YORK vocal drag diva Velma Celli is to return to York Theatre Royal for one night only, introducing her latest cabaret concoction of music, risqué comedy and generally fabulous entertainment on September 15.
God Save The Queens will be a celebration of British music icons, from “the obvious ones”, Adele and Amy Winehouse, to Florence Welch, Leona Lewis and the Spice Girls. Dua Lipa too.
“Since I first announced the show, I’ve added more favourites: Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Tyler, Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, so I now have some older pop royalty to go with my modern regulars,” says Velma, the flamboyant creation of West End musical actor and cruise ship star turn Ian Stroughair. “I’ll be doing a tribute to Sinead O’Connor too. Poor Sinead. Bless her.”
God Save The Queens: that’s a great show title, Ian. “Thank you so much! I came up with it on the latest sea cruise, going around the Caribbean and South America in March, because you have to keep finding new ones, but it’s still just a gig with a theme!” he says.
Velma Celli will be completing a hattrick of Theatre Royal shows after Me And My Divas last September and A Brief History Of Drag in May 2021.
“This time I’ll have a band led by musical director Scott Phillips on keyboards, with bass, drums and two guitars, and my special guests will be York singer Jessica Steel and guitarist extraordinaire Stuart Allan, doing an acoustic set together. It will be lovely to be back at the Theatre Royal, which I love playing,” says Ian.
After 14 years of shows taking her to Australia, New York, the Edinburgh Fringe and London’s Hippodrome, Velma’s diary looks busy, busy, busy for the months ahead.
“I’ll be back at Yorktoberfest [York’s traditional Bavarian beer festival] at York Racecourse on two weekends in October; I’ll be performing on a cruise ship to Singapore, Bangkok and Thailand in November and touring Australia for four to five weeks, starting in January, playing the Karnidale Circus Festival, in Karridale, near Margaret River, in Western Australia, about three hours from Perth,” says Ian.
“Then the Perth Fringe World festival for ten dates, maybe Melbourne and finally Sydney for a couple of dates. There’s loads of ex-pats over there who love drag!”
Every other month too, Velma has been performing at Crazy Coqs, an intimate Art Deco cabaret and jazz space at Brasserie Zedel, Piccadilly, London, staging Me And My Divas and Velma Celli Goes Gaga, her tribute to Lady Gaga and her influences, such as David Bowie, Prince and Whitney Houston. “Next up will be a little preview of God Save The Queens on September 7,” says Ian.
In York, meanwhile Velma Celli’s Drag Brunch shows are ongoing upstairs at Impossible York, St Helen’s Square, with upcoming dates on the first Saturday in September, October and November at 1pm and 4pm.
“I’ll be hosting Velma’s Christmas Roast there too on December 2, 3, 16 and 17 with sittings at 1pm and 4pm,” says Ian. “It’s ‘Christmas Roast’ with a double meaning of roast, allowing me to be ‘mean’ with what I say!”
Another December show will feature Velma Celli too: Castellana, the Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival, promising “sensuous, smooth and seductive” fun in a spiegeltent in Sophia Gardens from December 6 to 24.
“I’ll be the master of ceremonies for half the shows, and I’m casting and directing it as well, with contortionists, aerialists, jugglers and hula-hoopists – if there’s such a word – on the bill,” says Ian.
Castellana and South Wales can wait. For now, the focus is on York’s drag diva deluxe and her parade of pop royalty at the Theatre Royal.
Velma Celli’s God Save The Queens, York Theatre Royal, September 15, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Age guidance: 14 plus.
Copyright of The Press, York