Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Christmas! @ Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Edinburgh

Doris, Dolly and the Backstage Christmas! provides an intimate, and often hilarious, tribute to the queens of showbiz

Review by Dominic Corr | 03 Dec 2018
  • Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Christmas!

The guts of glamour are laid before us, draped in sequins (of course). If you’ve ever wanted to see Julie Andrews slap a dressing-room attendant, this is your Christmas show. Doris, Dolly and the Backstage Christmas! gives us a glimpse into these ladies’ lives behind the curtains, where the bottles, pills and push-up bras lie scattered.

Light the lights, strike up the keyboard and fluff those wigs. Great attention to detail has been paid, with small relics of each of our leading ladies on display: the ruby slippers, Doris Day’s notorious pigtails and an Oscar or two as well. Musical arrangements provided live by the marvellous Hilary Brooks bring the timeless melodies back to life, helped by a trio of stupendously eager, talented and passionate leading ladies from 21st Century Edinburgh.

It stays upbeat; tragedies such as those of Judy Garland are mentioned but not exposed and, as it's a festive production, it keeps the story light yet somewhat informative. We want a peek behind the curtain, not to see the stage stripped bare. Joanne McGuinness and Jenny Hulse portray wonderful emotion but split our sides when they need to. Morag Fullarton's script balances the trauma these women suffered, but ensures that it's not their defining feature.

When we return, act two completely upstages its predecessor. No longer do these feel like impressions; these are character transformations through and through. Gail Watson embodies the sailor-mouthed Julie Andrews, and her Dolly Parton is terrifyingly accurate.

A couple of jokes that would feel more at home coming from the likes of a comic like Jim Davidson sneak their way into the script, namely in a sequence about Doris Day’s early years singing in a Chinese restaurant. Think Breakfast at Tiffany’s – minus the teeth. It doesn’t detract though, and garners a huge laugh from the audience. Other than this, humour is rife throughout; clever humour too, in-jokes for the aficionados of old Hollywood in the crowd.

Ultimately the show is an effective tribute to these women of Hollywood, the stars who above all stood strong. Despite the drugs, controlling men, scandal and grief, we remember them for their endless talent. If you want a different Christmas this year, sod Cinderella. Leave the beauty sleeping and spend your evening with the real queens of showbiz.

Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Christmas, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Edinburgh, until December 16, tickets: