Randy Roberts is bringing Cher and Bette Midler to London
Randy Roberts is bringing all of our favourite divas to the stage with a show at Crazy Coqs in London.
I caught up with Randy Roberts for a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
With a career spanning over 20 years, what motivates you to keep going, to keep performing?
I have a mortgage to pay! In all seriousness, I love being on stage. I’ve never gone to therapy. I use the stage, to get out all my stress – or at least as much as I can. There’s nothing like the release, when you belt out a big note.
I also love the interaction with the audience. It’s like a game of tennis. I throw something out to the crowd – a joke, a
song, a look. Their reaction helps steer the direction I go. It’s different every night. Keeps me on my toes.
A number of the divas that you bring to life are people that we’ve been familiar with for a number of decades. What’s your process for creating new characters?
I started out in theatre repertory in high school. I look at each character as an acting exercise. Not that I’m some ‘method’ actor. I’m a man in a dress creating the illusion of someone else. I always let myself come through as well. I have to connect with the person as well.
There has to be something I love about them. They also have to some recognisable characteristics. Something the
audiences recognises. Cher’s tongue, Bette’s walk – I’ve tried some characters that just didn’t work for me. You have to know, when you’re wrong.
In many ways, this style of celebrity impersonation is old-school cabaret. Do these characters connect with younger audiences, or is it a bit of a generational thing?
I think drag, in general, is old school. It’s been around for centuries. Celebrity impersonation may have been really big in the 80s, 90s, and 2000’s, but it’s always popular. Even today, you have Derrick Barry and his Britney Spears, Chad Michaels and his Cher, Larry Edwards and his Tina Turner. If the act is good, it’s multi-generational. Bad drag will never last – good drag is forever!
What’s your process for getting into character. For example, if you take someone like Cher – where do you start?*
Cher was something unique. I grew up watching her on TV. She was already in my mind. The hardest part was finding the voice – or my version of her voice. I’m not an exact copy of anyone. I create an illusion and pay tribute to the artists.
For others, I look for a characteristic that I have in common. I might see a photo of them that looks like me in drag – or at least resembles me. Then I work on the make up, then voice. When those are looking and sounding good, I work on which characteristics and mannerisms are most recognisable.
It can take a good year. Sometimes, they come together really quickly. I used to impersonate Joan Rivers. She came
together in a matter of weeks. She reminded me of some of the women that my mother played mah jong with, when I was a child.
What do you hope that people feel when they’re watching you perform?
I want the audience to escape their woes and stress for 80 minutes. I want them to laugh, laugh, laugh, and enjoy the music and costumes. A fellow performer once described my show as a very big show in a very small space. I hope they come prepared a big ol’ show in an intimate, gorgeous space!