It’s Friday evening and I am heading to St James Theatre. Tonight I’m excited because I am watching Miss-Leading ladies; a musical tribute featuring talented siblings Ria Jones and Ceri Dupree. It is a celebration of stage and screen’s most iconic women; from Julie Andrews to Ethel Merman via a little Doris Day and Marlene Dietrich for good measure.
Of course I was expecting pageantry, drag and some real belters from the show. Miss-Leading Ladies did not disappoint, in fact it delivered even more through its sharp scripting, sibling chemistry and a genuinely tender love of the women and the world it celebrates.
As brother and sister acts go, Ria and Ceri have crafted their stage personas brilliantly. There is a good balance of rivalry, comedy and musical harmony. Speaking of which, the pair were complemented perfectly by Edward Court and Sally Peerless, whom together arranged and performed the musical accompaniments. Piano, saxophone, flute; you name it, they played it and more.
Ria Jones is as gifted as she is sassy. Her vocal range was impressive and did a great job of educating the audience as she narrated a lot of the biographical and historical aspects of the show’s starlets.
Ceri Dupree sparkled in an array of costumes; however her real talents lay in the uncanny – and hilarious – impressions of the grande dames. Ceri was a drag tour de force. My favourite was her Mae West routine; funny, raucous and impressively mimicked.
Perhaps my best memory came during Ria’s rendition of “Non, je ne regretted rien”. Here she was on stage as Edith Piaf with just a spotlight on her. As smoke cleared the stage and the music welled, Ria gave a show-stopping performance and I was unexpectedly moved – both emotionally and through time – I could have easily believed I was transported to a Jazz bar decades ago in Paris.
Miss-Leading Ladies was an elegant, educational and entertaining whirlwind through the history of musicals. The show knows how to work its crowd and director Sarah-Louise Young has done a marvellous job of harnessing performer’s energy. Catch its run until 30th August.