Interview: Ceri Dupree – Frocked up and Fabulous

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Ceri Dupree is not just any female impersonator, he is simply the best in the world!

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Ceri Dupree who makes a welcome return to South Africa hot off London’s West End in a brand new hilarious glitterfest, The Fabulous Ceri Dupree Show.

In Cape Town the show was an immediate sell-out and an extra performance was added on February 14, before Ceri travels to Johannesburg where it will be on from February 16 to 20 at the the Auto & General Theatre On The Square in Sandton.

Ceri is a consummate artist who miraculously transform audiences through his magical artistry and crafty wizardry.

When Ceri frocks up he means serious show biz and provides ultimate entertainment.

His chorus line of super fabulous divas seduce the senses and when you speak to an unfrocked Ceri dressed immaculately in his suit, you constantly look over his shoulder waiting anxiously for one of his dames to make an appearance.

Ceri has been delighting audiences worldwide for more than 30 years and his unique talents have landed him roles in musical theatre, pantomime, summer seasons, TV and cabaret.  He has performed in major venues around the world, including Las Vegas, London, Spain, Greece and the Seychelles.  His passion for theatre has inspired him to write and produce his own shows and most recently he starred alongside his sister, Ria Jones, at the St. James Theatre in London in the runaway smash hit Miss-Leading Ladies, that critics adored unanimously.

In The Fabulous Ceri Dupree Show, Ceri closely resembles and sounds just like the gorgeous Divas he impersonates. Every song is performed live, with no lip-syncing.  From the glamour days of Marlene Dietrich and Doris Day, through the Broadway Divas era, to icons like Cher, Madonna, Adele and Lady GaGa, Dupree takes his audience on a rollercoaster ride that will delight and entertain.

With more than 20 suitcases filled to the brim with gowns, headdresses, feathers, gloves, boas and enough diamantes to dazzle an audience, Dupree is set to display a glorious wardrobe, scarcely seen since the heyday of his mentor and friend, Danny La Rue.

Why do you think female impersonation is such an entertaining art form?

I think it’s the mystery, the illusion, the costumes and wigs of course, and it’s still taboo for a man to dress as a woman…it’s not normal…if it became or becomes the norm, it will then cease to work.

What do you think makes it work so well?

It only works well in the hands of experts…it’s a hard act to pull off…a bad singer is just bad,a bad magician is just bad,but a bad drag act is revolting!

What inspired you to become a female impersonator?

Mrs Thatcher! lol…she was one of the first of my impersonations when I was a kid,I did her when I was aged 14 in a school concert! But I was always dressing up as a kid in anything outrageous…tho I wished I’d never started!! lol

Tell me about your chorus line of gorgeous gals. Who is your favourite?

Oh dear me,well you name her I’ve done her!!….audiences favourites tend to be your Tina Turner, Cher, Amy Whinehouse … and believe it or not Camilla Parker Bowles and The Queen…..Though for me it’s the old stars…Bette Davis,Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich…Sorry folks, all the dead ones!

Who is in charge?

Me…always…I am a director’s nightmare and I’d give Barbara Streisand a run for her money!!

Is there still an ultimate dream you wish to fulfill?  Tell me about this?

There are a few! But the latest is to appear in Las Vegas,and we are working on that…..fingers crossed!

CeriWho is the man behind the women?

A hardworking motivated organised fella….I think!!

What do you do when you are not frocked up?

I relax (ha ha…I try) with friends,try and spend time at home,I’m always around people so it’s nice to sometimes just be on my own!

Is there ever a moment that you think:  “It’s time to quit?’’

A lot of the time as our business is getting tougher and tougher…but I need to pay bills, mortgage, etc…just like everyone else…

You have an incredibly hectic life filled with a busy schedule. Do you have that special someone to share your life with? 

Yes I do,and he has nothing to do with show business whatsoever. His job couldn’t be further removed from mine-maybe that’s why it works.

There seems to be a huge misunderstanding between female impersonation and drag? Your views on this?

Well basically I think female impersonator sounds better than saying drag act that’s all….it’s a gentler word and makes it sound more professional…the word drag act can conjure up images of a two- bit drag act in a backstreet pub in a cheap wig,dress,Minnie Mouse shoes miming badly to ‘I will survive!’ (of which there are many!!)…The word Drag actually comes from Shakespeare: it’s from the skirt dragging along the stage!

The world and attitudes towards sexuality and sexual freedom and expression have changed drastically since you first started in the business?  How different is if for you now?

The only way it has changed is there are maybe a few more people that are a bit more open minded about coming to see a show like mine. there’s more open minds in the world now and it’s not just for the gay or theatrical crowd. My audiences are all across the board…they’ll either enjoy it or they won’t….and 9 times outta 10 they do…you’ll never please everyone all of the time, ever.

What makes you tick?  Motivates you?

Laughter… really is the greatest thing….try and laugh loud and often…it’s cheap medicine!

Do you think the art of drag and female impersonation will ever fade? Why?

I’d like to say no….but what with social network these days and everything’s so ‘out there’ and open! You see pics of performers doing their makeup,without clothes on…half made up,all backstage tricks laid bare,giving away tips and trade secrets, so there’s no illusion …the magic and mystery are gone… then there’s no interest and it’ll fade and die…..why do you think people like the Queen and Joan Collins are still up and running? they only let us see what they want us to see, so we remain hooked!

Any comments you would like to share with your fans in South Africa?

Just that I’m looking forward to coming(understatement!)and to catching up with friends,sharing a Dom pedro or two here and there! Shopping,entertaining people and laughing…a lot!

The Fabulous Ceri Dupree Show runs in Cape Town at the Artscape Arena until 14 February 2016 with tickets costing R150.00 and with bookings via Computicket or 08619158000.  In Johannesburg the show will run at the Auto & General Theatre On The Square in Sandton from 16 to 20 February 2016 and bookings are through    

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