Performer: Randy Roberts
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Randy Roberts is a drag cabaret performer of the old school variety. That’s no slight – his act as slick and entertaining as they come. But one does find oneself looking for a little extra.
Roberts starts his sets with a couple of impressions, first of Bette Midler and then Cher. The first relies more on the visuals – including a fantastic Hello, Dolly! feathered headdress – than a pin-sharp vocal delivery to reflect the Divine Miss M.
What Roberts gets spot on is the effortless command of the stage that Midler possesses. The result is a fun impression, and Roberts’s impressive voice lends heft to the selection of musical numbers, although none better his first, The Showgirl Must Go On.
After a short offstage break, covered by a video showing Roberts cracking jokes as Midler, Roberts returns to the stage as Cher. This is by far the better of his impersonations: vocally impeccable, simultaneously respectful and irreverent.
With such a large back catalogue to plunder, Roberts widely selects some of Cher’s biggest and most recognisable numbers, from The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) to Believe and Walking in Memphis. There’s also time to poke fun at the singer’s recent cameo in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, with a rendition of Fernando that isn’t as pin-sharp on impression, but still conveys a singer who has never stopped enjoying performing.
The lion’s share of the evening, following another offstage costumer change, is given over to Roberts’s own drag lounge singer. Dressed in a heavily fringed azure dress (twirling around, Roberts jokes that he looks like a “gay car wash”), the performer is more clearly in his element in this persona.
If the delivery isn’t always super slick – Roberts has to bound up on stage after one costume change exit because he forgot to kick off a video from his laptop, while another song has to be repeated when the backing track stops midway through – Roberts’s charm sees us through.
And if there were any doubt from the preceding hour that Roberts is blessed with an impressive voice, an encore performance of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera puts paid to any such doubts.
And yet, while Randy Roberts is clearly accomplished at what he does, when compared to many similar drag performers up and down the country one is left wondering if there is enough clear water between this American performing at one of London’s premier cabaret spaces and some of Britain’s numerous lounge drag acts doing much the same in gay bars around the UK.
Continues until June 22 2019 | Image: Contributed