Velma Celli

Rating *****
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square – 22nd August 2013

You can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy when you’re in a casino watching a drag act who has better legs and hair than you could ever dream of. But when this is combined with fab musical numbers, comedy and (albeit involuntary) audience participation, the little green monster subsides and you’ve got yourself a brilliant night.

Velma Celli, the alter ego of Ian Stroughair, returns to The Hippodrome for another night of cabaret. Helped along with guest acts, including ‘husband’ Mr Fox (Amanda Posner) and first lady of West End Kerry Ellis, the evening was non-stop comedy and singing.

Velma has a powerful voice, but knows her limits and doesn’t ruin the songs with a dodgy falsetto. Combining powerful ballads such as Diamonds Are Forever with Lady Gaga and even ‘murdering a Jessie J’, Velma shows off her impressive vocal range. Lyrics are subtly changed to provide comic value, with tongue-in-cheek references to balls and hairy tits, and plenty of casual chit-chat.

The duet between Mr Fox and Velma of Lady Gaga’s Telephone reduced us to fits of giggles and their tap dancing was well-choreographed. The sing-a-long (to a reworded version of The Lonely Goatherd) might have been a step too far though as only one table (mine) joined in with gusto.

Lovely Kerry Ellis performed several songs from Wicked, fitting as she’s recently been voted the West End’s favourite Elphaba, and then duetted with Velma to give us a preview of the upcoming tour of RENT. Jolie Papillon wowed the audience with several glittering (literally) burlesque numbers and Katherine Arnold showed off her footwork with an aerial rope performance.

Perhaps the highlight for our group was when our friend was chosen to be ‘dragged up’, complete with make-up, sparkly top and Afro wig. To his credit he did embrace it and his skipping alone was comedy gold! I only wish they’d made him wear Velma’s amazing red, glittery lipstick and high heels…

The show won’t be for everyone, but it’s a truly great night out and Velma doesn’t take herself too seriously, so neither should the audience. Our group were definitely the loudest there, but we all loved it and had a fantastic time.