We’ve seen Trevor Ashley tearing up the stage as Liza Minelli in his internationally acclaimed cabaret shows Liza (on an E) and Liza’s Back! (is Broken) and as Shirley Bassey in the equally brilliant Diamonds are for Trevor. So news that his latest cabaret show would be called Barbra and Me instantly summoned up images of him frocked-up and ready to lend his trademark wit and vocal prowess to an irreverent impersonation of La Streisand.
Trevor Ashley. Photograph supplied
In fact, when Ashley makes his grand entrance down one of the aisles at the Ensemble Theatre he is not in drag but dressed in an eye-catching pink jacket with digital prints of Streisand all over it and sparkling red trim. Teamed with black trousers, glittery red bowtie and flashy black slip-on shoes with white, red and gold buckles, it’s quite a look – as you’d expect.
This is, he says, “Trevor untucked” in a show about “the magic, the music and the mem’ries” of Streisand. After launching into I’m the Greatest Star from Funny Girl (intercut with a burst of Broadway Baby), Ashley starts by telling us when and where Streisand was born. But just when you think he’s going down the traditional bio-cabaret route Ashley whips the rug from under our feet by veering left and telling us where and when he was born and why he and Babs have so much in common.
From there it’s a wonderfully free-wheeling ride through a series of entertaining anecdotes, with plenty of colourful, hilarious asides. A fan of Streisand’s since he saw Funny Girl on television as a child, Ashley ends up in a New York bar with Streisand’s sister Roslyn Kind, coerced into singing a Minelli song for her.
Superbly accompanied by the fabulous Bev Kennedy on electric keyboard, Ashley sings numbers ranging from A Kid Again/I’m Five, Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?) and the speedy, tongue-twisting Minute Waltz to iconic songs like Memory, People, Don’t Rain of My Parade, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and Happy Days Are Here Again, with Kennedy displaying some comedy chops of her own when she pitches in for some duets.
Ashley can belt a song out of the park, even when his voice is clearly a little tired, but he can also pull things right back to caress a song with raspy emotion. Best of all, he’s a born entertainer and complete showman, with the cheekiest beaming smile, a quick wit, and an infectiously dirty laugh. Although he’s sensational in drag, it’s lovely to spend a night in cabaret mode with the irrepressible “untucked” man himself.
Barbra and Me plays at the Ensemble Theatre on September 24 and October 8 & 15.