Absolute turkey or totally gravy? 2023’s Christmas albums rated or roasted…

Made for Chering: Cher’s Christmas selection box of disco bangers, festive standards and big ballads

Cher, Christmas (Warner Records) ***

Wrapping: As expected, Cher’s first ever Christmas album at 77 is beautifully packaged with a choice of sleeve, either Rock Chick Cher, dressed in faded denim, or glamourous metallic haute couture. Choose from CD, red vinyl, or a fabulous 20-page magazine version packed full of the icon that is Cher.

Gifts inside: Lead single DJ Play A Christmas Song is yet another sub-remake of Believe, but with a memorably hypnotic hook. The remaining dozen tracks are workmanlike covers of Christmas rock standards, originals Angels In The Snow, I Like Christmas and Tyga duet Drop Top Sleigh Ride, and a few too many seasonal ballads. Stevie Wonder (What Christmas Means To Me), Darlene Love (Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) , Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bublé and a host of others join in the colour-by-numbers set.

Style: Cher’s career across seven decades has relied in three hues: old-fashioned rock’n’roll, disco and big ballads. The former two have served her well for more than half a century. However, to my ears, Cher’s voice is too big, and even clumsy, for sensitive ballads, of which there are many.

‘Tis the reason to be jolly: The artwork is gorgeous. No-one knew they needed a Christmas Cher album (as her 27th studio set) until one came along. However, under the tantalising wrapping is a Christmas album to be played once, then kept on display with the other Christmas baubles.

Scrooge moan: The thought of Canadian crooner Michael Bublé and Cher sharing a song is compelling. However, the resulting cover of Home is a Yuletide disaster. The two voices simply don’t blend. Fortunately, Cyndi Lauper’s chipper and upbeat contribution to Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart more than makes up for this faux pas.

White Christmas? Not a sign of Bing Crosby’s hit. However, we are treated to pub-rock versions of Run Rudolph Run, Please Come Home For Christmas and a rather inappropriate rendition of Santa Baby!

Blue Christmas? Well, the artwork is beautiful and the lead single is a grower. However, many would have much preferred that promised Volume II of Cher’s Dancing Queen set of ABBA covers, five years on from the first.

Stocking or shocking: Despite the negatives, this is still a Cher album. Everyone knows someone who needs a little Cher in their lives.

Ian Sime

Kate Rusby: Christmas songs merry, melancholic and dippy

Kate Rusby, Light Years (Pure Records) ****

Wrapping: Barnsley nightingale Kate in dark angel wings, feet planted in her beloved snowy South Yorkshire landscape. A pictorial theme she extends through the inner sleeve and sleeve notes, culminating in the exiting Kate walking towards winter woodland.  

Gifts inside: South Yorkshire pub carols (Spean; Nowell, Nowell); winter songs (A Spaceman Came Travelling;  The Moon Shines Bright, with Kate’s “early 50th birthday present ” of Union Station’s Alison Krauss and Ron Block guesting on vocals and banjo);  Christmas chestnuts “you hear in shops” (It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree/Sleigh Ride; three Rusby compositions,  and a brace of novelty numbers (Sid Kipper’s parody Arrest These Merry Gentlemen and Sid Tepper & Roiy C Bennett’s Nothin’ For Christmas).

Style: Kate and her regular folk and Moog synth players, augmented as ever by the “Brass Boys”, on songs merry, melancholic and dippy.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Kate’s own compositions, led by Glorious, a song of renewal, healing, love and light, composed one February day as she stood in her snow-coated garden, longing for spring, and thought of a broken angel seated in a tree. Her seventh take on While Shepherds Watched still leaves 24 pub carol versions to go because this one has a new Rusby tune and gorgeous chorus, as does the closing Joseph, complete with Damien O’Keefe’s glockenspiel.

Scrooge moan: It took Johnny Mathis from 1958 to 2023 to chalk up seven Christmas albums, by comparison with only 15 years for Kate’s holiday season septet (including the live Happy Holly Days). What took you so long, Johnny?!

White Christmas? Only on the sleeve.  

Blue Christmas?  Nowell, Nowell evokes the blue-fingered bleak midwinter of coats, scarves, holly berries and distant carol singers but the bright glory of the Nativity too. Kate’s cover of Chris de Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling (whose lyrics lends Light Years its title) is bluer than the original too.

Stocking or shocking?  Bought nothin’ for Christmas yet? Hollylujah, here comes the perfect gift for Yorkshire folk.

Eliza Carthy & Jon Boden, Glad Christmas Comes (Hudson Records) ****

Wrapping: Folk luminaries and fellow fiddle players Jon Boden (Bellowhead/Spiers & Boden) and Robin Hood’s Bay’s Eliza Carthy MBE (Waterson:Carthy/Wayward Band/The Imagined Village/Blue Murder/The Rails) in tree and candle-lit party mood with folk friends and a nodding mechanical reindeer. Later joined by a goose.

Gifts inside: Christmas in the Carthy & Boden households is a “serious business”, say E&J’s sleeve notes, and so is their debut Christmas collaboration. As heard at their December 10 Wassail (it means “be well”) at Whitby Pavilion, E&J combine evergreen carols with Norma Waterson recommendations (Stanley Brothers’ Beautiful Star and Jean Ritchie’s Winter Grace); a 2012 Boden composition, The Good Doctor; a 2021 Carthy & Boden original (Glad Christmas Comes, words by John Clare); the obligatory variation on While Shepherds (White Zion, from Boden’s local pub in Dungworth, along with The Holly & The Ivy) and a brace of 20th century interlopers, John Rox’s I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas and Shane MacGowan RIP and Jem Finer’s Fairytale Of New York. Make sure to read the sleeve notes too, painting the fullest picture behind the 16 tracks.

Style: Recorded at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield, the folk firmament is in full glory, from everything but the kitchen sink a la Bellowhead to haunting a cappella (Glad Christmas Comes, Remember Oh Thou Man). E&J’s fiery or mournful fiddles, E’s melodeons and percussion and J’s concertina, guitar and percussion are complemented by Backstage Brass, as warming as whisky yet as melancholic as toast gone cold, and the entwining voices of Waterson;Carthy cohorts Emily Portman and Tim van Eyken.

‘Tis The Reason To Be Jolly: Making merry with I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In; cavorting through Jingle Bells with fiddle, concertina and, yes, bells. Then, held back to the finale, having the baubles to smelt Fairytale Of New York in the Sheffield folk furnace, E & J jousting like Kirsty and Shane, changing “that line” (the one that rhymes with “you maggot”) to “You’re wasted, you’re plastered, You cheap lying bastard”, by the way. Who can resist bursting into dancing, like those mourners at Shane’s County Tipperary funeral? Certainly not the Morris-dancing Ewan Wardrop.

Scrooge moan:  Such a shame to have missed that night of Whitby wassailing with E&J…but the official carol singing season chez Carthy and chez Boden stretches from September 1 to February 1, outlasting even the winter season’s South Yorkshire pub weekend “sings”, so Glad Christmas Comes can keep a’coming.

White Christmas? No, but ‘Christmas’ bedecks two titles, Glad Christmas Comes (and its album-closing brass reprise) and J’s jocular concertina cabaret of I Want  A Hippopotamus For Christmas, boozy brass coda et al.

Blue Christmas? None bluer than Rossetti/Holst’s In The Bleak Midwinter, frosty winds made moan by E’s singing, snow on snow on snow in the brass playing, stamped Could Only Be Made In Yorkshire.

Stocking or shocking? For shepherds and wise men, carol singers and folk club devotees alike.

When A Child Is Re-born: Johnny Mathis records new version of his 1976 Christmas chart-topper

Johnny Mathis, Christmas Time Is Here (Sony Legacy) ****

Wrapping: The Grandfather of the Christmas melody, Johnny Matthis is still looking good at 88. The Seventies-style sleeve holds a choice of a marbled red or ivy green vinyl LP or a modest standard CD version. Opt for the red version if you can find it.

Gifts inside: You will know all ten classic songs, such as Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, O Little Town Of Bethlehem and a remake of Johnny’s 1976 number one single When A Child Is Born.

Style: Like a good vintage wine, Johnny Mathis improves with time. This was the very last album to be recorded at the iconic Capital Tower Recording Studio in Hollywood before major restorations. Production helmed by Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and indeed Johnny’s long-term collaborators Jay Landers and Fred Mollin, this is a festive slice of old-school easy listening.

‘Tis the reason to be jolly: This is Mr Mathis’s seventh Yuletide album (1958, 1963, 1969, 1986, 2002, 2013 and now 2023). Although visiting Christmas Past, this is a lovely selection of classics adored by many generations. Wicked/Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth also guests on Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

Scrooge moan: You may have to search a few websites to find the lovely red vinyl version.

White Christmas? Of course, White Christmas is present and correct. As are Merry Christmas, Baby and the album-closing Auld Lang Syne.

Blue Christmas? Yes, that song is here too, typical of a tasteful album, classic in style and tone, befitting a merry gentleman of senior vintage.

Stocking or shocking:  Johnny Mathis is an essential festive favourite and every home should have at least one Christmas album by this Texan old-timer.

Ian Sime

Gregory Porter: Comfort and joy personified on Christmas Wish

Gregory Porter, Christmas Wish (Blue Note/Verve/Universal) ***

Wrapping: Classic Christmas at home portraits of Porter, in his familiar hat rather than Santa’s, by the fireside on the cover, joined inside by his family and a photograph of his mother, and giving a child a present on the back. “I’m thankful for the healing that Christmas can bring,” he writes in his festive message. No lyrics, but credits for each song. CD colour? Christmas red, of course.

Gifts inside: Raised in Bakersfield, California, where his mother Ruth was a minister, Porter was encouraged to sing in church from an early age. That can be heard in his gospel voice (and the organ on the title track about his wish to kiss his dear mother mother’s Christmas Day). Christmas Wish is one of three Porter originals, joined by Everything’s Not Lost and the closing Heart For Christmas (with its refrain of “If children is for Christmas”) to accompany the likes of Little Drummer Boy and Cradle In Bethlehem.

Style: Trademark Blue Note/Verve Fifties’ holiday album elegance and sleek sophistication, as smooth as Nat King Cole, as warm as Louis Armstrong, recorded at Sear Sound, New York City over a week in late March/early April, gold-dusted with producer Troy Miller’s velvety string arrangements for the Kingdom Orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios. You want soul, jazz, gospel, vintage yet resonant today, Porter delivers, from the heavenly peace of a magical, piano and strings-decorated Silent Night to a gorgeous Do You Hear What I Hear?  

‘Tis the reason to be jolly: Frank Loesser’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?, swept off its feet with romantic yearning in a duet with the aptly named Samara Joy.

Scrooge moan: Just a little too polished, too cosy, where you might wish for Otis Redding or James Brown to burst the Bublé of immaculate perfection.

White Christmas? No, but Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s ChristmasWaltz, SomedayAt Christmas, Christmas Wish, Christmas Time Is Here and Heart For Christmas tick the Christmas box.

Blue Christmas?  No, but Purple Snowflakes (whatever purple snowflakes are?!). Clarence Paul/David Hamilton song, sung previously by Marvin Gaye on his 1965 album Pretty Little Baby, should you be wondering.

Stocking or shocking: No shocks here. Gregory Porter will be the go-to Christmas chestnut for 2023 stockings, parties and late-night liaisons alike, in the manner of Michael Bublé before him. Comfort and joy, Porter style.

REVIEW: The Cher Show: A New Musical, Grand Opera House, York, to Saturday, 3.5/5

Millie O’Connell’s young Cher, Babe, with Tori Scott’s Georgia, her mother, in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

THERE may be only one Cher, 76 and now ‘dating’ Alexander Edwards, 40 years her junior – “Love doesn’t know Math,” she says – but it takes three Chers to portray her in The Cher Show: A New Musical.

Sharing out Cher are Millie O’Connell as Babe (childhood, Sonny Bono and Cher up to The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour); Barnsley-born Danielle Steers as Lady (the Seventies’ solo years) and Debbie Kurup as Star, the Cher-leader role of narrator and “oldest and wisest” Cher (the movie years, her relationship with bagel factory worker, bartender and actor Rob Camiletti (Sam Ferriday), the “Comeback” finale, auto-tune anthem Believe topping the charts et al).

Missing out are the Dead Ringer For Love duet with Meat Loaf and any direct reference to the 2002-2005 Living Proof: The Farewell Tour. Meanwhile, the 2018-2020 Here We Go Again tour of America (and the postponed 2022 British leg) and Cher’s role as Ruby Sheridan in Mamma Mia! 2: Here We Go Again, the 2018 excuse for a second Abba movie, have both added to her legacy since The Cher Show made its June 2018 debut in Chicago.

No complaints at any absentees: the running time of two and a half hours (including a 20-minute interval) has so much to cram in already from Cherilyn Sarkisian’s life as the 100 million record-selling “Goddess of Pop” and “Queen of Reinvention”, singer, actress, television host, fashion icon, drag queen favourite and charity founder.

Seventies’ shimmer: Danielle Steers as Lady in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

No time to lose, Rick Elice’s book seeks to crack the whip in trademark Cher style, opening with Kurup’s Star undergoing a crisis of confidence in her dressing room and seeking words of comfort from her younger selves, Babe and Lady.

Hearing all three speak in that quavering Cher alto with her distinctive vowel sounds is a tad freaky at first, but it instantly establishes their rapport, as they observe each other, comment and banter, sing together, overlap but never undermine. When shall we three meet again? In studio, divorce court or in pain? When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.

Battles aplenty there are, from childhood days of dyslexia and feeling she did not fit in at school as an Armenian American with dark hair, days when her truck driver father, with his drug and gambling habits, just upped and left. Yet there is humour aplenty, a knowing Cher trademark, both in Elice’s book and in Arlene Phillips’s direction, from the moment O’Connell’s Babe enters on a bike, aged six, in Sixties’ Cher garb and already with an adult voice.

The balance of light and darker; of being funny and being laughed at; success and slumps; falling in love and out of love; the tongue in cheek and not turning the other cheek; having hits and fallow spells; singing and acting; concerts and TV, (over)working and motherhood, ebbs and flows throughout. All played out against a backdrop of a woman having to fight against a man’s world, rebelling against convention, whether dealing with Phil Spector (Ferriday), Sonny Bono (Guy Woolf this week, alternating on tour with Lucas Rush), Greg Allman (Ferriday again) or TV directors.

Cher leader: Debbie Kurup’s Star in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

There are constants too: the love and support of her mother Georgia (Tori Scott); the constant drive for reinvention; the eye for a costume of her designer, Bob Mackie (Jake Mitchell).

Whether singing solo, in duets or sometimes, better still, as a trio, the three Chers do Cher proud, capturing the drama, passion, swagger, yearning, defiance, assertiveness and droll melancholia of that extraordinary alto voice. Never settling into broad impersonation, they find the heart and humour and hurt in Cher, both individually and collectively, attuned to the facial and bodily mannerisms, the gradual change in the singing tone too.

Woolf seeks to make Sonny a rounded figure, a man of talents and faults alike, but one who kept playing his part in her career; Ferriday has a field day with assorted cameos as men who came and went.

If you enjoyed Gabriella Slade’s costume design brio with bling dazzle in SIX, then you will love it in The Cher Show, where she broadens the colour palette, denoting a different mood board for each Cher, but with black and silver still to the fore for Star and the ensemble alike.

Three Chers: Millie O’Connell, as Babe, left, Debbie Kurup, as Star, and Danielle Steers, as Lady. Triptych picture: Matt Crockett

Tom Rogers’ set combines row upon row of garment bags and wig stands with recording studio and concert hall paraphernalia and room for home interiors and spectacular performances on towering steps.

Oti Mabuse’s choreography plays true to the Cher trademarks and is thrilling for the three Chers, rather less so for the well-drilled but somewhat monotone ensemble.

Best number? Every detail coming together, from singing to choreography, orchestrations to design, for Bang Bang. Believe seeps in and out, acting like a theme tune; Half-Breed is poignant; Strong Enough, resilient; I Got You Babe as love-struck as a crush could ever be; The Shoop Shoop Song, cannily returned to its 1960s’ roots.

Three cheers for the three Chers, but if I could turn back time, a tightening of the text would have been beneficial. Less Cher to share, yes, but better for the glitter and the grit, the wow factor and the wit before the party finale.

The Cher Show: A New Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, turning back time until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York

Cher, Cher and Cher alike as three into one go Debbie, Danielle & Millie in new musical

And then there were three: Millie O’Connell’s Babe, left, Debbie Kurup’s Star and Danielle Steers’ Lady in The Cher Show: A New Musical. Picture: Matt Crockett

THE role of Cher in The Cher Show, A New Musical will be shared by Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell at the Grand Opera House, York, next week on the European premiere tour.

