Boyz Award-winning Duke of Wellington is so much more than ‘just’ a Soho boozer, with DJs, bingo, quizzes and the occasional cabaret sensations. Oliver and his team have now welcomed musical cabaret duo Lady Imelda and pianist C.J. aka Glam Jam to be monthly residents at the venue. You can see them next on Sunday 27 October. Dave Cross had a catch up with the glam pair to find out more.
Hi guys, for those who have never experienced it, how would you describe Glam Jam?
Lady Imelda: Glam Jam is unique – every event is whatever the audience wants it to be, that’s the “Jam” part. C.J. and I do warm-up songs, then the audience participation begins. We do modern songs, opera pieces, to show tunes which are the most popular. The “Glam” part comes from C.J. and myself being the most glamorous drag queens with the best dresses on the scene, we love the audience to glam-up too.
C.J: Organised chaos. Expect to see two glamorous drag queens with West End credits, wearing opulent frocks and belting out popular show tunes, interspersed with bursts of irreverent humour – all to the strains of live piano music. Every show has a guaranteed happy ending.
Lady Imelda can you describe CJ for us?
C.J. is the most incredibly talented musician, musical director and vocalist. Her knowledge of music is unequalled and she can play from memory a vast repertoire of songs. Requests from our audience participants rarely cause her issues, and if they do, she just plays a mash-up of Stephen Sondheim songs so nobody notices!
And C.J. what can you tell us about your partner in crime, the lovely Lady Imelda?
Lady Imelda is a cleaning lady from the Philippines, who came to the UK on a banana raft to seek her fortune and ended up appearing in musicals such as Miss Saigon and The King & I. After a short hiatus as a cockle-picker, she decided to travel the length and breadth of the UK, to bring her own unique touch of oriental magic to the gay population. Recently, she was evicted from her council flat in Hackney, and relocated to the Bristol Twilight Home for the Ethnically Bewildered, where she currently resides. Her hobbies include chopstick carving, noodle sucking, and making DVDs (which she sells at all her shows). She will be 70 next year.
How did you two meet?
Lady Imelda: We met many years ago when I was a gorgeous pub landlady in Bristol and C.J. was a poor, wandering classical musician towing her grand piano from homeless shelter to homeless shelter in Welsh Wales. I took pity on her, took her in and the rest, as they say, is history.
C.J. Actually I was busking at a well-known dogging site just outside Merthyr Tydfil. Lady Imelda just happened to be “passing by”, and stopped to hear me sing. Taking pity on me, she asked if if I’d like to work on a show with her. We’ve been performing together on-and-off ever since.
What kind of songs can we expect at The Duke of Welly?
Lady Imelda: At the Welly we’ll be playing absolutely everything upstairs in their gorgeous Sky Lounge. From classic drag songs to show tunes that have had their lyrics completely and very funnily altered by our singers. This last element is a unique part of Glam Jam. Not only does our audience get to sing songs, they get to write them too. And boy can they change lyrics – very rudely sometimes!
C.J. Our staple repertoire is musical theatre, but between us, we are able to perform songs from a wide musical spectrum, including movies, jazz, gospel, reggae, folk, country, and more. We will always try to fulfil audience requests, so long as they are written on ten pound notes.