Iconic: A Brief History of Drag
Venue: Assembly Checkpoint
Few acts could live up to the high mantle of naming their show Iconic, yet drag superstar Velma Celli (Ian Stroughair) almost certainly does in this raucous cabaret act which sees the former-West End star turned drag artiste deliver some of her favourite drag related anthems. This is a show that will have you effervescent with joy for its full sixty minute run time.
Opening with a belting rendition of Sugar Daddy from Headwig and the Angry Itch, Velma Celli and her full band get proceedings off to a soaring start. It is hard not be struck by the Yorkshire star’s powerful voice in the early stages of the show, but soon comes as no surprise to see that Rent, Fame and Cats are amongst Stroughair’s credits. A seductive rendition of the Cyndi Lauper-penned Sex is in the Heel from Kinky Boots follows – whilst quips about a drag queen’s love of shoes tickle and allow for some fun audience interaction.
Lower tempo numbers from Taboo and Rent showcase Celli’s confidence with more heartfelt emotive numbers. This sentiment is furthered in an anecdote regarding the performer’s trip to the Stonewall Inn, which hammers in the fact this undoubtedly a celebration of queer identity and self-love. As Celli shares these performances and musings, she remains a commanding presence, oozing an incredible star quality and hilarious bravado. Ultimately this likeability leads to a strong connection with the audience seen in a rousing interpretation of David Bowie’s Starman.
Bowie gets further representation in Celli’s version of Under Pressure, whilst the Thin White Duke’s duet partner gets his own tribute in the form of a gorgeous rendition of I Want To Break Free. The party soon picks up again with Celli’s humorous anti-lip-syncing renditions of several pop icons’ work – his Britney and Tina Turner shine, whilst the purveyor of lip-syncing excellence, RuPaul, gets her own tribute through a swinging rendition of Sissy That Walk. Velma soars on takes on other upbeat favourites such as I Am Who I Am and a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert medley which brings the show to raucous close.
Fantastic instrumentation work and tremendous backing vocalists help Velma Celli to shine and ensure that Iconic: A Brief History of Drag is a slick and well-produced night of fun. This is complete triumph from start to finish thanks to its laughs, killer vocals, and focus on celebration.