In a case of Cher, Cher and Cher alike, the trio of musical actresses will portray the American “Goddess of Pop” and “Queen of Reinvention” in three different stages of her career as a singer, actress and television personality: Millie as Babe; Danielle as Lady and Debbie as Star, each delineated by a different colour scheme.

On the road since April, the year-long British and Irish tour of this Tony Award-winning 2018 Broadway smash has visited Yorkshire already, playing the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in late-October, directed by Arlene Phillips and choreographed by two-time Strictly Come Dancing professional champion Oti Mabuse, with a book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (Six, In The Heights, Spice World 2019 Tour). 

From a young child with big dreams in El Centro, California, the shy daughter of an Armenian American truck driver, to the heights of global stardom, The Cher Show tells the story of Cherilyn Sarkisian’s meteoric rise to 100 million record sales, an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, three Golden Globes and even an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Oti Mabuse: Choreographer for The Cher Show

As the publicity blurb puts it, “Cher takes the audience by the hand and introduces them to the influential people in her life, from her mother and Sonny Bono to fashion designer and costumier Bob Mackie. It shows how she battled the men who underestimated her, fought the conventions and, above all, was a trailblazer for independence”. 

Thirty-five hits feature, from I Got You Babe, Bang Bang and Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves to I Found Someone, If I Could Turn Back Time, The Shoop Shoop Song and Believe, from a songbook of the only artist to have a Billboard chart number one hit in six consecutive decades. 

Let’s meet the three Chers in chronological order, firstly Millie O’Connell’s Babe. “I’d worked with Arlene [director Arlene Phillips] before; she gave me my first job at 19 on TV,” she says. “She’s followed my career since then, and it’s really great to be able to work with her again. She and Oti and Gabriella are a really good production team of women and that really drew me in the most.

“Cher came into my life when I heard Believe. I was like, ‘this is brilliant’! I used to impersonate that song as a party trick, and it’s been really exciting taking that impersonation so far that it now becomes naturalistic.”

Millie O’Connell’s Babe in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

Millie plays Cher “before the high cheek bones”, from the age of six to her early 20s, having worked on voice, mannerisms and movement over an intense four weeks, all leading to a performance with multiple costume changes. “I’m going through all those eras, from before I Got You Babe to The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour; I even have one costume change on stage in the first act!” she says.

Picking out Cher’s enduring qualities, Millie says: “I love how she’s a star who never hides her vulnerability. She reveals her heart, which is really empowering, especially for women.”

Danielle Steers’s Lady takes up Cher’s story from the late-1960s to the mid-1970s. “I’m middle Cher! Starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and ending with the divorce,” she says.

“I was in a show called Bat Out Of Hell, when I was in the original cast in London and on Broadway, and I sang Dead Ringer For Love, the Cher and Meat Loaf duet. That’s when people said, ‘Oh my god, you sound like Cher, and I’d never thought of my voice that way before.

Barnsley-born Danielle Steers’s Lady in The Cher Show

“While I was in America, The Cher Show was on there and I used to have to pass the show sign on my way to work and I thought, ‘that looks amazing’. I became obsessed!”

Danielle, born and raised in Barnsley, went through “quite the audition process”, on Zoom and in person, for the UK tour but is delighted to now be singing multiple Cher songs.

“When you hear Cher, you just know it’s her. I can’t pinpoint it, but it’s the way she sings certain words and forms her vowel sounds,” she says.

“Everyone always tries to do their best Cher impression, but though it’s hard, in this show you have to find that fine line between gimmickry and reality, and of course Cher singing now doesn’t sound like she did in the 1960s, but we have to be true to her at all times.”

Debbie Kurup’s Star, centre stage (where else!), in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

Debbie Kurup plays Cher, the Star. “She’s the oldest and wisest of the three Chers,” she says. “We actually start the show with ‘Star’ having a bit of a confidence crisis and calling on the other two Chers to help her and go through the eras. I pick up the baton again in Act Two, although I narrate throughout.”

Her admiration for Cher is boundless. “She is amazing,” says Debbie. “Some of her inner strength comes from when she was bullied at school, was dyslexic and never felt she fitted in.

