Vegas meets the Valley
The voice on the other end of the phone is sweet and a bit childlike, whispering and teasing — consummate Marilyn Monroe — until, suddenly, the gravelly nasal tone of Carol Channing takes over for a moment, only to be quickly replaced in turn by Sharon Osbourne’s excited but clipped British accent.
No, it’s not the world’s most unlikely conference call. The voices all belong to Bonnie Kilroe, a Vancouver-based celebrity impersonator whose stable of characters numbers more than 20 —from Cher to Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Sarah Palin, Reba McEntire, Liza Minnelli, Lady GaGa and Barbra Streisand.
She even has an entire show dedicated to the late, great Patsy Cline.
But it’s her Divas: Vegas Meets Vaudeville one-woman musical comedy act that Kilroe is bringing back to Langley’s Summit Theatre later this month.
She’ll return to Langley on Feb. 23 with a few familiar voices and costumes and bring a few new ones along as well — Dolly is back by popular demand, but it will be the first visit for Osbourne.
And, of course, there is that most famous 1950s sex symbol.
“Marilyn — you’ve got to be able to do that, she’s a staple,” said Kilroe. “I have fun with her, that whispery voice.”
In fact, it’s as Marilyn that Kilroe likes to imitate Channing — the juxtaposition shocks and amuses her audience, she said.
“I like the element of surprise. I like doing comedy.”
Osbourne is a recent addition but one of Kilroe’s favourites.
“I just like to do her. She’s fantastic.”
Once, when she was asked to be a celebrity judge for a singing competition she went as the British TV host and music manager.
“I thought, ‘nobody knows who Bonnie Kilroe is, why don’t I judge as Sharon Osbourne?’”
“I actually look and sound like her; I want to do more of her.”
Kilroe’s work is getting recognition south of the border, too. She won two of the five categories she was nominated in at the Sunburst Celebrity Impersonators and Tribute Artists Convention held last November in Florida, taking home Best Costume and Most Unique Act.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Kilroe doesn’t require hours of study to create a celebrity impersonation that’s instantly recognizable.
“I watch a little bit, not a lot. I kind of just pick up the main nuances,” she said.
All she really needs, she said, is the right music, a trademark outfit and to master one or two of the person’s more prominent and mannerisms — something that stands out.
And, of course great wigs don’t hurt.
While she’s channeling all those famous voices and styles in quick succession, Kilroe’s costume changes need to be equally swift.
So staying in good physical shape is crucial to have the energy to do the show and especially to wear an outfit as daring as her Cher costume — a barely there, black leather number covered in Austrian crystals that sparkle beautifully under the lights.
“It looks amazing on stage,” she said.
“It was made by this amazing woman who makes little girls skating costumes and outfits for contortionists.
Her Dolly costume, meanwhile, was crafted by a Vancouver drag queen. He didn’t quite nail the — ahem — key components of the costume, so Kilroe had them redone, which turned out to be an investment as large as the objects in question.
“It almost cost as much as the whole dress to get the boobs right. There was a lot that went into making those suckers.
“The costumes can be a pain in the ass,” she laughed.
And expensive — which is why Kilroe carries her most irreplaceable items in her carry-on when she travels.
It was a lesson she learned the hard way when an airline lost her luggage and she was forced to perform without them.
The show — a private function — was a hit, she said.
“It goes to show, you’re not just your costumes and wigs.”
She performs at a lot of private functions — corporate get togethers, birthday parties and the like — and has worked as far away as Mexico, Monte Carlo and Japan.
But it’s the public shows in and around her home town that Kilroe gets nervous about, she admitted, although she’s not sure why that is. Perhaps because she often has friends and family in the audience.
Exactly what led her to a career as a celebrity impersonator, Kilroe can’t say for certain, but she suspects it can be traced back to a childhood spent moving from place to place.
“I went to so many different schools — probably 11 — and I’d try to create a new (persona) each time.
“My parents loved change, they loved to move and I grew to love it, too.
“I’d look forward to seeing how I could re-create myself.”
Tickets to Kilroe’s Feb. 23 show are $25 each. Available through ticketweb.ca or at casino guest services. Call 604-530-2211. Cascades Casino is located at 20393 Fraser Hwy. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.