Would the real Shirley Bassey (or Liza, Cher, Barbra, or Dusty) please stand up!? When Trevor Ashley is impersonating them, it’s very hard to tell. The gifted entertainer has been acclaimed worldwide for his almost supernaturally accurate imitations – no mean feat when you consider how many impersonators there are doing the same stock list of personalities.
As part of the Mardi Gras Festival this year, Ashley is reprising his spectacular Shirley Bassey show Diamonds Are For Trevor. It will be only the second time ever he has performed the show (the first being in 2011).
“It’s the least done show of all my shows because it’s so big – we only ever do it in concert,” Ashley explained.
“It is like you’re at a Shirley Bassey concert, so it’s big. I’ve got a 24-piece orchestra, and huge lighting rig… we do about 21 or 22 Bassey songs.”
In between singing Bassey’s greatest hits, Ashley tells the story of her tragic and turbulent life – her irregular childhood, her teenage pregnancy, her daughter’s suicide and the endless racism and sexism she confronted in forging her career. But to stop things becoming maudlin, Ashley accessorises the script with sparkling, bold humour – how bold depends on the vibe he gets from the audience:
“You usually do a couple of off colour [jokes] just to test them out,” he says, winking.
Of course, huge personalities like Bassey come ready-made for parody and Ashley revels in the possibilities:
“With Bassey it was fun because she is such a diva and everybody knows that she’s a complete and utter nightmare, that it’s fun to sort of go ‘well what would she do?’”
Ashley is a consummate talent with an extraordinary voice – requisite for the intensity and range of Bassey’s repertoire. Couple that with breath-taking gowns by Oscar-winning designer Tim Chappel, and Ashley will have the audience enthralled the minute he walks in the joint. (RB)
Mar 2, 8pm. Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall. $69-$129. Tickets & info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
BY RITA BRATOVICH