Monday, June 16, 2008

An Embarrassment of Divas

Judy, Liza, Barbra, Madonna, Carol Channing, Julie Andrews, Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Tina Turner, Bette Midler and Bette Davis… all done by one performer.

Good GOD! A feast of Divas! Drag heaven! All gracing the stage of the Folly Theatre for DIVAS! the Spring Heartland Men's Chorus concert this past weekend.

Drag Queen (drag queen is too common and not fitting of this man's talent, let's say Drag Goddess Extraordinaire) Christopher Peterson from Key West Via New Brunswick, Canada and LA, doesn’t lamely lip-sync, he sings and talks in his diva's voices. Blessed (Or cursed) with a an almost mezzo-soprano voice, and a natural acting ability, he does some pretty convincing impressions. His thin, non descript body and face is a perfect canvas to re-create the face, features and images of his characters. The gowns and dresses, which he makes himself, are a fashion extravaganza unto themselves.

The whole show was opened by Joan Rivers who then introduced Marilyn Monroe. The opening number was of course “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. The gown was a silver slinky affair. Then on to a mediocre Carol Channing (not his best) but a rousing “Hello Dolly from the chorus. It was actually funny; he took the Marilyn wig, turned it around and then became Carol. After that, Liza came on and then off the stage she went and on came Judy. Liza and the chorus did “New York, New York”, then Judy did “Rock-a-bye Your Baby” and the “Trolley Song” and “Happy Days are Here Again/Get Happy”. She was best as Judy capturing the voice and the mannerisms and the looks. Even stumbling around on stage as the drug crazed Judy would in her last days.

Then we got Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trap and the Sound of Music, complete with little gray duster dress. She taught the “von Tramp” kids (a real motley crew) Do Re Mi and did “My Favorite Things”. She did Julie well too, with a cutsie English accent and manners.

Not a second later, Tina Turner came out bathed in a smoky red light to do “Proud Mary”. His costume changes would have been a treat to see. I am sure sometimes he had one on over the other and some of the dresses made appearances longer or shorter as needed. Masterful, not an eyelash out of place either!

The second half was introduced by Bette Davis. She made a damn nice Bette, cigarette and all. Of course, Bette had to diss Joan Crawford and led the audience in the Gay mantra "You are Blanche, you are in that wheelchair" from "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane". Right after Bette came Barbra, complete with nose. She was an ok Barbra, more of a caricature than a realization. The chorus took over and did a Carpenter’s medley and another odd piece I did not get and then Bette Midler came out for “Friends”. He did not do Bette as well as others. I didn’t recognize her until she belted out the song. The show ended with Cher doing “Believe” and Madonna doing “Vogue” and “Material Girl.”

I cam glad I was not in the chorus, (I am a past Chorus member) they were on stage for 3 hours and were back up for a lot of it. Some chorus members were a motley crew of drag and leather boys, kind of raunchy for the Madonna numbers. Off color jokes and the slinky dancing made the evening a kind of adult affair, a welcome change from the PC concert world of late.

Peterson came back as Judy for the finale and encore, a spot-on and audience pleasing rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" straight out of her drug and liquor fogged performances of the 60's. It was excellent, marred a bit for me by an off kilter accompaniment, either she or the instrumentals were not quite in sync.

One thing I miss, in a show like this, is the chorus. What an instrument 130 talented male voices can be. HMC does not use this enough. Solos, ensembles and dancers all too often steal the show.

This show was all Peterson's or should I say Judy's, Julie's, Tina's, Barbara's...?

And his off color jokes and remarks, almost worth the price of admission themselves:

"A bulimic's birthday party??? That is where the cake comes out of the girl"!

No comments: