Tracey Bell's Celebrity Impressions

It’s 1985 in Edmonton. You’re standing up against the stage in a club you’ve never been in, Goose Loonies Night Club. The announcement roars: “Please welcome the one and only Tina Turner to the stage!” Your head spins. “What?” you think, “There’s no way she’s actually here!”

Then she hits the stage — her familiar power-rasp echoes throughout the venue as she demands to know what love’s got to do with it.

You watch on in amazement, marveling at whatever miracle brought Tina here tonight.

It isn’t until the show’s over that you realize you just witnessed Tracey Bell’s first celebrity impression performance.

Over the past 28 years, Bell’s eight divas (her most popular impressions) have performed hundreds, if not thousands, of times at venues worldwide. The lineup of Cher, Madonna, Celine Dion, Liza Minnelli, Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe and Tina Turner hasn’t seen any permanent additions, but she says that she’s always trying out new roles for herself and at the requests of her clients.

“I thought Moulin Rouge has going to be this huge thing, so I did Satine. I even learned Cirque,” she says. “I hung from the Chateau Fairmont Whistler ceiling and twirled around. I thought it would be the best party thing, because I loved that film so much.”

She’s been asked to don many other guises, including Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music, Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz, Lady Gaga, Jem (from the 1980s cartoon, Jem and the Holograms) and even a concept character named Lady Cuke (pronounced que-kay) for BC Hot House Cucumbers.

As far as she knows, none of the divas she impersonates have anything negative to say about her. “Thank God they haven’t sued me,” she laughs. But she’s been front row centre for Liza Minnelli and Tina Turner, and they’ve acknowledged her during the concert. And Cher became aware of her impression after Bell played her on an episode of The X-Files in 1997.

Her work has granted her memories she’ll never forget, like coaxing a room full of sober recent graduates at an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Christmas celebration to dance and sing along with Liza Minnelli, or donning Marilyn Monroe’s iconic attire and singing “Happy Birthday” to former Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau.

“Just like I love the diversity of my characters, I love the diversity of places I get to go.”

But her favourite shows aren’t decided by the type of event, location or celebrity guest. “My favourite events are for families who love each other, corporations who really like each other, or groups of people who love to get together and have fun,” she says. “I want them to rock out and shine and surprise everybody.”

Bell grew up in Edmonton but moved away in 1988. Currently residing in Vancouver, she can’t wait to come back to Edmonton to perform at The Mirage Banquet Facility as part of Edmonton Christmas Parties’ holiday lineup.

The show is December 20th, and the only thing that worries Bell is there being too much snow in Edmonton: “Well, I do like SOME snow,” she says. —Eric Silver