Concert Hall, March 2
It said “Trevor Ashley” on the ticket. If the Opera House did this sort of thing it would have echoed this in three-metre-high pink neon letters out the front, too. But she certainly sounded like Shirley Bassey – sorry, Dame Shirley Bassey – as she stopped the band from launching into Big Spender. For a third time. “I hate overkill,” she said.
Yes, this Shirley was more, er, voluptuous and (dare I say it?) younger than one might have expected. But who else does faux drama like Dame Shirley? Who else uses consonants like scissors to snip vowels in danger of unnecessary elongation? Who else mingles unintelligible mumbling with diction of exaggerated precision?
Alex Baldwin and his Trump impression apart, considerable affection is vital to such a complete impersonation: one that was simultaneously utterly convincing and completely absurd; as hilarious as it was vocally potent. So complete was it that Shirley’s mouth was working as hard on shaping those vowels as someone trying to eat a whole watermelon with the skin still on.
She returned for Act Two wearing a boa longer than the glittering career that was unimaginable to the girl who grew up in Splott, Wales. Four mirror-balls and two chandeliers had already provided a hint that this was going to be no low-key evening, and the expert 24-piece orchestra under the command of pianist John Foreman was another clue.
She dedicated The Lady Is a Tramp to her mother, and introduced Something by telling us, “This next song was originally done by the Beatles. But I do it better.” She even trotted out a highly amused Jimmy Barnes for a blasting duet on Working Class Man.
Certainly when she removed her wig for the final number she looked awfully like Ashley. And were that the case he may have had some help from Phil Scott in creating the show, although that could just be hearsay. But I swear you’d have heard her singing As Long As He Needs Me clean across the harbour.