It’s no secret that Trevor Ashley has been inspired by many, many women throughout the course of his working life. His successful I’m Every Woman saw him channel eight divas over the course of one evening and tell the stories of his own personal connection with these giants.
His new show Star Struck, at the massive Star Event Centre, sees him take everything he’s learned from the divas and pour it into a two and a half hour spectacular on a scale he’s never attempted before. In a venue seating well over 1000 guests and with video cameras relaying close ups of Ashley’s performance on huge screens, you get the impression this could be a major show in Ashley’s career.
But it was never a sure thing that Ashley’s performance style, which works perfectly in intimate cabaret spaces and smaller theatres, would translate to a big concert venue. Thankfully, the Divas were clearly watching over Ashley and he was more than ready for the challenge and absolutely comfortable in the new arena.
The brief for Star Struck seems to have been ‘be you, but make it accessible for a wide audience.’ In that regard he’s succeeded. The blueprint for the show is almost exactly that of Bette Midler’s 1997 Diva Las Vegas concert. The show begins with Ashley in concert/cabaret mode, performing as him/herself with a few skits thrown in along the way. He’s well supported by both a 7-piece band led by Elliot Wilshier and his back up singers/dancers the Trevettes – Kirby Burgess and Ryan Gonzalez. They are both bursting with energy and talent and play the comedic foils perfectly. An ongoing gag with Ashley lusting after Gonzalez and being casually abusive to Burgess is hilarious.
The second act is essentially an abridged version of I’m Every Woman, with Ashley channeling Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey and Cher. We get Liza’s audition for the Sunset Boulevard movie, the close three-part harmonies of Bette’s ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and a fiery performance of Tina’s ‘Proud Mary’. There’s a lot here his core audience has seen before, but new material keeps it feeling fresh.
Musically, the show is Ashley’s best. Not only is the band brilliant, the musical choices see Ashley tackle some material with absolutely no irony. A poignant rendition of John Farnham’s ‘Burn For You’ is a highlight, and his spectacular performance of Adele’s Bond anthem ‘Skyfall’, as reimagined by Shirley Bassey, wins him a heartfelt mid-show standing ovation.
With Phil Scott and Gretel Killeen onboard to write the script, the jokes are sharp and win hysterical laughter. Ashley’s material is as bawdy as ever and he’s constantly threatening to step over ‘the line’. Even when he does, like his joke about the recent death of Glee star Cory Monteith, he does so with a warm wink and a smile, and nobody seems too offended for too long.
If The Star (the venue, not Ashley) gets the marketing right for this show, it could be a fantastic regular attraction for the Event Centre. It’s the perfect casino spectacular – both glamorous and irreverent. Whether Ashley can consistently attract the kind of crowd required for the venue is still to be seen, but if Star Struck returns, go see it. It’s Ashley at his hilarious best and could be one of the best nights out you’ll ever have.