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Jim as Judy GarlandJIM BAILEY AS STREISAND - By Tony Patrick (taken from The London Times)

LONDON — Jim Bailey is to female impersonation what Mr. Spock is to alien life-forms: it’s drag. Jim, but not as we know it. Bailey describes himself as a character actor or an illusionist. On this London visit he combines a fine, trained voice, a gift for vocal mimicry and high skill in maquillage to produce Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland (on different evenings). On previous visits he has conjured up Marilyn Monroe, Peggy Lee and Madonna.

     His Garland and Monroe were studied from life. Despite the accuracy of his presentation from the flawless symmetry of the hair to the birdlike precision of the gestures for a moment after he swept on to the stage of the Green Room the doubt persisted. But the voice is the clincher: rich and powerful, with the authentic, no-vibrato-unless-she-wants-it ability to stretch a note and turn a syllable for dramatic effect.

     The illusion is maintained in slow songs (Cry Me A River, The Way We Were), belters (Something’s Coming), soft ones which turn into belters (People), and showstoppers (Secondhand Rose). It is even there, spookily, in the chatter between songs, down to the half-suppressed giggles and self-deprecating asides. Clearly, Bailey becomes his subject for the duration.

     Last Wednesday’s crowd was clearly in his thrall, delighting in the presence of a diva. After all, doesn’t Streisand go to his shows? Did she not commission a private concert from him? Did she not, as he is quoted as saying, incorporate aspects of Bailey’s Streisand into her own act when she returned to performing last year?

     So for devotees, if you can’t get Streisand, who has a real life to lead and tiresomely refuses to spend all her time on the road, Bailey offers a superstar who will never let you down, will happily sing all her hits and remains forever as you remember her.

     Sean Gough provided impeccable keyboard accompaniment as he will this week when Bailey becomes Garland in a performance rated as highly as his Streisand.

Copyright 2005 Jim Bailey. All rights reserved.