26 November 2016

25 Years of Polly’s Follies

It’s the longest running drag show in Australia – Polly’s Follies is about to celebrate its silver anniversary. The story of this phenomenon is now legendary amongst the history of Sydney drag and its star Polly Petrie, well she’s achieved what no other performer is ever likely to again.  

It all began at the Albury Hotel 25 years ago when Leigh Jennings introduced a Sunday evening show that had a sense of difference from the famous production show format that played every night. It was all about having fun – the same purpose continuing right through to today.

Polly Petrie
The format was, as it still is, a drag variety show. A place where up and coming drag queens can make a start, learn the ropes, have room to experiment and as many have, blossom into the performers we have all enjoyed so much over the years. While it has never been a talent quest, it has launched stars.  Some of those who started at Polly’s include: Vanity Faire, Beyonce G-Spot, Christina Dior, Natasha Knowles, Jessica James (Drags Aloud, Melbourne), Feminem (Perth) and Sandy Crack (Brighton, England). 

But make no mistake the star of the show is Polly. All the bouquets are hers. Polly holds the whole show together, making it look almost like a fun party, but really it takes commitment, focus and heaps of talent to guide three hours of entertainment, where anything can happen and no two shows are the same.

When the Albury Hotel closed, Polly took the show on the road. First to the Venus Room in Kings Cross then to the Lizard Lounge at the Exchange Hotel and to its current home for the last 11 years The Stonewall Hotel.  Punters of a certain age will have been in the audiences for the whole journey, and even some of the showgirls will have performed on all of the Follies stages.

Polly, Jessica James & Genna Talia 
 Brad Hall AKA, Miss Genna Talia first performed at Polly’s Follies just after it first launched in 1991 and has performed at each venue since. Hall said “I think the show has an amazing camaraderie and friendship within the performers. I feel that Polly fosters the best in people.  She gives the opportunity for people to learn their craft and to refine their performing skills. I have met so many lifelong friends through Polly’s Follies and by being part of that encouraging environment it taught me how to be confident in any situation.”  

Christina Dior first graced a stage as a baby drag 15 years ago when Polly’s Follies was at the Venus Room. Christina has a special relationship with Polly and over time has been a co-host, DJ, edited music for production numbers and performer.

 “Polly is a lovely queen, passionate about the stage and a firm believer in the show must go on. She's a wealth of knowledge and whether you like her style or not there's always something you can learn from her” Dior said.  

Polly Petrie & Colleen Windsor
Each week Polly’s Follies has a special guest, drawn from the stars of the day or a visiting queen from out of town. Over the years every showgirl would have had their turn. No one ever declines the invitation; I’ve done it myself and its some of the best fun you can have. You get to see firsthand the way Polly mentors and guides ‘her girls’ and the love and respect they have for her.   

All those special guests and all of the Polly Follies girls of the last 25 years have been invited back to the fold to help mark this really special achievement and some are planning surprise performances on the night.   

Glenn Hansen the Promotions and Marketing Manager at Stonewall told me “The management of Stonewall would like to congratulate Polly on this wonderful milestone. Polly’s Follies is an institution that started back at the Albury Hotel 25 years ago and found a new home at Stonewall in 2005. The last 11 years we have had loads of mayhem, mischief, fun and laughs and we look forward to a lot more Sundays together.”

“Polly’s Follies 25th anniversary will definitely be a party night and everyone is invited. Lots of showgirls will be calling in to do a spot and raise a glass to Polly. We will be celebrating the anniversary with lots of surprises on the night.”


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