Even before the fabulous “Trashley” has stepped out on stage, the fun has already started, with a lively, eager audience soaking up the Tramcar/Spiegeltent vibe and enjoying the fresh relief of Melbourne’s long awaited cool change.
A narrow entrance opens to the tardis-like, deceptively expansive interior of the Spiegeltent, enjoying its well-earned fame in another welcome visit to Melbourne.
But on to the main attraction, the incredibly talented Trevor Ashley, soaking up the love of the crowd as he shines in a slick, hilarious show created specifically for his unique gifts. Supported by a tight four-piece band, Ashley takes us on a highly entertaining journey through the glamour and heartbreak of the world’s most delectable divas. Delivering wickedly scathing punch lines with scarcely contained glee, Ashley successfully straddles the line between loving and mocking his beloved female idols.
The impersonation aspect of the show brings to mind the music clips of television’s Fast Forward, a comparison that holds up very strongly in Ashley’s favour. Whereas the cast of Fast Forward had make up, hair and costume departments, not to mention editing, dubbed singing and plenty of takes, Ashley transforms himself instantly before our eyes. Diva after diva appears with a simple change of costume and new wig. Somehow Ashley’s facial appearance alters with each wig, as he slips effortlessly into the ticks and complete vocabulary of body language of each of the women. Then comes the singing, with not just the distinctive traits and flaws but also the power of each voice brought thrillingly to life. These instant changes of voice and body language reach a climax in an amazing mother/daughter duet been Judy and Liza, in which Ashley is able to switch back and forth even in mid-phrase.
Director Dean Bryant has shown a characteristically sure hand with the creation of the show, initially drawing us in with hilarity before allowing Ashley to take full flight with homage performances. “I’ve Never Been To Me” is an early highlight with outrageously funny lyrics. It is a credit to Ashley’s talent that even in a show where the audience are expecting humour, he can enthrall with pure renditions of songs such as “The Rose” and “As Long As He Needs Me.”
With the placement of each new wig, each diva is instantly recognisable, and the character flaws being lampooned are a dig not just at the vain, narcissistic superstars but also at our fascination with their glittering careers and self-destructive foibles. A throwaway line about Whitney Houston comes the closest to raising a gasp rather than a laugh, but Ashley’s infectiously gleeful delivery is too irresistible to cause anything but smiles.
Far more than a simple drag show, I’m Every Woman is a celebration of girl power domination of the music charts. The theatrical presentation is enhanced by the light Ashley shines on the meaning of all this glamour and music in his life. Ashley’s talent and Bryant’s wit are a perfect combination that make I’m Every Woman a terrific night out.
Trevor Ashley’s I’m Every Woman continues at The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne until 23 February 2013.
Photos: Jim Lee
This review written for Theatre People 20 February 2013.