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REVIEW: Bill Bailey Proud Cabaret All Stars

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

Proud Embankment is fast becoming one of my favourite venues for cabarets and date nights.

Embankment is part of Proud’s portfolio of three world class cabaret venues that includes City (located near Leadenhall Market, in the heart of London’s east London banking district) and Brighton.

Owned and established by gallery, club owner and British entrepreneur, Alex Proud. The venue lives up to Alex’s taste for finery.

It’s striking red carpet entrance, nestled under Waterloo Bridge, is indication of the first class treatment you can expect as one of their guests, as you’re warmly greeted by show girls who usher you through the golden doors into this hidden gem of a venue.

This was my third return visit having previously watched Kerry Ellis and Duncan James both host their Proud Cabaret All Stars series. A series that has also been successfully helmed by Rachel Stevens, Denise Van Outen and Julian Clary. It is now in the solid hands of Strictly Come Dancing champion Bill Bailey.

With Kerry Ellis and Duncan James, I knew what to expect, both are bona fide West End stars with a string of credits each and many shows in their repertoire. From them we were guaranteed big show tunes, heels and feathers, and that was just from Duncan. But with Bill Bailey I’ll admit I didn’t quite know what was to come.

For many Bill is best known as Manny in the sitcom Black Books, or the brilliant panellist on comedy shows including Never Mind the Buzzcocks. But most recently Bill won over the hearts of the nation by becoming the oldest winner in Strictly Come Dancing’s eighteen year history. Proving his musicality and flare. An accomplished musician with perfect pitch, Bill Bailey has often incorporated music within his stand-up routines. Drawing from jazz, rock, and drum and bass.

The evening begins promptly at 6.30pm, with a master of ceremonies. Previously the fantastic Jack Feureisen crooned for the audience as they took their seats, and the waitresses began to fill their glasses. Commencing the evening now with a collection of ballads, we have the incomparable Ritzie Crackers. Her voice dazzles, before she slips into something a little less comfortable and dials the entertainment up, letting out her quick wit and repartee as she flirts with the audience. She is irresistibly engaging and enigmatic.

There are four ticket packages that offer standard, premium, VIP and drinks only. Each package offers a welcome cocktail which is always delivered swiftly to your table. The tables are broken up in to pairs, or groups and booths that nestle and wrap around the main runway stage with a balcony over looking it.

My previous visits last October and December had straddled lockdowns where seating had been altered and spaced out. With restrictions now eased, extra seating has been squeezed in, but not uncomfortably so. For anyone who has been to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, there you are known to share banks of tables with others as you would in a Wagamamas. But it all adds to the atmosphere and experience. Chatting to a neighbouring table about what brought them out that evening adds to the charm of the shared experience.

The seating packages are split into standard and premium seating, and both offer a three course meal, for the VIP experience you’re treated to a bottle of Prosecco on top. For convenience the food can be ordered in advance through a very efficient email sent to you after booking.

The food is sensational. Combining a unique blend of Japanese/Asian and Modern European influences, created by Proud’s new Head Chef Antonio Vacca, an Italian chef who has worked in Michelin Star restaurants and led premium global brands such as Roka and Nobu for the past eleven years.

Every time, I have been overwhelmed by the taste and presentation of each delectable course.

Whilst working through your three course, or just drinks, the entertainment continues. Presenting an array of talent hand picked from some of Europe's most talented music, cabaret, drag and acrobatic acts, all performing exclusively here at Proud.

Variety is key to these evenings, with some returning favourites along side some brilliant new performers. I have never ceased to be impressed by the talent and athleticism on stage. The routines and performances are fresh and innovative and often awe-inspiring.

There literally is something for everyone. Directed by burlesque badass Jessicats. Fire breathing Brazilian bombshell Marie Devilreux impresses whilst displaying her exquisite body in her insatiable burlesque routines. Show girl and Marilyn Monroe impersonator Isabella Bliss wows in her sultry tribute before sexing it up as a shield wielding Viking. Gender bending Pi the Mime, was both captivating and humourous.

Where as fire artist Shade Flamewater is so inviting, he literally makes you want to pour gasoline over yourself and throw yourself at him. Crowd favourites J’adore La Vie bring an old school music hall vibe in their perfect pairing. Completed nicely with an ensemble of beautiful and very sexy male and female dancers.

Holding the show neatly together Bill Bailey is simply brilliant. Mastering his fusion of comedy and music and demonstrating his skills on the piano and guitar. I have to admit I completely underestimated his ease and ability as a master of ceremonies, seamlessly holding the entire show together and introducing each act between his own performances.

The night was bright, funny, and incredibly entertaining, and for me personally, even romantic. As I said, this is a great destination for a date night, with photo opportunities dotted around the venue, including a lavish pair of thrones. Whether you’re looking for a special occasion or just something different Proud’s Cabaret All Stars continues to deliver.


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