Any fan of Shirley Bassey will be delighted with this portrait of her character and the accuracy and power of Ashley’s vocals.
Backed by a fourteen-piece orchestra, Trevor Ashley - as the irrepressible Shirley Bassey - performs nineteen of her hits from a career spanning over 50 years.
A two-act concert, each act lasting around one hour, the performance is tightly packed with entertainment. Ashley only occasionally interrupts this vocally demanding performance to engage in repartee about Bassey’s colourful life. Ashley’s timing and delivery are spot-on, and his showmanship, complete with over-the-top enunciation and hand-flourishes, is both hilarious and inspired, dramatically enhanced by heavily applied lip-liner and a tightly trussed spangled torso. Dressed by award-winning costume designer, Tim Chappel (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) Ashley commands the stage with extravagant sparkling dresses and boas, his costume changes eliciting gasps of delight.
The orchestra provides solid support to Ashley, relying heavily on an accomplished brass section. Bassey’s songs are renowned for their high impact and trumpet and horn accents, but at some moments, (the start of ‘Goldfinger’, for example) the brass lacks attack. Geoffrey Castles, pianist and conductor, proves himself both a fine musician and a good sport as he acts as both Bassey’s whipping-boy and support.
Known for her difficult personality, Bassey is portrayed by Trevor as a champagne-swilling, demanding but captivating performer. Although the majority of the show is tongue-in-cheek, Ashley also devotes time to the darker side of Bassey’s life, performing a potentially difficult transition from his largely comedic antics to more poignant material. He manages to carry it off with aplomb despite initial nervous titters from a couple of audience members. The inclusion of this material elevates the show from a high-end drag show to a more complex portrait of Bassey, ultimately a satisfying experience for the audience. The song choice is well-matched to the subject matter.
Ashley’s voice is ideally suited to Bassey’s smoky tones and he has the vocal strength to deliver the iconic climactic notes of these songs with authority. At no point does the audience feel he isn’t up to the task, even though he appeared to be struggling with a sore throat on opening night, and may not have been at full potential.
Any fan of Dame Shirley Bassey will be delighted with this cheeky-but-human portrait of her character and the accuracy and power of Ashley’s vocals. His spectacular outfits and on-stage chandelier no doubt enhance the drama and aesthetic of the performance enormously. They are the icing on the Bassey cake, adding texture, colour and bling to the already formidable stage presence of Trevor Ashley. A fine and fun night out.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Diamonds are for Trevor
Writers: Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott
Director (original season): Craig Ilot
Musical Director: Geoffrey Castles
Lighting Design: Scott Allan
Costume designer: Tim Chappel
The Arts Centre, Melbourne
28 January – 1 February