Seventy or more years ago, there was a catch call in Sydney showbiz circles. When a show wasn’t quite strong enough, falling short of raising the roof, they would say, ‘send for Nellie!’ That would fix it.
Nellie was singer and cross-dressing cabaret artist Nellie Small, the toast of the town in top hat and tails, a queer black icon from a time before anyone thought those words could go together. For 40 years, Nellie was an entertainment industry legend, a dashing figure who sang jazz and blues in prestige clubs, dressed a la Fred Astaire and lived in North Sydney in a very showbiz arrangement with her talent manager Edith, and Edith’s husband Ted.
Written by Alana Valentine (Barbara and the Camp Dogs; Barefoot Divas), co-curated by Kween G, directed by Liesel Badorrek and produced by Sue Donnelly, this premiere season of Send for Nellie unearths one of our great untold stories in song and Nellie’s own words, with powerhouse performer Elenoa Rokobaro (Caroline, or Change; Tick, Tick … Boom) centre stage and dressed to the nines. You won’t have to ‘send for Nellie’. She’s already here.
1 hour (no interval)