A powerful night of entertainment and showstopping celebration of an art form born from revolution, Velma Celli’s Iconic: A Brief History of Drag at Assembly Checkpoint lives up to its name.
A vision in a tasselled dress and dramatic sparkling eye makeup, drag queen Velma Celli enters the venue at Assembly Checkpoint to Sugar Daddy from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell’s cult classic. As the lights land on her and the electric guitar kicks in with the opening riff, it’s clear that we are in for a treat.
In this perfect combination of cabaret and rock concert, Celli weaves her own story into a mix of musical theatre, pop hits and rock classics. Not only does she have one of the best voices at the Fringe, she also commands the stage like only a true professional cabaret artist can. The audience instantly knows they’re in safe hands, and sit back for a masterclass.
A former West End performer, Celli (Ian Stroughair) is highly influenced by the queer icons of musical theatre – but doesn’t forsake the pop lovers in her audience either. In a montage of chart hits, she expertly impersonates the icons frequently favoured by lip-syncing drag queens. Vocal-fry-heavy Britney and autotuned Cher get a lot of laughs but it’s the eerily accurate interpretation of Shakira which drives the audience wild.
Iconic: A Brief History of Drag is not only a showstopping night of entertainment though – it’s a celebration of an art form born from revolution. Celli demonstrates drag at its most glamorous and polished whilst reminding her audience that it would not be possible without the queer performers who went before her. She sings a heartfelt tribute to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and tells the moving story of The Stonewall Riots and the drag queen who history reports started it all.
Ian Stroughair is a born entertainer as Velma and, backed by a skilful band and talented backing singers, delivers an unmissable performance for drag fans and musical theatre nerds alike. Not to be missed.