Last week I said that Nutcracker at the Albert had provided the perfect ending to my festive entertainment. Not quite because I have since seen Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol (Southbank Centre). Sad to report, much as I love her persona and songs, this put a real dampener on Santa’s sequestration back home to the North Pole. Any reimagining of the Dickens novella makes me twitch and moving it to the Appalachian mountains in the 1930’s had me even feeling sorry for Scrooge (Robert Bathurst) – who appears here in a Christmas jumper – and his high rise predicament. David H Bell’s book is drab and packed full of Tennessee idiomatic vernacular which had my companion – who had gone the full monty dressed like a cowgirl on speed –  in tears of hysterical laughter. After all who wouldn’t giggle on hearing the expression “madder than a mule chewing a bumblebee.”

Thankfully Dolly came up trumps with songs that brought the story to life in her own unique way. It turned the tale of redemption into a musical mix of soft reflective numbers – Appalachian Snowfall – (if you have never heard her album of Love Songs, which includes the massive Whitney cover hit of I Will Always Love You, do it now) and the more off beat country sound of Smoky Mountain Christmas. They are the saving grace throughout as the adapted storyline turns Scrooge (Robert Bathurst) into more of a grump than a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner” as described by Dickens. You could imagine this Ebenezer just about to tuck into a Barbecue Ranch Salad singing Jingle Bells rather than giving yet more grief to the put upon Bob Cratchit. As a result the ghost story becomes far too diluted and amicable apart from the third spirit played by Corey Wickens who is a mean fiddler and an equally mean spook.

On the plus side this is definitely a production made in twenty first century Britain making way for a diverse cast of characters in which Vicki Lee Taylor is superb as singer and multi character playing actor. Indeed the whole company are excellent vocalists and together create a joyful sound accompanied by a bubbly band of very accomplished musicians who play a variety of instruments including the banjo and goudalia (spoons). Not Dickens, definitely Dolly. An adaptation that is a more of a cheeseburger chomp than the celebratory feast provided by Scrooge’s nephew Fred.

And Sotira Kyriakides is willingly dragged onto the pink carpet…

Drag diva Ru Paul strikes again! It was simply fabulous to start the new year with the glorious extravaganza that was Ru Paul’s DragCon. Taking place over three fun-packed days at London’s Excel Centre, the second iteration of this bedazzling celebration brought some of the best drag talent to town for our delectation. Baga Chipz, Chorizo May, Tina Burner and Cheryl Hole were amongst those who paraded their wares, as did so many other creme de la creme queens who have become drag royalty since Ru Paul’s Drag Race hit our TV screens. Blu Hydrangea, Ginny Lemon, Victoria Scone and Charity Kase were also amongst the array of talent who strutted and shimmied their sequins for our delight. It was all simply stunning darling, the highlight being the Queen’s Walk parade on, of course, the pink carpet. Other delights included performances galore, amazing merchandise and meet and greets. It was drag heaven and so much fun.





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