THE FAAABULOUS CERI DUPREE SHOW AT THE WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
Theatre Run: Sunday 06 April 2014
Performance Reviewed: Sunday 06 April 2014
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Having recently starred as pantomime dame Queen Passionella in their 2013/14 pantomime ‘Sleeping Beauty’, after making a side-splitting, headlining appearance at that shows launch party back in November of last year, the Wolverhampton Grand has been getting a fairly healthy helping of female impersonator extraordinare Ceri Dupree of late (or ‘international gender illusionist’ as he brilliant re-titles himself in a tightly-observed skit on political correctness). This week saw his return to the Grand in the form of his aptly-titled ‘Faaaabulous’ one man, twenty-one woman solo show, littered with a splendid myriad of impersonations and performances ranging all the way from iconic Hollywood divas of old such as Marlene Dietrich and Eartha Kitt, to musical stars such as the likes of Dame Shirley Bassey and the late Amy Winehouse, through to even the likes of supremely shoulder-padded multi-millionairess Hilary Devey of Dragon’s Den fame.
Whilst some of the more instantly notable and praise-worthy elements of the show are the glorious, wonderfully vivid costumes, wigs and accessories Dupree adorns himself with over the course of the evening (a personal highlight being an inspiredly bonkers take on Icelandic singer Bjork), the real star is undoubtedly Dupree himself. His impersonation work ranges from spot on mimicry (including a fleeting Carol Channing that I absolutely wished had gotten a full sketch and dress-up to herself) to more imitative work that more circles the person he is going for, even with the looser vocal imitations Dupree practically always faultlessly captures the spirit, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of whichever dame or diva he is adopting, and come what may the writing and delivery of the material Dupree gives his fantastic creations is always razor-sharp, witty and consistently hilarious.
There’s also a real sense of variety and intelligence behind the character work being done by Dupree. His take on Dame Edna Everage, for instance, splendidly observed Barry Humphries’ penchant for singling out members of the audience and shaping the funny around them, whereas his Marlene Dietrich was a hilariously stiff beacon of narcissism, plastic surgery and self-interest. Amy Winehouse, naturally, stumbled around on stage haphazardly, slipping out of her heels, missing the microphone stand, giving the sequence a feeling more akin to light slapstick than anything else. It is this diversity of approach, made even more impressive with the knowledge that there are many more characters in Dupree’s arsenal than he can bring out in any one night, that makes the man such a whirlwind of invention and comedic talent. It also keeps the prospect of seeing his shows a continually exciting one, given that you never know exactly who will be coming out next, and part of the fun is trying to guess as the show gives you a handful of visual clues in the impressively brief transitional period between characters.
The second act of the show leans a little heavier on the musical numbers, and some of these feel a touch more perfunctory than the more prolonged comedy sequences, particularly the likes of Edith Piaf’s seminal ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’, though again it is difficult to call a show such as this imbalanced when it’s so malleable and likely to be different one night to the next. Also, the fairly speedy turnaround of characters over the course of the evening means that if there are any you are unfamiliar with or won over by, it’s usually only a matter of minutes before Dupree whips up another to entertain you with.
By the shows own admission, this is not highbrow entertainment, nor does it attempt to be. It is at times joyfully brash, crude and vulgar, and yet it is all gloriously in the spirit and style of its own satirical, self-referential awareness. As I heard an audience member observe as she walked out, Dupree also gives you get great value for money, a full evenings worth of entertainment; similar acts, who shall go unnamed, go nowhere near Dupree’s almost 3 hour running time, and offer nothing like the kaleidoscopic approach of hilarity and showbiz fabulousness found here.
In all, there are twenty-one hilarious, irrepressible and endlessly entertaining reasons to recommend The Faaaabulous Ceri Dupree Show, and the inimitable twenty-second being the man himself. Camilla Parker-Bowles, Eartha Kitt, Tina Turner and even Norma Desmond (complete with iconic glare) were just some of the others amongst the line-up not yet mentioned in this review, and again there are of course countless more from the likes of Dolly Parton, Cher, Bette Davis and so on that Dupree has in his impressive repertoire. A consummate showman, by the time Dupree takes to the stage for one final, showstopping and soulful solo as himself (completely out of drag), the audience are quite understandably on their feet for a full standing ovation to round off a dazzling, Vegas-worthy smorgasbord of comic invention, inspired hilarity and all-round feel-good, laugh-out loud variety entertainment.
Not to mention a wardrobe that would put even a Lady Gaga and Elton John duet to shame.
For more information on Ceri and his future engagements, head on over to his official website by clicking HERE.
For more information on other shows coming up at the Wolverhampton Grand and to book your tickets, head on over to the Grand website by clicking HERE.
Press tickets for this performance of The Faaabulous Ceri Dupree Show were provided courtesy of the Wolverhampton Grand directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation and support.