Iconic – A Brief History of Drag (4 stars)

This article is from 2018

Iconic – A Brief History of Drag

Electrifying vocals and impassioned theatricality from the cabaret and West End star

It's impossible to cover the whole history of drag in just an hour but cabaret star and West End darling Velma Celli certainly gives it her best shot. Storming through drag's colourful past, Velma presents her electrifying renditions of some true crowd pleasers, from Hedwig and the Angry Itch's 'Sugar Daddy' to RuPaul's 'Sissy That Walk'.

In between, there's 'The Sex is in the Heel' from Kinky Boots, a stunning duet of 'I'll Cover You' from RENT, with Velma taking on both Collins and Angel's parts, as well as a touching version of 'Under Pressure' in tribute to David Bowie. Iconic is undeniably Fringe cabaret but amplified, with plenty of sass, sequins and comedy running all the way through.

Velma's memories of visiting the Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 Stonewall Riots began, results in a truly moving segment amid the flamboyance and magnetism on show. She sings 'I Am What I Am' with fervour, commemorating drag queen Marsha P Johnson and her actions that night, which played a significant role in the lead up to the gay liberation movement.

Velma's vocals are otherworldly at times, her pitch and range varied enough to take on a multitude of genres and her impassioned theatricality enough to give goosebumps. With lip-syncing being such a prominent element of contemporary drag, it's always a genuine pleasure to come across a queen who is able to do her musical heroes justice.

Assembly Checkpoint, until 26 Aug, 9.30pm, £12–£13.

Iconic – A Brief History of Drag

  • 4 stars

Joe C Brown and Robin Rayner A triple threat of heavenly vocals, theatrical swagger and razor-sharp wit. Direct from sell-out performances, Velma Celli celebrates the iconic drag moments of film, stage and popular culture. Join Velma, her voluptuous backing singers and band for an electrifying cabaret featuring the music…