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Opera House joins Cher in jubilant Mardi Gras parade

March 5, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Nearly half a million spectators turned out on Saturday to watch 190 floats with 12,000 participants in the historic 40th anniversary Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, graced by ageless US entertainment legend Cher – and by the Sydney Opera House, whose float made an appearance in the parade for the first time.

Cher walked the route with dancers who were holding large purple letters spelling her name.

She paused for a selfie with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his wife Lucy and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, as below.

For the first time in Mardi Gras’ history, a specially designed Sydney Opera House float rolled up Oxford Street in the famed parade.

Titled ‘Out at the House’, the glittering Sydney Opera House float featured a 10-metre sparkling replica of the famous sails, a glitter cannon and a 70-strong group of marching ushers, dancers and orchestra members, led by the legendary Dame Joan Sutherland, played by long-time Opera Australia employee Bobby McKenzie.

Sydney Opera House revealed the float (designed by parade veteran George Savoulis) ahead of its Mardi Gras debut on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt, together with staff and performers dressed in the costumes designed by Academy Award-winner Tim Chappel.

The Sydney Opera House float project was led by a committee of Sydney Opera House staff, many of them members of Sydney’s LGBTQI+ community.

Legendary Dame Joan Sutherland, played by long-time Opera Australia employee Bobby McKenzie. Photo by Daniel Boud


More than 120 employees volunteered to help with construction, rehearsals, costume-and-prop-making. They marched in the big parade alongside performers and crew from the Opera House’s Resident Companies.

Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron said Opera House staff hatched a plan a few years ago to be part of the Mardi Gras 40th anniversary.


Sydney Opera House Mardi Gras costume designer Tim Chappel. Photo by Ken Leanfore


“It is so exciting to see this dream become a reality. It has been a huge team effort and we’re very proud to be able to celebrate with Sydney’s LGBTIQ+ community and to support an event that represents our city at its best – diverse, equal, inclusive, joyous.”

The Opera House float was greeted with excitement. So was Cher, who hugged delighted fans as she walked along Oxford Street.

People travelled from all over Australia for the parade, seen as very special this year because of the 40th anniversary and because of Australia’s decisive approval of marriage equality in the poll held last year.


Participants in Mardi Gras 2018 rehearsals at Sydney Opera House. Photo by Daniel Boud


A gay couple, Stuart Henshall and James ‘Brecko’ Brechney, were married during the parade on top of a three-tiered wedding cake float, under a storm of confetti made from shredded ‘No’ vote posters. Now there’s a statement!

Their ceremony was the first wedding in the parade’s 40-year history.

As the morning-after clean-up began on Sydney’s streets, many revellers continued to celebrate Mardi Gras at the Party, which took over several venues in Moore Park until 8am Sunday. Cher headlined Australia’s biggest LGBTQI+ party, which also included performances by Starley and Seann Miley Moore and sets by international DJs The Black Madonna, Hannah Holland, Kiddy Smile and Shaun J. Wright.



Guests were treated to sets by local DJ talent Alex Taylor, Annabelle Gaspar, Ben Drayton, Beth Yen, DJ Dan Slater, DJ Dan Murphy, Dom de Sousa, DJ Du Jour, DJ Gemma, GI Jode, James Smithers, Kate Doherty, DJ Kate Monroe, DJ Kitty Glitter, SEZZO SNOT, SIMONA, Stephen Allkins, DJ Sveta, Victoria Anthony, and YO! MAFIA.

The midnight community show featured 40 of Australia’s legendary drag queens and trans showgirls, along with Mardi Gras legend Bob Downe and 25 dancers from the local community. The Huxleys, The Evolutionary Dinner Party, Feralicious, Sheba Williams, and Frankie Says performed throughout the night.

Written by Peter Needham

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