One phrase you cannot use to describe female impersonator Randy Roberts is shrinking violet. When he takes the stage, prepare yourself for a 90-minute fireworks extravaganza of song, dance, comedy, drag, and burlesque.
Having made his name and home base in Key West, Randy returns to his hometown of Norfolk once a year and drags (see what I did there?) his high-energy show to the stage at the Hugh Copeland Center for family and friends. Last night’s spectacle was the first of a two-night gig (his second show tonight).
What makes Randy unique among female impersonators is his live singing. Backed by expertly performed instrumentals tracks, he tackled the Divine Miss M and Cher with note-perfect vocals and hysterical exaggerated mannerisms of his idols.
First up was Bette, and Randy tore through her standards with a zest that would make the original diva proud. Particularly delightful was his smoky downtempo version of “Hello, Dolly.”
After a quick change in what he laughingly referred to as is “dressing room” (a tiny screened off area stage right), he reemerged as Cher complete in a stunning interpretation of one of her legendary Bob Mackie gowns and head gear. After a run through of her hits (all delivered flawlessly and in jaw-dropping characterization), he engaged his audience form the stage.
A Randy Roberts Live! Trademark is his ability to bring his diverse audiences together, usually at the expense of one straight male audience member. Last night, it was Larry, a contractor from Virginia Beach.
Poor Larry. By the time Randy was done with him, he had roasted his wife’s wedding ring, cracked a double entendre about his penis, and dragged him up onstage to perform “I Got you Babe” in a Sonny Bono wig—all to the great amusement of the audience and Larry, who was a gracious good sport.
In an interview last year, Randy told me that 90% of his audiences in Key West are mature married couples who attend at the behest of the wives. “Most of the husbands don’t know who I am or what to expect,” he told me. “But by the end of the night, they are all having the time of their lives.”
Last night’s audience was no different (although the ratio was skewed somewhat by a large showing of the local LGBTQ community). By the time he had sung and quipped his way through his 90 minutes, he had the audience eating out of his hand.
He closed the show with a moving rendition of “Music of the Night” in his natural voice and left the stage with a standing ovation.
The man knows how to entertain.