There was lots of buzz around this telemovie at the 2014 UpFronts last year – promoted with a performance by Carlotta herself. It’s Jessica Marais playing against type (and gender) with a great supporting cast telling a story of Australia’s recent history that not many would know or appreciate. From the press release:

ABC1 – Thursday June 19 at 8.30pm

How many working class Balmain boys grow up to be showgirls? Not just any showgirl but a household name: a legend of Kings Cross, a daytime TV star, and a symbol of generational change. While many know her face, few have heard the real story of Australia’s most famous transsexual performer. Until now.

Long before Australians knew what transsexual meant, Carlotta was pushing the boundaries of gender and sexuality. She was an ambassador for rebellion, freedom, and self-expression: a living, breathing symbol of emerging 60s liberalism. She was the legend of Les Girls.

Fleeing an abusive stepfather, 16-year-old Richard, a sexually confused innocent, arrived in swinging, “live and let live” Kings Cross. It was 1959 and the nation was waking from a long, conservative slumber. Adopted by a group of like-minded friends, Richard began to test the boundaries of gender and sexuality: to remake himself.

Through cross-dressing and performing, Richard experimented with becoming a woman, and despite persecution and exploitation, found the courage to live as Carol Lee. Later, when illegal hormone treatment had spectacular results, the striking, irrepressible “Carlotta” was born. Fêted, desired and imitated, Carlotta’s reign at Les Girls was to endure for three decades.

Distinctly Australian, Carlotta’s grit, bawdy glamour, and determination to be the best woman she could be, endeared her to a nation while echoing the desire of a generation of women who also wanted more. Yet it is away from the spotlight that Carlotta played her most important and surprising role.

In the 1980s, a fairytale romance with a “great Aussie bloke” changed everything. The infamous “Carlotta” was consigned to history as Carol fell in love, married, and gave up her stellar career for a life in the suburbs. She reveled in her new life as a homemaker and doting wife with the stable, loving family life she had always craved. But surrounded by reminders of the children she ached for but could never have, Carol found herself stranded between two worlds, belonging in neither. Her new life would test everything she knew about herself, and it would take all her courage to make the heartbreaking sacrifice for the one she loved the most.

Carlotta is the story of an exceptional woman’s desire to be ordinary.

Starring: Jessica Marais, Anita Hegh, Alex Dimitriades, Eamon Farren, Caroline O’Connor, Ryan Johnson, Socratis Otto, Andrew Lees, Damian de Montemas, Genevieve Lemon, Gigi Edgley, Paul Capsis and Kai Lewins.