“Drama and talent and sex – combined”
Since they were cast together as the divas in the musical of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Portia Emare, Emma Lindars and Charlotte Riby have harnessed their considerable talents to form The IDolls, a musical trio who’ve built up quite a reputation for themselves with their powerhouse vocals. Their repertoire may have been born out of a mutual love for soul music but their set tonight at the Matcham Room in London’s Hippodrome casino went way further to embrace their musical theatre beginnings as well as 70s disco, Motown, self-penned tunes and contemporary pop.
So given their natural strength and the unique selling point of the gorgeous blend that they come up with, the first half of their gig felt slightly unbalanced. After a thrilling opening that featured Sister Act’s sparkling ‘Fabulous Baby’ and an epic soul/Motown medley including a fierce rendition of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, the eclectic mix that followed felt a little too, well eclectic. Giving each of the IDolls a solo spot to showcase their individual voices is an integral part of the evening, but allowing the same for each of the guest performers alongside a duet with them felt a little excessive, the interval arrived with the feeling that the group numbers were just something of a special treat rather than their raison d’être.
Song choices didn’t always help either by not being as adventurous as they might: it’s hard to get excited by a medley of Aretha’s ‘Respect’ and ‘Think’ no matter excellently sung it is, and a clutch of Bond theme songs only really caught fire in its final moments. But when The IDolls are good, they are absolutely fantastic and from the final third of the first act onwards, they tore it up. An incandescent rendition of ‘One Night Only’ started a Dreamgirls section which ended with Sharon D Clarke bringing the house down with a magisterial ‘And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)’, full of rich throaty power and interpretative nous.
It’s their arrangements of the modern pop songs that really impress though. Beyoncé’s ‘End of Time’ gets a stomping martial beat, Christina Aguilera’s stridency is softened in a version of ‘Candyman’ that evokes a wonderfully genuine Andrews Sisters vibe and Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ is simply transformed into a stunning acoustic torch song. The sheer diversity of exceptional talent that emerges is only bolstered by the all-too-clear affection they hold for each, creating such a mutually supportive environment for each to sing their solos – one can’t imagine any of them diva-stropping off for a solo career!
By the time the party atmosphere was well and truly established with a first-rate Supremes medley backed by some fierce high-kicking support from Priscilla’s friends and Rachael Wooding popped along to add some fresh energy to a soaring run through ‘Proud Mary’, it was clear that this was most definitely the IDolls’ house in which we were being allowed to play. Such is the range of their talent and that of their guests, there’s a danger that a show like this can lose a little focus in trying to show too much. But whether in the devastating simplicity of Randy Crawford’s poignant ‘Almaz’ or the anthemic splendour of CeCe Peniston’s joyous ‘Finally’, these stars showed that there was only one place to be on Sunday night to see the real x-factor in action.