuts"… not only is this a pun on creator/producer Ricky Beirao’s Brazilian nut heritage, and what RuPaul describes as "your candy" but it’s a triple entendre too. After seeing the show last night, I’m convinced Beirao’s got some big balls to take a drag performance beyond the usual lip-syncing-look-at-me drag schlock and begin investigating what could turn into an engaging work to our community.

For 80 minutes Confessions time-travels through Ricky Beirao’s 22 years. This story begins in Brazil, but rather than incorporating clichés like Carmen Miranda and Carnaval, Beirao takes us to the not-glam world of a non-English speaking queer kid at some Hutt Valley high school. [More]
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Less than ept but has potential

Review by John Smythe 26th Nov 2009

They’re an interesting phenomenon, drag shows. Obviously the drag queens themselves get off on the frocking up, making up, hairdoings and high camp performing, be they impersonating stars or playing out their own alter-egos. The question is, what’s in it for their audiences?

Your standard lip-synch-to-pop-songs show can impress when the synching is spot on, provided sound system produces the illusion of actual singing and the repertoire of dance moves doesn’t become too repetitive. Even so, it can soon pall if that’s all there is.

This show, conceived and produced by Ricky Beirao and directed by William Donaldson, has more: Beirao re-enacts the story of how he came to manifest his Rhubarb Rouge performing persona, and two female pseudo drag queens (women pretending to be men pretending to be women) support him not only with lip-synching but also with actual live singing, piano playing, comic performing and shadow puppetry.

Better interactions could be worked up for the pre-show arrival of the audience on what turns out to be Drag Dream Airlines. As our hostess, Beirao-in-drag promises laughter, tears, music, surprises and glitter …

The lip-synching – e.g. to the camp classic ‘It’s Raining Men’ – is fine but the sound system fails to create the required illusion (which may not be possible in a venue as small as Bats). Fortunately that soon gives way to the dulcet tones of Kay Smith and Hayley Sproull enriching Beirao’s live singing. Unfortunately when Beirao goes solo, accompanied by musical director Sproull on piano, the singing goes right off.

The story is unique and quite well told. Blame it on the Barbie dolls, basically. As a boy in Brazil, little Ricky couldn’t get enough of his sister’s treasures. A droll poker-voiced translation of the volatile fight between siblings is amusing, as is the tacky shadow-puppetry that depicts his arrival by misadventure in "the land of the wrong white crowd" – which got the biggest laugh on opening night from the many who had never heard it before.   

Apparently Ricky didn’t want to do drag – "I like my manly bits!" – but gave it a go anyway and, despite a disastrous debut, took it up as a way of relieving tension. S/he prefers to be known as a "gender illusionist", however.

Unsuccessful attempts to find love and companionship bring the tale down to a low point from which we must assume the only way is up, to a big show-stopping finale. But no, the make-up goes and so does he. Make of it what you will.

Confessions of a Drag Queen has potential but in its current guise it is less than ept, although a number of young women sitting near me seemed to find it novel, shocking and therefore shriekingly entertaining. Maybe I’m too jaded.

By the way, the publicity image (click on title above to see it) is either heavily airbrushed or was taken many years ago. The hot pink pic above is the real deal.
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roger hall January 28th, 2011

 Actually Paul (and John) there  the word "ept" is in the Oxford Dictionary: "adroit,competent; appropriate, effective. 

Roger Hall

John Smythe January 27th, 2011

 Turn of phrase, Paul. 

Paul Barrett January 27th, 2011

" ... but in it's current guise [ Confessions Of A Drag Queen] is less than... 'ept'?  EPT?What is this new word you have fashioned, John? Is the word ' apt' not sufficient?

Eloise J. November 27th, 2009

I thought it was a superb show, very different to what I expected.

It had the right amount of laughs but balanced with emotion. Ricky was a great performer, I loved how he really hold the audience for the whole time.

I thought the set could have been better designed. But overall a very entertaining night.

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