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By Gil Bliss (taken from The New Hampshire Weekend)

     Men playing women’s roles on the stage is a tradition that dates back to the early Greeks but that doesn’t begin to explain the art of master illusionist Jim Bailey.

     Bailey doesn’t just portray such stage icons as Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Peggy Lee – for two hours onstage, he becomes them.

     Bailey will perform tonight at The Music Hall in Portsouth, where he will present his one-man Barbra Streisand show in a benefit for AIDS Response Seacoast, which is in its 15th year providing services to residents of Strafford and Rockingham Counties in New Hampshire as well as Southern York County, Maine.

     While men wearing women’s clothing onstage is somewhat of a traditional caricature, Bailey goes way beyond imitation.  He adopts not only the look of his subjects, but the mannerisms, personality and most of all, the voice.

     “I’ve had to educate people over the years and once they’ve seen me perform, they realize it’s not really female impersonation and it certainly isn’t drag, which is slang for female impersonation,” he said. “It’s illusion.”

     During his dazzling career which debuted in 1970, Bailey has performed at Carnegie Hall, The London Palladium as well as for four U.S. Presidents, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana.

     “It’s not like I’m coming on stage and saying, ‘I’m a man, and how do I look dressed as a woman?’” he said.  “I come on stage as a particular human being and convince them that this is the journey I’m taking them on and making them believe that they’re really watching that person.”

     “That’s the illusion of it, and its all part of what I’m doing – the lights, the orchestration, the sound,” he said.  “I go deeper into it.  I go into their soul.  I’ve created my own art form – there’s no one else who does what I do.”

     In addition to Streisand, Bailey includes Madonna, Phyllis Diller, Bette Davis, Mae West and Marilyn Monroe in his repertoire.

     Bailey, who has received the coveted People’s Choice Award, has been named Las Vegas Performer of the Year five times and has appeared on stage, in films and on television.

     Bailey grew up in Philadelphia, received early piano training as well as operatic training for his voice.  “I studied voice and technique but I had no idea I was laying the groundwork for my future.” He said.  “I wanted to do other things.  I wanted to sing.  I didn’t particularly want to go into opera, but that was what I was being trained for.”

Copyright ©2005 Jim Bailey. All rights reserved.