He is putting his own, outrageous, stamp on the classic Rocky Horror role of Dr Frank 'N' Furter, but few Melburnians would yet know who the artist iOta is, writes Muriel Beddy.

In person, iOta is only a shadow of his powerful stage persona, Dr Frank 'N' Furter.
    He appears so much smaller, both in stature and personality.  It's not surprising to learn that the world more commonly used to describe this rising star in Australian theatre is "enigmatic".
    He is leading a new, and critically acclaimed production of The Rocky Horror Show, in Sydney, and coming to Melbourne in September.
    Pinning him down to detail is not easy.  To be fair, it is after 11 on Friday night and he has just spent the past two hours on stage singing, strutting and just being sensational in yet another performance of the legendary Dr Frank.
    He has four more performances to look forward to over the weekend; little wonder he looks and feels all of his 39 years tonight.  He thinks of little more than a good night's sleep.
    Success arrived on a slow charger for iOta.  His glorious theatrical debut as Hedwig in the cult production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch earned him a Helpmann Award for Best Male in a Musical last year.  He beat veteran Hugh Jackman to take the award.
    He also won a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Musical.
    The reviews for his performance as Frank 'N' Furter have been glowing, with one reviewer suggesting it was worth going to the show just to see iOta.
    And yet despite the accolades and the unusual name, few of us had heard about this remarkable talent who has been making music for more than 20 years.  He has six ARIA nominations on hiS CV.
    He likes to think of himself more as a curiosity than an enigma.  He legally adopted the name iOta years ago because he liked it.  The singer/songwriter won't disclose his real name, explaining that only his parents call him by the name they gave him.  He concedes, however, that the name thing may have contributed to his aura of enigma, or curiosity.
    "Coming into the theatre world, I feel like a bit of a curiosity because people go, 'Where did you come from?  How come you can sing like that, and act really well?  You're almost 40 years old and I haven't heard of you'."
    He came from a small town in Western Australia, population 4000, where he fought hard to cover up his homosexuality.  His teenage years were especially unhappy, as he tried to wish away his sexuality, or hoped that it would change.  He was 26 years old before he came out of the closet.
    "So I'm a late bloomer.  It was really hard.  It was a nightmarish existence.  You're like a double agent.  There's just this cover that you cannot drop," he says.
    He left WA when he was 22 or 23 and moved to Sydney where he and his band hoped to make it big.
    His big break came when he was offered the role of Hedwig.  That led to a role in the Sydney Dance Company's Berlin and then to The Rocky Horror Show.
    Playing the coveted role of Dr Frank 'N' Furter has opened a cache of opportunities for iOta.
    "This will allow me to get out into the world a bit more, I think," he says, quietly.
    His quietly open confidence is attractive.  iOta saw his first performance of The Rocky Horror Show at Her Majesty's Theatre in Perth when he was just 12 years old.
    He bought the album and went to see the film at a midnight drive-in with his mother.
    "I've always wanted to play Frank.  I've been strutting around the lounge room as Frank since I was 12.  It just had to happen."
    He was bold in his approach to a role that has been defined by so many greats before him, including Tim Curry on film, Reg Livermore and Russell Crowe.
    "I just wanted to bring an energy to it, the energy that I somehow can turn on when I go on stage," he says.
    Melbourne audiences will get their chance to see the dusted off Frank when the much-anticipated show opens here at the Comedy Theatre on September 14.