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Diva-lycious heats up Julia's On Broadway
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Diva-lycious heats up Julia's On Broadway

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Diva-lycious: Girls Gone Diva
August 2, 9, and 16, 7 PM
Julia's On Broadway


Diva-lycious: Girls Gone Diva, the new cabaret revue at Julia's On Broadway for the next three Sunday nights, is more out-and-out fun than any new show should be. Four terrific singers, four outstanding musicians, dozens of the greatest hits from girl groups from the past 100 years, a dazzling array of costumes - the snappy show has all the ingredients for a highly entertaining look at the songs and styles of yesteryear.

A capacity crowd cheered the opening night last Sunday. A clever marketing plan offered all tickets at just $10, half of the usual $20 cover. Every table was full of happy people, enjoying Julia's dinner menu or drink choices. Yes, it was hot. Yes, there were minor problems with technical details. Yes, the show will undoubtedly add polish and even more zest over the coming performances. But, all in all, the show is a delightful, entertaining triumph that deserves more than a four-performance run. An extension or a revival is possible.

The show opened with a rockin' "I'm A Woman" that quickly segued into the close harmonies of "One More Round." It was a terrific opening that showcased all four divas - Stacie Calkins, Laurie Clothier, Natalie Lerch and Ashley Middleton. (I knew only the talented Seattle stage veteran Laurie Clothier - one of this scribe's cabaret favorites - but was quickly won over by the other three.) Minutes into the show, "100 Years Of Girl Groups," the center of the evening, took off, grabbed the cheering audience and didn't stop for nearly 30 minutes.

Gilbert & Sullivan's "Three Little Maids From School" (rewritten as "Four Little Maids....") opened the sequence. A musical highlight from The Mikado may be more than 100 years old, but it is still a musical delight. The addition of Japanese kimonos over the women's standard cabaret outfits added a nice touch, as did all of the special costume variations in the extended tribute.

Irving Berlin's "I Love A Piano" and "Play A Simple Melody" took for focus for the early 1900s and a stop at all-American vaudeville. A quick jump to the late 1930s and '40s found The Andrews Sisters back together - with four members. "Bei Mir Bist du Schon," "Hold Tight," "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree" and the immortal "Rum And Coca-Cola" gave the audience a quick return to yesteryear, World War II. The whole sequence served as a whirlwind visit to a historical jukebox of memories with each audience member loving his or her own period of songs - gray-haired ladies mouthed the words to "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree" while 21-year-olds happily joined in the revisit to The Spice Girls toward the end of the outing.

The four talented divas stopped in the 1950s for "Mr. Sandman" (a super hit for the Chordettes) and "Sincerely," happily recreating the unforgettable harmonies of The McGuire Sisters. The 1960s gave the lengthy sequence its longest stop - a reflection of the era and the many songs and girl groups that dominated the song lists of the decade. "Rescue Me," "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby," "The Boy From New York City," "Chapel Of Love," "My Boyfriend's Back," "Leader Of The Pack," "One Fine Day," and then "You Keep Me Hanging On" built the crowd into a frenzy. Those songs just seem to do that, especially with top deliveries from all four divas.

For the 1970s, Sister Sledge and "We Are Family" and LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" took center stage with The Pointer Sisters ending the decade with a country flavored "Fairytale" and their super hit, "Fire."

"It's Raining Men" brought the 1980s back with a thousand disco ball memories flashing for most of the audience. The classic by The Weather Girls nearly had the crowd dancing in the aisles. En Vogue's "My Love (Never Gonna Get It)" and The Spice Girls' "Spice Up Your Life" closed the set with a final look at the 1990s. It was a nonstop pulled kaleidoscopic visit to yesteryear, an exhausting tribute to, as the title says, "100 Years of Girl Groups."

Without a single break, the four divas (and the four talented "Boys In The Band") continued with individual selections, all little-known showstoppers. Laurie Clothier, with "Making Love Alone," delighted the crowd with her ode to the joys of, well, "self-pleasuring." Stacie Calkins, a veteran of leading roles in Dreamgirls, Disney's Aida and Ragtime, nearly stopped the show with the classic blues "If You Can't Sell It," one of the "naughty-but-nice" double meaning standards. Ashley Middleton's "If You Hadn't (But You Did)" brought a pistol-packing mama out for revenge to the center stage spotlight. Natalie Lerch, an opera and cabaret veteran who is now associated with Cornish College of the Arts, delivered full power with "Just One Step (Murray)."

And, just as fast as the four finished their individual "solos de jour," the final set, "Diva-lycious In Concert," ended the evening with eight terrific numbers - "In These Shoes" and "Old Cape Cod" were this writer's favorites. Songs from a wide range of sources, from Manhattan Transfer to Boy Dylan, added a wonderful depth of the evening.

The encore number, finding the band and the divas as fresh as they were 100 minutes earlier, found "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" working as the perfect finale. As they say, a good time was had by all.

David Duvall, music director and conductor, led "The Boys In The Band" (as the program cheekily notes) with great style and flair. The band all wore black T-shirts with "B-A-N-D" imprinted in sequins - a nice touch to a classy evening.

Diva-lycious: Girls Gone Diva continues at 7 p.m. for the next three Sunday nights. Reservations - probably a "must" - are available at (206) 852-9179. It's a fun show, the perfect summer-in-the-city entertainment. Check it out.

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