Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Diamonds Are For Trevor, Jan 28, 2014 ****

By Trevor Ashley & Phil Scott
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, to Feb 2, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****  
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Jan 29, 2014 and in print. KH
Trevor Ashley in Diamonds Are For Trevor

With his huge singing voice, glittering gowns and histrionic gestures, Trevor Ashley cunningly delivers both a celebration and a parody of Shirley Bassey – sorry, Dame Shirley Bassey.

Diamonds Are For Trevor is another screamingly camp success for Ashley who makes a fine living singing in drag, playing blousy women such as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, or gay icons including Bassey and Liza Minelli.

The show is titillating and raunchy, funny and mischievous, extravagant and excessive.

Ashley’s depiction of glamorous chanteuse, Bassey, combines acerbic and witty criticism of her egocentrism with remarkably powerful vocal stylings that channel Shirley’s distinctive, rich tone, idiosyncratic articulation, quirky vibrato and extensive repertoire of famous songs.

Several of his renditions of Bassey tunes leave the audience gaping in awe or clapping like seals at
his melodramatic endings and phenomenal upper register.

The audacious Ashley performs this opulent trash with pizazz, dressed in a parade of flamboyant, lamé gowns (designed by Oscar nominee, Tim Chappel) that echo the sultry sensuality of Bassey in her heyday.

The production, directed deftly by Craig Ilott, is a representation of, and tribute to Bassey without being strictly an impersonation although his over-the-top arm movements and teeth-baring grin are pure parody.

Using his vocal flexibilty and broad range, Ashley sings memorable versions of 18 Bassey hits including Goldfinger, Never, Never, Never, This is My Life, History Repeating, and an unforgettable version of Diamonds are Forever.

Then he almost dislocates a hip doing a vigorous bump and grind as he belts out the outrageous Big Spender.

The script, written by Ashley with collaborator, Phil Scott, is clever and provocative, with hilarious gags and one unexpectedly poignant scene about Bassey’s daughter who suicided.

An accomplished 14-piece orchestra led by conductor and piano player, Geoffrey Castles accompanies Ashley on-stage.

If you love a bold, vivid drag show with a touch of style, lashings of humour and some big, belting Bassey tunes, Diamonds Are For Trevor is the show for you. He’s a gem – a sparkly and ostentatious gem.

By Kate Herbert

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