Varla Jean Merman...
On Wednesday night Roger, Kevin and I went to see Varla Jean Merman perform I've Got The Music In Me at the Soho Theatre in London's glitzy West End.
Varla Jean Merman (the alter-ego of a certain Jeffery Roberson) is a 'multi-media cabaret act' - for that read 'drag queen with a projector' - who belts them out like Shirley Bassey (and boy can she sing) and yet has the occasional comic brilliance of say Dame Edna. I say 'occasional' because great fun though the evening was it didn't quite fulfill the potential or consistency that I had hoped or indeed had been promised - Varla having been compared to both Kiki & Herb and to Tina C (the former are more demented, the latter is funnier). But having said all that it was a fun act to watch - especially when early on she picks out the "homo-sex-you-alls" in the front row by asking them what music they listened to.
Repeatedly bursting onto the stage with an all-singing, all-dancing shamelessly upbeat show tunes is a bit of a winner in my book even if some of the songs were maybe a little obvious such as Sing Your Own Kind Of Music. But doing an operatic cover of Dead Or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) was high point for me though and nothing short of inspired.
Varla is indeed a very funny comic creation to see live but perhaps she worked best when she was performing on film (she's won awards dontchaknow!). The films peppered the show and were all very, very funny: highlights being teenage birth at a Prom Night and being rogered by a lobster in Province Town. And if you perhaps detect a strong American flavour to some of that then you'd be quite right. Let's just say that some of the Yankie humour perhaps didn't travel quite as well as the rest of it. And by the same token seemingly casual references in the stand-up sections to Matthew Kelly and Charlotte Church jarred somewhat too. But that said a gay gag is a gay gag, right? We all get the references to drug taking and sex in the park, right? To her credit though there was film set in London - 'putting the liver back into delivery' which was very funny, if a bit cheesy.
And talking of cheesy things, quite how she managed to sing Dream A Little Dream Of Cheese and at the same time squirt liquid cheese from a can down her throat was mind-boggling. And a bit yucky too.
As the show drew to a close (after a disappointingly short 60 minutes) I was left wanting slightly more. A longer show it's true but also a slightly more polished running order. There were many, many great things in the show but it lost momentum with the occasional unfunny song or rather lame gag. Something a producer could perhaps correct quite easily.
On the way out I bought her CD The Very Worst Of Varla Jean Merman. It's good - but again not as good as either K&H or Tina C's CDs.
Varla's web site is a blast though. Especially the guess her weight game.