It takes a star to play a star and no-one need worry about Rosemary Ashe’s portrayal of musical comedy legend Dora Bryan.
She is pitch perfect in her singing and characterisation – you close your eyes, you hear Dora. But this is no sanitised tribute show. Adorable Dora, written by West end star Rosemary in lockdown, gives us the highs and lows of Dora’s career and her life in Brighton.
I hadn’t realised how great a career she had, winning a BAFTA for her film role in the ground-breaking A Taste Of Honey, and an Olivier for her stage role in Pinter’s Birthday Party. Along the way she made many starry West End appearances, including the lead in Hello Dolly and Gypsy.
On the flip side , there were miscarriages, a daughter who died of alcoholism , periods where pills and booze sank her into depression , bankruptcy and the closure of her Clarges Brighton hotel, and even serious car crashes. Rosemary doesn’t cover any of it up. But it’s balanced with sharp asides, witty self-deprecating anecdotes and glorious songs – even a seasonal All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle – voted Best Bad Record of 1963.
Accompanied energetically and sympathetically on keyboard by Paul Knight, the whole show is gripping and the songs are woven cleverly into the narrative and all put across with energy , fun and power. There are revue/cabaret little treats and belters like When The Parade Passes By, I’m Still Here, and of course Hello Dolly.
A critic, we’re told, described Dora’s voice as “like grinding diamonds in a domestic blender, and unkind and unfair as that was, we hear what a devastating effect criticism had on Dora’s confidence and general well-being.
But you come out of this show happy to have met Dora and admiring Rosemary who is born for the role. Adorable Dora, and Adorable Ashe too.
The show was part of the final days of Brighton Fringe at the Warren’s Oil Shed. Check for Rosemary’s future shows at rosemaryashe.com