One of York’s most versatile West End performers is set to return to York on Saturday 11 March for the start of a monthly residency. Velma Celli – the singing starlet creation of York-born actor Ian Stroughair – will be hosting a monthly high-class cabaret packed with songs, stories and celebrity impressions at The Basement, beneath City Screen.
“I started my performing career in York, so it is very exciting to have a regular slot to showcase some of my most popular songs, and try out new material to a friendly local audience,” explains Ian. “Every show will be different, so I’m hoping to build the similar kind of loyal following in York as I’ve been fortunate to have in my London residencies at Café de Paris and the Hippodrome Casino, whilst providing an one-off elegant evening extravaganza for visitors to the city, too.”
Indeed, the venue will be laid out in show-lounge format, with the audience encouraged to relax in small groups around tables to enjoy the entertainment. Velma’s – or rather Stroughair’s – singing prowess is such that it is easy to forget that the performance is by a female impersonator, interspersed with conversation, humour and subtle double-entendre.
“This isn’t a bawdy show for hen-parties to screech at – anyone who has had too many Lambrinis will be turned away – but rather a great night with stunning tunes from stage and screen performed with every last bit of sparkle you’d expect from a West End leading lady,” adds Ian.
Indeed, with a repertoire stretching from Shirley Bassey to Beyoncé, and the occasional diva impersonations of Britney Spears and Cher, even those attending all of the Velma Celli shows will not grow bored of the gamut of songs planned across the performances. “I’m hoping that some of the audience will suggest songs that they’d like to hear at the next show, too, to make the show even more dynamic and appealing,” he says.
Each show will also feature a guest artist – Velma has a reputation for performing fantastic duets. For the first show, it will be another local performer, Jessica Steel. Described as ‘big hair and an even bigger voice’, Jessica’s powerhouse vocals and a love of all things 60s will bring her unique take on soul classics brought to the stage.
Velma Celli was created seven years ago, initially as a fun way for Ian to perform some of the strong female-lead songs that he loved from shows he’d performed in, and was such a hit that Ian was invited to showcase his female impersonation skills in a number of shows and events. He’s since gone on to create musical extravaganzas specifically for the Velma character, including a show called ‘Iconic’ in which Velma belts out a host of songs with links to drag culture across film, stage and popular culture.
Despite Velma success – she’s appeared in Eastenders and a Macdonalds advertising campaign – she isn’t the only string to Ian’s bow. He’s a regular on the panto circuit, just having completed a run as Dandini alongside Jonny Wilkes in Stoke-on-Trent, and has performed in Cats, Rent and Chicago. He also regularly teaches dance classes at the world-renowned Pineapple Studios in London.
Tickets for The Velma Celli Show at The Basement are £15, available online at www.thebasementyork.co.uk. For updates on more performances, follow @ianstroughair1 or @velmacelli on Twitter.