Review: Velma Celli’s Me and My Divas

Saturday 19th March 2022 at York Theatre Royal.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Some shows are perfect re-set material, and this is one of them. Me and My Divas is a generous dose of escapism which sees drag artist Velma Celli (Aka Ian Stroughair) take to the stage with an irresistible charm and a belting, versatile voice to handle some of the biggest diva hits from radio and West End Stage. There’s some top comedy along the way and Celli offers us the relaxed warmth and sense of fun of a performer well and truly at home on a stage.

Often when the “diva” description is applied, the listings are limited to established icons of yesteryear with powerhouse voices for the ages, but here Celli updates the list, giving nods to those with pipes from across the last 30-40ish years to include Toni Braxton, Anastasia, Lady Gaga and of course, Adele. Snippets of those established icons we might expect to see are here too, including spotlights on Bassey, Garland and Whitney, but this is mostly an interpretation of “diva” in the modern sense of the word: big talent and big personalities, and that definition allows for the inclusion of a broad range of tributes. Women are not the only champions either, as there’s also a moving nod to pioneering personalities like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury in the mix.

Highlights include countless lung-crushing diva belts, brave high notes and a comic medley which spoofs the vocal and physical mannerisms of some top tier divas including Tina Turner and Cher. Three special guests, Twinnie, Gina Murray and Jessy Steel each bring with them an impressive duet op and powerful pipes of their own. It’s Steel who takes the crown for best cameo though, as she arrives on stage with comic patter to rival the charisma of our lead before gifting us with a gorgeous duet of Shallow, followed by a rafter-ringing solo rendition of *that* Cilla number.

It’s not an overstatement to say this is one of the most generous cabaret performances you could hope to see. I’ve listed a fair few numbers here in the total confidence that there’s plenty more to surprise and enjoy besides – Celli jokes more than once that this is longer than Les Mis, quipping that the material is better and there’s truth in the joke, because while Les Mis includes a fair few iconic numbers, this show includes too many to count. Perhaps most impressive of all though is the amount of time Celli spends delivering full-pelt vocally – if you think of the demanding nature of a diva ballad and multiply that by 2+ hours, it’s incredible to see that kind of stamina. That’s not to say it’s all ballads all the way though – pop hits get the audience happily up on their feet, too.

If you’ve ever closed your eyes to better hear that riff, clutched your pearls at a theatrical moment of performance or mimicked the inimitable mannerisms of a true diva, you’ll likely love this. I wish I could tell you to go and see Me and My Divas, but it looks like it was a one night only affair for York, so my advice is to just keep your eyes peeled for whatever comes next from Velma Celli…

You can see what’s next at York Theatre Royal here, and you can keep up with Velma Celli’s by following on Instagram.

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