Is Newcastle ready for men in dresses? Daft question.
This is the Northern home of the Royal Shakespeare Company – cross-dressing a common theme – and regular annual pitstop for the Ladyboys of Bangkok.
Mrs Brown regularly parks her pinny at the Metro Radio Arena and Dame Edna’s coming back to the Theatre Royal in January to say farewell to her Tyneside possums.
When Paul Carroll – alias Mrs T (no, not that Mrs T) – and the “girls” perform their cabaret-style show at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre on Sunday evening, they will be following in the footsteps of Danny La Rue, to say nothing of countless panto dames.
Paul leaps on the Danny connection, saying some of the feathers worn on Sunday once adorned Mr La Rue himself. They are on loan, icons of the men-in-dresses theatrical genre.
Paul, who is 43, was born in Manchester but moved to Blackpool in 1992.
He says: “I started doing the clubs as a male singer but always felt that I was just one of many. When we went to Lanzarote on holiday, we saw there was a gap in the market.
“We decided to move out there. I was a singer and my partner was a DJ.”
They bought a 50-seater walk-in bar with a view to selling the business when it was up and running.
It was up and running very quickly, with full houses every night, so they bought the bar next door, tripling capacity.
Tour operators started bringing their clients to the Music Hall Tavern show and the pair, now sporting the sequins and make-up that are their selling point, expanded to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and finally Tenerife.
One of their shows was seen by Denise Welch, who invited Paul and his company to perform at her wedding to Lincoln Townley in Portugal earlier in the year.
Paul says: “She sent me a text saying ‘What are you doing on the 13th of July?’. I didn’t really know what she meant. But she then said, ‘I’d really like you to perform the show at our wedding?’.”
Paul remembers looking out from the stage at a sea of celebs. Was he nervous?
“We were talking about this on the way to the wedding. We just said, ‘This is never going to happen to us again so why should we spoil it with nerves? Let’s nail it and have the best time.’ That’s what we did and we loved it.”
Denise joined them on stage at the end, all smiles. It was literally a glittering occasion.
Now Paul and his Music Hall Tavern show are on their first UK tour, playing to many of those who have seen them in the Canaries and taken their friends and families along. Shows in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol and Glasgow have been encouraging, says the man who is also Mrs T.
Newcastle, though, is virgin territory. Paul admits he has never been to the city before. To North East theatre-goers, he advises: “A lot of people think drag and they think sleaze. But this is a funny, family show, very glamorous and lively – and we’re all professional artistes.”
He promises a reprise of part of Denise’s wedding routine. So if Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and “the Montserrat woman”) and Happy Feet are your thing, you won’t want to miss this – not with Danny’s feathers to tickle your fancy.