YORK actor Ian Stroughair and his alter ego, London cabaret star and drag queen Velma Celli, returns to The Basement, at City Screen, York, for a sparkling Saturday night finale to 2018.

Here, Charles Hutchinson puts Ian/Velma on the spot about Christmas songs, Christmas Day and dreams of playing dame in his home city.

How will you decorate Velma for this show, Ian?

"I will don myself in red sequins head to toe – obviously!"

How will you decorate The Basement?

"With a splattering of fairy lights, tinsel, candles shoved in empty bottles of Lambrini and raffle prizes galore, including the traditional top prize: Spam."

York Press:

Merry Christmas, Mariah!

What will Velma Celli's Christmas Show feature?

"All of my favourite seasonal classics of course. Like the 'Grand High Christmas Queen' herself, Mariah Carey, I will 'over-sing' as much as possible and try and riff as many notes into songs. Why sing one note, when you can sing 23 per bar?"

Which festive favourites done Velma style should Saturday's audience particularly anticipate?

"I have to say Judy Garland's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, from Meet Me In St Louis, and a stripped-back, acoustic version of George Michael's Wham! hit, Last Christmas."

What is your favourite Christmas song and why?

"O Holy Night. It’s SO over-dramatic, epic and emotional. It makes my hairs stand on end when sang correctly."

York Press:

What makes a good dame? "It’s all in the rhythm and instinctive comedy timing," says Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli

What is your favourite Christmas bird? Turkey? Goose? Neither?

"I would say neither – dry. Pass me a Beef Wellington any day! I would eat it everyday, actually, if I didn’t wear dresses for a living."

What is your idea of the perfect Christmas Day?

"A lie-in; a never-ending supply of food and champagne and guests that know when to leave."

And now the big one: would you be interested in replacing the departing Berwick Kaler as the York Theatre Royal pantomime dame and why?

"Goodness me. YES! He is my idol and a living legend. Being a Yorkie, born and bred, I know that those are some pretty big shoes to fill. It would be a huge honour and a wonderful opportunity, although perhaps I am a little young for Dame..."

York Press:

Departing Dame: Berwick Kaler, exiting panto stage left after 40 years at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

What makes a good dame?

"It’s all in the rhythm and instinctive comedy timing. It’s something you can’t teach but you can get better at it. It’s an exhausting role and should be the heart of every great panto. I prefer one to not be too polished aesthetically; a tad rough around the edges ideally."

Do you have previous form for playing dame?

"I haven’t done it yet, though panto producers keep trying to get me to do Ugly Sister.

"I did Dandini in 2015/16 in Cinderella at Stoke and loved every minute. I had a fantastic cast. Christian Patterson as dame and writer/diretor and Jonathan Wilkes as leading man/director: a killer team, those two. We were fortunate to win a couple of Great British Pantomine Awards. I was nominated too, for Best Actor, which was lovely."

What do you reckon to Berwick’s notorious dame?

"The very best of the best. Enough said."

Ian Stroughair presents Velma Celli's Christmas Show, The Basement, City Screen, York, Saturday, December 8; doors open at 7.30pm for 8pm start. Tickets: £15 to £20 on 0871 902 5747 or at thebasementyork.co.uk.

Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You Tour plays Leeds First Direct Arena on Monday, December 10, 7.30pm. Box office: firstdirectarena.com/events