The Lyric Theatre was at full capacity for Queen of the Moment, Trevor Ashley, the Australian Drag Diva with a plethora of accolades, awards and an outstanding career in Musical Theatre, including Les Mis,  Priscilla, Hairspray and Joseph, to name just a few.

Ashley is engaging, relaxed and friendly, offering each person who had pre-booked the meet and greet with a smile, a chat and invested energy. And then, just like the purple sweet in this box of Quality Street, the show started with him in a purple sequinned number, in front of his eight-piece band, bathed in purple lighting. Yes, sir, it was definitely time to Get The Party Started, although in this version it's on a Monday night!

In between songs was dialogue, telling us his back story, the lack of initial success at auditions. Then came Priscilla - he auditioned in drag and a role was created for him; his fling with Tom Daley, but Tom Daly hadn't had a fling with him and then onto the next song What's Love Got To Do With It, a fine impersonation of Ms Turner, the power in his voice, the facial expressions, the jerky dance movements - all entertaining and very much in keeping with the theme of the night.

Amongst the laughter, the tone takes a more serious turn, as he tells of his mum's death during the casting of a show and in a touching tribute he retells Bette Midler's Wing Beneath My Wings, explaining that he sang this on the show; a seed beneath the snow, nourished by the sun and blooming into a rose - there wasn't a dry eye in the house and it highlighted Ashley's ability to keep the audience in the palm of his hand along with the fine setting and lighting of the stage, matching the light and darkness of the tone, but then like a fizzy drink exploded, turning the stage into all colours of the rainbow with pizazz galore!

A bit of high joie de vivre lifts the sombre mood in the form of Hey Big Spender, which he sang twice, attempted a third before standing down the band and all of the sounds of the instruments, which were played out of sync which ground to a halt to hoots of laughter from the audience. 'I hate being over the top' he added!  

There are some more songs in the form of Eartha Kitt and Tina Turner before we are treated to a Liza Minnelli impersonation and a song that appeals to the large Australian fanbase in the audience (they travelled a long way hehe).  The finale was Maybe This Time by Liza, with an encore of I Am What I Am. The audience were up and down as they gave standing ovation and then sat down, before repeating, only to repeat again or the second encore. I had put my notebook away by then, so if you want to know the ending, then I suggest you better book to see this funny, tear-inducing brilliant performance.

Ashley can sing, no doubt, tell a tale and hold the audience right where he wants them but his secret - the likeability factor. That is worth its weight in gold, and just like the 110kg of luggage that Ashley rolled into London Heathrow with - he has bags plenty.


Review: Kay Johal