The Supreme Fabulettes are an all-singing all-dancing cross-dressing pop of fun. They manage to strut around the small but perfectly formed stage of the famous Madame JoJo’s as confidently as if they had been to the Kylie school of shimmying, which in effect they have been. The Fabulettes, you see, are the equivalent of Girls Aloud- manufactured by pros who have already perfected the art of creating camp fun through their work with the likes of Boy George and la Minogue.
To enter the world of Madame JoJo’s is a treat. It is glistening and gleaming with faded glitter, promising the prospect of Hollywood razzmatazz with the equally delightful seedy edge all good clubs - especially those offering drag acts - should combine. Before the act started, La Cage aux Folles (with all its bitchy humour and heart-rending pathos) seemed on the verge of being recreated. Cabaret has largely become a lost art and its recent revival is a happy addition to the usual mix of theatre, gigs and comedy on the West End.
The Fabulettes comprise Miss Vicki Vivacious, Miss Mary Mac and Miss Vanilla Lush and although the press release bills them as the ‘next big thing in sophisticated entertainment’ this is (as you will have guessed) heavily tongue in cheek - sophisticated they definitely are not. Their costumes, heavy make-up and onstage wig adjustments are all what you would expect of a visit to the subterranean world of Liberace’s wildest dreams. Which, of course, is exactly what it should be. On the other hand, their singing is pretty pitch-perfect and provides the foundation on which all the posturing can take place, adding something solid to the light fripperies of costume changes and fluttering dance moves. The harmonies are fun and Diana Ross and Adele (amongst others) are referenced well, providing a good combination of recognisable sing-along opportunities with some entertaining twists on famous songs.
The threesome are professional, good singers, expert eye-lash flutterers and generally all-round good gals. The team behind them, including John Themis working his magic on some musical mash-ups and Stevie Stewart’s costumes, are consummate in their professional approach - and yet something still seems to be missing. Perhaps the act is too professional to be truly fun. There is no twinkle in the eye, either from the Fabulettes themselves or from the costumes and music. It is too knowing, too anodyne to really get the pulse going.
The group are new and just finding their feet, so this may grow in time but more work needs to go into freeing the performers up to interact with each other and the audience more. We need some banter, some humour and a little more personality to get us going. With three members of the group, there is a lot of opportunity for their relationships to come to the fore; we should be able to see affection, competition and a sense of faded glory and high aspirations oozing from the stage, but we are left only with the music, the very expertise of which leaves us strangely cold.
Perhaps they are just too good to be really good - which is a strange catch-22, but makes sense in the context of cabaret. If cabaret is the art of combining singing and dancing with surreal settings, razor sharp tongues and a frisson of danger that should leave you feeling you have been taken into another world, the Fabulettes can afford to concentrate less on their key-changes and more on getting it wrong. Whoever heard of a drag queen being more interested in how she sounds than how she looks?
What Hugo Weaving brought to the excellent film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was the sense of the human being behind the act, and what he realised was that this itself was the very essence of the act’s success. The art of drag is a performance, not of the music but of the person making it and, despite the elaborate names and shining costumes, the Supreme Fabulettes aren’t yet at the top of their game. They should go down the road to Molly Moggs and remember what it is they’re doing. And so should anyone who wants to have a heart-racing, tear-jerking encounter with some serious cabaret and some serious audience members, whose hearts, beer breath and sweat infused t-shirts are all part of the act and can’t be bypassed in favour of a clever ‘creative team’ and some perfected dance moves. Wait a few months and go back again and hopefully the girls will have loosened up a bit.