Reviewed by Alex Foott
Performance date – Fri 2nd Aug 2013
A frisson of nervous giggling shimmers around the audience as Le Gateau Chocolat sweeps into the darkened auditorium. Beaming from beneath a glossy wig that would have the likes of Donna Summer and Diana Ross writhing with envy, he sashays on to the stage and reveals himself in all his glory. He is, unquestionably, the most beautiful bearded lady you will ever encounter. The audience are still gazing upon his expertly painted features when from within the ruffles of his ballgown comes this sound. A gargantuan voice erupts across the stage and seeps into our eardrums, causing them to quiver with glee. Forgive my theatricality but, having witnessed this man’s talents, it is only too tempting to emulate his flamboyance.
Despite this evident showmanship, there is something wholly natural about his performance. I heart Chocolat is essentially a concert yet it is a pioneer in the world of drag. Gone are the bitchy comments and straining vocals of countless other performers and in their place stands a welcoming and humble man whose singing gives you goosebumps. He possesses a voice to rival those of humpback whales, slithering down to the notes that make your very bones vibrate. His true strengths lie in both his inviting charisma and his ability to ridicule different singing styles while still sounding incredible. The majority of his songs are energetic showstoppers, complete with high kicks and figure-hugging catsuits. However there is a moment of poignancy as he performs a truly haunting rendition of Nick Cave’s ‘The Ship Song’. Removing his wig, he stands before us in an ultraviolet spotlight and pours his soul into the melody; a chilling respite from the otherwise joyous celebrations. Whirling into the second half of the show, he proceeds to rip to shreds one of the most respected and well-loved musicals, turning moments of tragedy into cramp-inducing hilarity.
At first, Le Gateau Chocolat only appears to attract a niche audience. This is not the case. The spectacle of this show, combined with his endearing honesty appeals to the widest range of people possible! He is not arrogant about his talents, though they be many and mighty, and is genuinely gracious when accepting applause. By the end of the performance, the whole audience is on its feet. As he unveils his final costume change (there are many!), the entire room dances to a Madonna classic with camp delight. I heart Chocolat is a liberating piece that encourages us to embrace our inner queen, let loose our voices on the world and even try on a wig or two. I cannot think of a better way to spend an hour!