Keeping the music playing with her grand operatic pop style voice Welsh born singer Dame Shirley Bassey DBE recorded the great hit song from the Tony Award Winning Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles (1983-1987) I am what I am in 1984 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.
She sang it again in January this year when she turned 80, presenting ‘a chill inducing rendition’ proving age is only but a state of mind. She also ensured it will be a song long remembered for celebrating what is extraordinary about each and every one of us at the core of our humanity.
I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation
The continual standing ovations were extraordinary when I attended the smash hit concert Diamonds are for Trevor: 80th Birthday Edition, a brilliant tribute to Dame Shirley Bassey in her significant eight decades birthday year by Australian performer and international Queen of Cabaret Trevor Ashley.
This gala evening concert on Thursday 18th May playing for the first time the 2,661 seater Hamer Hall in Melbourne, had also been held in the similarly sized Opera House Concert Hall in Sydney in March, where it was recorded by Foxtel Arts to be shown over the Queen’s Birthday weekend in Australia.
My friend and companion brought me along to a show I hadn’t known was coming to Melbourne. Absolutely loved that Actor, Writer, Director, International Queen of Cabaret Helpmann Award nominee Trevor Ashley is working hard to ‘keep the glamour going’ – Dame Edna eat your heart out.
Fabulous feather boas, razzle dazzle beading and feigning drama absolutely fabulously with renowned frequent tantrums of the Diva style, having a fabulous time was what this show was all about.
Australian born composer musician John Foreman OAM led the stunning twenty-piece orchestra, which supported Trevor Ashley so well.
Much like the rest of us, I am sure that as musicians, they would have been totally in awe at the extent of the talent before them.
What a Voice! Such is the breadth and depth of his talent Trevor Ashley would have all the judges in the TV program The Voice fighting over him within a few seconds.
Having seen Shirley Bassey back in the day when she came to Australia to perform, I would have to say I was completely bowled over… loving every minute of this two-hour art of entertainment tour de force of fabulousness featuring songs such as Never, Never, Never, This is My Life, Get The Party Started, History Repeating and more.
To say Dame Shirley aka Trevor Ashley is a powerhouse of performance style doesn’t begin to describe how well this talented man can sing in the key of B, for Bassey, allowing me to shut my eyes and imagine she was there.
Well known on the Cabaret circuit having created and played the drag queen Miss Understanding, who performed “What’s Love Got To Do With It’ in Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical, Trevor Ashley made my pulse pound in time to the music as he belted out hit after hit song, in a performance deserving of ongoing accolades.
Dedicating The Lady is a Tramp to her mother went down a treat as Dame Shirley reminded us every time she sang a song made famous by someone else, she ‘did it better’. And she did.
She certainly made no mistakes when singing in the style of ‘Adele’ and the audience loved it when she stopped the band playing the third encore for her singing ‘Big Spender’, because she hated ‘overkill’.
Ongoing standing ovations must have been beautiful music to the ‘Dame’s ears and it kept her coming back for more and more until finally removing the wig and the make up, it was time for the final curtain.
And so what if I love each feather and each spangle
Why not try and see things from a different angle
Your life is a sham till you can say
Hey world I am what I am
I am what I am
Clever, creative, with classic hits and dazzling costumes by Academy award winning costume designer Tim Chappel, Trevor Ashley told his tale of Shirley Bassey in awesome style, tottering about on sensational stiletto’s with the side split on her fabulous frocks showing off shapely legs. The concentration on clever lighting highlighting the outstanding performance of one very talented man was spot on.
One fantastic moment happened, thanks to Velcro, when the grand Dame was able to rip off her top dress and reveal her glittering gold dress underneath, so that she was ready to perform her simply outstanding version of Goldfinger.
The music from the films about the British Secret Agent James Bond featured large during the first half, with our Dame Shirley singing many Bond movie hits, including the smash hit Diamonds are Forever, perfectly re-fashioned for Trevor.
The most poignant moment for us was when Dame Shirley sang Something, the song by George Harrison for the Beatles from their album Abbey Road, which so many great artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Shirley Bassey have covered.
It took a long time before our Dame Shirley was able to leave the stage with more, more and yet more – words resonating like beautiful music in her ears. Trevor Ashley certainly proved ‘Life’s not worth a damn till you can say. Hey world I am what I am’.
5/5 Golden Glittering Glamour filled stars.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
DIAMONDS ARE FOR TREVOR
Written by: Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott
Produced by: Craig McMahon
Musical Director: John Foreman
Lighting Design: Matthew Marshall
Costume Design: Tim Chappel