Review: The Velma Celli Show, The Hippodrome ✭✭✭✭

Want a show that brings together musical theatre, cabaret, comedy, burlesque, circus, tap dancing, double pirouettes and a live band? Look no further than the Velma Celli Show at The Hippodrome. From the moment our long-pinned, flame-wigged drag queen hostess (Velma Celli) steps onto stage we know we’re in for an enjoyable night.

Kicking off with a Shirley Bassey classic (in the original female key no less), Velma brings new heights to drag queen artistry. Velma – also known as actor Ian Stroughair – puts the audience at ease with his relaxed, friendly patter, quick remarks and delectable riffs. Celli has no need for scripted jokes; he wins over the audience with his voice alone.This is highlighted in a particularly heartfelt, honest rendition of Jessie J’s ‘Nobody’s Perfect.’

The beautifully talented (and gorgeously pregnant) Kerry Ellis delights with a stripped-back version of ‘Defying Gravity’ and two duets. It quickly becomes obvious as to why she is often referred to as ‘The first lady of musical theatre’. The show was only missing more of her. The varied evening is bursting with talent from London’s cabaret scene: burlesque from Jolie Papillion and aerial rope from Katherine Arnold. Papillion displays beautiful lines and sparkling eyes with her absinth-infused cavort complete with green glitter-pour. The leggy Arnold wows with her beyond-bendy choreography.

Velma is joined in the second act by her ‘husband’ Mr Fox (Amanda Posner) and together they entertain with up-tempo comedy parodies, saucy dancing and strong harmonies. Posner’s voice is as ‘clear-as-a-bell.’ Even a man from the audience takes a turn – dragged up onto stage and then literally ‘dragged up’ complete with afro and sequin gown. The lighting and sound at the hippodrome are wonderfully handled and mindful to the cabaret setting. A few technical glitches couldn’t deter from the performance as, like any cabaret, that wonderful anything-could-happen element is what keeps the room alive. The four-piece band and well thought out arrangements made a huge impact, climaxing in all the right places. If only more cabaret shows invested in live music.

Overall, Celli provides a highly enjoyable evening, topped off with brilliant service from the waiting staff. Friendly table-service, wine, cocktails and mini sausages are the icing on the cake for a camp and glitzy night out such as this.

**** (4 stars)
Next date 20th September
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