As female impersonator extraordinaire, Ceri Dupree prepares, to dazzle audiences at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this month , we caught up with start who has been delighting international audiences for almost 30 years. From musical theatre and pantomime to summer seasons, television and of course cabaret, Ceri has done it all.
Wolverhampton is excited to have you back after a fabulous pantomime season in 2013 with Sleeping Beauty. Are you looking forward to coming back?
It’s hard to believe that was 18 months ago! The time just goes… Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is what I call a proper theatre. We go to lots of different venues all over the country and some I call theatres, others I call civic venues… council run things in leisure centres, they’re purpose built theatres but for me, you’ll never beat the old theatres like the Grand.
It’s a brand new show you’re bringing to Wolverhampton, EYEcons, tell us more!
Yes, a brand new show that’s a play on words, EYEcons obviously meaning icons… female icons. The last time I came and did my show, just after the last panto season we had a great time but this will be something different. There are a few favourites that people love that I always put in, like Tina Turner but last time I did Camilla Parker Bowles, Shirley Bassey, Björk and Marlene Dietrich – they’re all staying at home this time and the first half of this show will be all old Hollywood. I mean old – we start off with Mae West and then Bette Davis and Shirley Temple, then we bring it a little more up to date like Dolly Parton and Joan Rivers.
Without giving too much away, in the second half there’s a skit on The Sound Of Music – I saw Lady Gaga do it at the Oscars, I thought “hmmm, hang on! How can I get Lady Gaga, Dame Edna and Julie Andrews into the Sound Of Music?” … but I think I’ve done it! I hope I’ve done it anyway…
It’s not just your voice and physical impersonations that impress; it’s your costumes too! You must spend a fortune…
I do. I’ve just done a 4 week run of a show in London with my sister Ria Jones and some of the costumes in that particular show got people’s attention. When they ask how much they cost I know they don’t believe me. If I say a coat costs £1500, a full outfit covered in feathers is ridiculous amounts more!
I’ve always said though, I’m dressing up as some of the most of the most expensive women in the world. I don’t have Shirley Bassey’s wage, I wish I did, but I’m dressing up as her, so to do my best I have to spend a lot. I just like to give my audiences good value for money, whether that’s through the songs, the impersonations, the stand up or the costumes.
Would you wear any of it out at the weekend?
No, they’re too heavy! People always say to me, especially during pantomime, where the costumes are really outrageous – “how do you walk in those shoes? How do you balance that hat on your head?” but the thing is I only have them on for a few minutes. I totter across the stage, do my thing, hopefully get a laugh and take them off as soon as I get into the wings. I pity these girls who wear these heels all night in clubs. I do fifteen costumes changes in my upcoming show!
How do you decide which women you’re going to impersonate?
I try to keep it fresh all the time, so I’m always on the lookout. The sad thing is, I had scheduled to do a bit on Cilla Black this time around. Of course, now she’s died it would be in really bad taste so I’ll leave it a few years and come back to her.
She would have probably loved it though?
She would have! You just can’t do it so soon though. Joan Rivers is back in the show now, I took her out of the show after her death too, even though she was always the first to mock and laugh at herself. I also did the same with Amy Winehouse when she left us, even though she was back for my 2014 show I toned it down a bit – I want to make people laugh, not upset or offend them. I like to think that I send them all up in a celebratory way.
What’s great about your show is that by coming to see it, you can enjoy acts that you can no longer see, or simply couldn’t afford to see…
That’s exactly it. It’s not only nostalgia, because the young audiences come and enjoy the show and they’d never remember someone like Mae West or Marlene Dietrich but they still laugh and that’s great – you don’t necessarily have to know who these people are. If I do Zsa Zsa Gábor people say “did she really have 9 husbands?” and yes she did. She still holds the record in Hollywood to this day for the most marriages, one more than Liz Taylor, so they laugh, and that’s the most important thing. You’ll get your money’s worth!
Ceri Dupree’s EYEcons will be at Wolverhampton Grand on Tuesday 13th October. For more information and to book tickets visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk