Great divas honoured

2008-11-11 00:00

If musical theatre is your favourite form of entertainment and you can recognise the vocal attributes of a line-up of top Broadway female stars down the years, then it’s worth the trek to Durban to see Great Dames.

American entertainer extraordinaire Christine Pedi honours the great women of the stage and screen as well as legendary female characters real and imagined. Commanding accuracy of singing and speaking voice, she leads audiences on a hilarious, musically challenging and skilful programme. She hits the nail on the head every time — Judy Dench’s gravel tones, Ethel Merman’s stridency, Judy Garland’s velvet quality and Julie Andrews’s distinctive elocuted vowels. There’s also the whacky Bette Midler, outrageous Joan Rivers and growly Eartha Kitt.

Pedi is lovable, hilarious, endearingly vulnerable or toweringly majestic — not to say over the top when it comes to Liza

Minnelli or Barbra Streisand. Her send-up of Sarah Brightman had me in stitches and her closing sequence which mixed Abba classics with a Broadway standard was inspired.

No production like this would survive without Herculean support and this is amply provided by pianist Matthew Ward. Both are seasoned and respected performers in musical theatre on Broadway and their working association goes back many years.

Great Dames is not just a sense of lampooning but offers respect to these legendary female stars. In an amusing sequence, Pedi even goes back in history to wonder what kind of work Jane Austen would have produced, if she had been a songwriter?

The arrangements are splendid — particularly one which sees Pedi singing When You’re Good to Mama while Ward doggedly pursues the opposite perspective with My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Her tribute to her “greatest dame” — her mother — moved me to tears.

Miss this class act and you’ll lose out on a very special theatrical experience.

To book: Great Dames runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until November 15. Tickets are R125 with a buy-one, get-one-free offer at the box office an hour before the show. Other booking at Computicket.

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