Rachel Parris: Live In Vegas | Review by Steve Bennett
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Rachel Parris: Live In Vegas

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Steve Bennett

Live In Vegas is a classy showcase of Rachel Parris’s considerable talents as a singer, character comedian and improviser, which amuses and impresses but doesn’t quite translate into gales of laughter.

It’s based around the concept of a showcase night at a Sin City hotel (with the ill-ventilated Pleasance Attic very effectively capturing the atmosphere of stifling desert heat) allowing Parris to unveil three very convincing musical comedy creations.

First we meet Crispin Prentice, an archetypal English posh-boy trying his hand at being a streetwise musical artist. It’s partially a comment on how the privileged have taken music from the working class, but mainly an excuse to mock the laddish ‘Archbishop of Banterbury’ culture of the well-to-do offspring, as well as juxtapose a pampered little boy with a supposedly urban genre. Parris has written some wry lines into this, but the character – or at least ones superficially similar – already feels familiar; while a story about Ellie Goulding takes a lot of commitment for not much reward.

Country & Western princess Gracie-Lou Steinberg has more to offer, with songs that have an authenticity, while revealing her backstory about coming out as gay amid the bigotry of a small-town backwater. The tracks tend to continually reinforce the main joke without advancing it much – a common criticism of musical comedy – but then Parris will take a sudden turn for a gratifying payoff, and includes some amusing lyrics as she warms to her theme.

After another costume change, covered by some spoof ads that call to mind some of the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto, Parris emerges in her spangly finest as ‘global superstar and musical icon’ Felice.

In this, she has created a multi-layered monster, all vainglorious ego, vacuous philosophy and impeccable hair. While her most outrageous behaviour is hilariously exaggerated, it’s not such a great a leap of imagination from the diktats of the most demanding real-life divas. The almost messianic self-belief, contrasted with the trite cliche of supposedly empowering songs, is ripe for parody, and Parris does so with the rapier precision of someone who knows the genre inside-out. That offers a depth behind the sequins that the previous two ‘guests’ didn’t quite achieve.

This set reaches a peak with the sharply written Don’t Take My Advice, complete with in-built logical paradox, while Felice is also the outlet for Parris’s formidable improvisational skills, ad-libbing a surreal Burt Bacharach number based on an audience-suggested title.

It’s another example of Parris’s expert versatility, but for all that only one of tonight’s line-up is a real star creation. But Felice was already well aware of that fact.

Review date: 6 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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