‘The Girl from Tiger Bay’ is the acknowledged as the world number one celebration of Dame Shirley Bassey, is coming to The Deco, for one night only, on Friday, February 7th. Telling the unique story of Dame Shirley Bassey’s incredible rise to stardom, and her magical career spanning 65 years, international tribute artist/vocal impersonator Joanne Copeman, who performs as ‘Surely Bassey’, has been performing globally as Dame Shirley since 2002.
“Surely this Bassey show is the best tribute to the Welsh singer!” – The Sun.
Here, Joanne talks to us about her love of Dame Shirley, and how she came to be an in-demand, world acclaimed tribute artist to her…
First experience of Dame Shirley?
I remember watching her on TV when I was a kid and being fascinated. I was probably only around 16 years old. That was 29 years ago and I’m still fascinated now.
What is it about her that captivates you so?
There are many things but the main things are, the drama & theatre she puts into every performance. She is mesmerising. Then there is the huge, powerful vocal, she has an incredible voice. Finally, I don’t think there is anyone on earth, more glamorous.
Favourite Shirley song?
I love watching her perform ‘What now my love’ I have many favourites. She manages to put tragedy into her performance, it is almost like opera. It’s so hard to choose just one. I also think ‘This is my life’ is amazing. To watch her perform this song is an emotional experience.
Have you met her?
No, unfortunately not. I came close, when I was performing at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel, in Monte Carlo, which was within view of her apartment, sadly she was on her way that very day, to the UK, to film the Dame Edna experience. Her P.A. told me it was a shame as she may have been able to arrange something. Our paths have yet to cross but there is hopefully still time!
How many times have you seen her live?
I have seen her live twice. Once at the NEC Birmingham and the last time was in 2009 at the Roundhouse. The Roundhouse was an intimate performance to promote her album ‘The Performance’. I had the privilege of being right at the front and remember looking at her feet and shoes. I wish I’d seen her live on more occasions. I do have an impressive collection of her concerts on DVD though.
Tell us how you came about performing in her honour?
It was 2002 when I became aware of the tribute market, and there was no-one else I would have wanted to portray and pay tribute to.
She’s so distinctive, it must have taken a lot of work to perfect your tribute to her!
She certainly is distinctive, which in some ways is a good thing regarding an impersonation, as you have such a lot of distinctive ‘isms’ to put in. By the same token, she is incredibly difficult because she is so unique and utterly brilliant. It is a never-ending work in progress, to portray Dame Shirley, and I can never get complacent with it. Huge attention has to be given to the stage wardrobe. To make the necessary impact, and to create the wow factor, one has to put the effort in. Dame Shirley’s stage wear is iconic, and it’s expected by her fans.
Where have you performed as Shirley, other than the UK?
All over Europe, the Middle East and America. I have performed on glitzy yachts in the Bay of Naples, at celebrity weddings in Cannes, for the cast and crew of the James Bond film Casino Royale in Prague; there have been so many fabulous events.
My most rewarding audience feedback, is always from the avid and devoted Shirley fans, who attend our theatre shows. When we do meet and greet afterwards and they tell me how much they enjoyed our show, where and when they have seen her live, and what she wore etc, that is so rewarding.
Have you ever had any feedback from her or her associates?
Yes, I was lucky enough to perform at a charity event for Barnardo’s, endorsed by Dame Shirley herself, which included the auction of her gowns at Cafe de Paris, in London’s Piccadilly. I had the honour of performing a live set as Dame Shirley, whilst wearing one of Dame Shirley’s original gowns, which was then auctioned off by Christopher Biggins. Dame Shirley was in Monte Carlo and unable to attend, but she had sent her P.A. Jenny Kern, who came back stage to see me after my performance and said I had done a fantastic job.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Do you / have you done any other tribute shows?
Performing is in my DNA, and I realised quite early that 9-5 was not for me and I wanted to sing. My Father was performing on the club circuit and had all the necessary experience to pass on to me. I started to learn my trade for a number of years on the club circuit with him initially, and then by myself. If you put your heart and soul into portraying Dame Shirley, she is more than enough for anyone!
Did someone say you’re a published author?
Yes, I have indeed written a book. It is such a crazy way to earn a living, that it inspired me to write a very comical memoir, which is called ‘Bling, Boas and Balls’, available on Amazon, in either hard back, or eBook format. As it says on the back of the book, ‘it is a laugh out loud account, of the trials and tribulations of a tribute act’
For tickets for ‘The Girl from Tiger Bay’: https://www.theoldsavoy.co.uk/event/the-girl-from-tiger-bay/, call 01604 491005, or pop to The Deco in Abington Square, Northampton between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday.