‘Hello Birmingham! Two words together that do not suggest a career on the rise’
Drag queens, standup comedy and musicals: three ingredients that I was pretty sure would make for an ideal Friday night out. I am an unashamed musical theatre fan, as well as being a hardcore RuPaul’s Drag Race obsessive, so I was palpably nervous when I arrived at the Door venue at the Birmingham REP, that the show would not reach my somewhat lofty expectations. After arriving at the theatre, we indulged in a few very reasonably priced pre show cocktails at Marmalade bar, before having our faces glitter painted. By then we were truly in the cabaret spirit!
My worries vanished as the lights came down in the intimate venue and the show began with an utterly insane version of Phantom of the Opera, with the outrageously talented Sooz Kemper singing the part of Christine paired with Jonny Woo as the Phantom wearing 6 inch red stilettos, fishnet tights and donning a Darth Vader mask and afro wig.
The whole opening number was hilarious and from then on the audience were swept away into the mad and brilliant world of Jonny Woo and Co. Drag act Myra Dubois ‘the self declared siren of South Yorkshire’ also stole the show, with brilliant renditions of classics ‘On My Own’ and ‘Part of Your World’ with a trademark Yorkshire twist. Myra’s standup was also outrageously funny, whilst her ever extravagant outfits had the audience whooping with delight. Jonny Woo was undoubtedly the star of the show and he carried the show at a terrific pace through musicals such as The Bodyguard, Les Mis and Cabaret. Highlights included Woo’s insane one-man lip-sync through ‘At The End of The Day’, and of course an unforgettable lip-sync and lap dance to ‘Mein Herr’ from Cabaret. The audience didn’t know what to do when Woo plucked an audience member for a lap dance, and he oozed sex appeal whilst performing Liza Minelli-esqe chair dancing, whilst in skyscraper heels. A special mention must also go to his bizarre yet captivating rap ‘Mary Portas, Queen of the High Street’ complete with grimacing, a severe red bob wig and a rap so catchy it was in our heads for the following week.
Of course, no night at the musicals would be complete without show stopping ballads, and luckily Cabaret XXL delivered. Sooz Kemper was utterly brilliant, performing ‘Defying Gravity’ with ease, and Myra Dubois also was excellent as Glinda, showcasing her trademark dry wit. Other firm favorites included Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ which had plenty of audience participation! Sooz also showed she could hold her own in the comedy stakes, performing her standup comedy and receiving some of the biggest laughs of the night.
Overall, Cabaret XXL ‘A Night at the Musicals’ delivered everything a good cabaret should: comedy, music and a healthy addition of f. The only criticism would be that the evening could have lasted longer, with only an hour-long show some could argue an £18 ticket was a little steep of an asking price, which could explain the older crowd.