St James Studio
Reviewed on Friday 7th August 2015
Brother and sister Ceri Dupree and Ria Jones team up for this hugely entertaining cabaret to celebrate the legendary ladies of stage and screen. It’s glamorous, glitzy and deliciously saucy, and it’s performed by two consummate professionals at the top of their game.
Drag artiste Ceri works his way through a repertoire of wickedly funny impersonations: Mae West, Carol Channing, Marlene Dietrich, Ethel Merman (there’s lots of Ethel Merman), the list goes on and Ceri has them all absolutely spot on. And there’s even a nod to old-time music hall when Ceri pays tribute to another female impersonator, Danny La Rue.
The hilarious script features a non-stop barrage of wonderfully naughty gags — a frighteningly accurate Bette Davies on her old adversary Joan Crawford, for example, is achingly funny and mostly unprintable here. And even if some of this material isn’t exactly brand new, it’s delivered with such aplomb, it just can’t fail to raise a laugh.
And if that wasn’t enough, we have the stunning voice of Ria Jones, who sings tributes to Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury and Barbra Streisand. Ria has a controlled power and emotion to her voice that is utterly captivating. Her renditions of The Man That Got Away from the Judy Garland film A Star Is Born and Edith Piaf’s No Regrets were faultless and quite deservedly had people on their feet.
Both these performers have a warmth about them that is tangible and this show is perfectly suited to their style and the intimate studio space at the St James Theatre.
There’s a nice history lesson too as Ria takes us through a catalogue of actresses who starred in a Broadway musical but then missed out when it came to casting the movie version; Julie Andrews replaced by Audrey Hepburn for My Fair Lady probably being the most famous example. But then Mary Martin was replaced by Julie Andrews when The Sound of Music was adapted for the big screen. I thought I knew most of these, but it’s a surprisingly long list and Ria’s research has clearly been exhaustive. And for the real buffs there’s a well-deserved tribute to Marnie Nixon, the lady who dubbed so many of those movie voices and only got credit years later.
So if the history of Broadway, the West End, and movie musicals is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be?), you’ll find this show an absolute joy from the first note to the last.
Miss-Leading Ladies runs at the St James Studio until 30th August 2015.
Please visit www.stjamestheatre.co.uk for further information and tickets.