“Because she felt like an outsider, she’s always worked harder. She’s funny, she’s a consummate entertainer, not afraid to reinvent herself. That’s what sets her apart, making her a megastar.”

The Cher Show, A New Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, November 15 to 19, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/york.

Copyright of The Press, York

Voila! Here is La Voix, drag artiste, singer, impressionist et saucy gag teller, en route to Grand Opera House pour Novembre 13

La Voix:

FEISTY, flame-haired Royal Family favourite La Voix is on tour, taking on the big divas and making them her own in The UK’s Funniest Redhead show in York on November 13.

Billed as her “most glamorous show yet”, the 2014 Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist will be combining stellar songs and saucy gags, high energy and diva impersonations, glamour and gowns – eight of them – in her Grand Opera House debut.

Expect her to switch between the vocal trademarks of Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Cher at the click of a finger.

La Voix, the drag artiste creation of Chris Dennis, played Leeds City Varieties Music Hall two nights ago. She hosts a talk show on BBC Radio Three Counties, appeared in Absolutely Fabulous The Movie, has twice entertained Prince William and Prince Harry at New Year’s Eve parties and has worked with Mickey Rooney, Cilla Black, Pamela Anderson, Brigitte Nielsen and Ruby Wax.

When she topped the bill at Sir Ian McKellan’s 80th birthday bash, she was commended lavishly by the venerable actor, who said: “La Voix’s impersonations are surpassed only by her own cheekily entertaining personality.”

Tickets for La Voix and her band’s 7.30pm show are on sale at atgtickets.com/york.

First, Velma Celli’s divas take over her Bishopthorpe kitchen this weekend. Then, she can come to your place if you ask

Velma Celli’s show poster for Me & My Divas on Saturday

“DARLINGS, I am in London for a bit to try and get things moving and it’s safe to say that it is depressing as F!” So wrote York drag diva divine Velma Celli to her adoring devotees on email on Saturday lunchtime.

“Anyway, I’ll plod on as long as I can. So, I am doing my show ‘Me & My Divas’ next Saturday [June 27] and I would LOVE for you to join me LIVE from LANDAN!”

Since then, Velma, the glorious cabaret creation of actor Ian Stroughair, has returned to Bishopthorpe, from where his series of online performances, streamed live from the Case De Velma Celli kitchen, will resume this weekend.

Tickets for the 8pm show cost £7 at ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-me-live-stream-tickets/10614645. As always, tickets come off sale at 5pm and the link will be sent out at around 6pm

Here Charles Hutchinson has a quick catch-up with Velma in the lead-up to Saturday’s virtual date with divas galore.

“Crazy. talented and confidence to suit”: Velma Celli’s three steps to being a diva

How did it feel heading back to London from York after three months in home-town lockdown?

“It was both exciting and nerve-wracking…” 

…You say you went back to London to “try and get things moving”. What can you do at this stage?

“I was hoping to network with restaurants and other smaller venues planning to open on July 4, but it was impossible, so I’m back in York for two weeks.”

How did your last online York kitchen show, Equinox, go on June 13? What did you perform with your remote guest Jodie Steel, the West End star of Wicked, Six and Rock Of Ages?

“It was the best yet! SO much fun. Jodie and I sang Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent [the American musical in which Ian Stroughair played the messianic Angel].

What’s the history of Me & My Divas? 

“I first performed it in January this year in Perth, Australia, at Fringeworld, winning the Best Cabaret award for the season.” 

What’s the content of this new show?

“No diva is safe, no riff she won’t sing – so strap yourself in and let the belt-off begin.

“Me & My Divas is an overindulgent diva fest celebrating the songs and behaviour of all of your favourite divas, including Celine, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Cher, Britney (maybe not!) and many more.”

Definitely being one yourself, what are the qualifications required to be a diva, Velma?

“Crazy, talented and confidence to suit.”

Will you have a guest joining you remotely, like you did with Twinnie, Louise Dearman and Jodie Steel for your previous online shows?

“I am working on this. Hopefully I will.”

What are your upcoming plans as lockdown loosens ever more expansively?

“Darlings, you can now book Velma OR Ian to perform privately for your ‘Bubble’ in your outside space/garden or publicly if you have a venue with enough room for social distancing indoors or out!!!

“Get in touch if this is something you might be interested in at stroughair2@hotmail.com.”