Youth may be wasted on the young, but talent is ageless. Performers who have been around for a while are usually more polished, savvy, and sophisticated than kids who are breaking into the business. ShaRell Productions took note of this, as well as the fact that a majority of the performers in cabaret are women. The result is a new variety show called Timeless Divas, and the concept is simple: All of the performers are female cabaret stars over 40. The audience, ShaRell hopes, will represent both genders and all ages. Based on their first show at the Triad, they need not worry; it was sold out.
Hosted by the delightful and quick-witted Tovah Feldshuh, the evening got off to an entertaining start. The first performer showcased was Liza -- well, actually, it was Rick Skye as Liza singing "The Sunny Side of Changing." We don't know if Rick is over 40, but Liza certainly is. Though he might have made a greater impact singing one of his Liza parody numbers, he was nonetheless a force to be reckoned with, and his very presence on the bill suggests that the Timeless Diva concept is going to be open and flexible.
Among the show's most notable highlights was Wanda Houston singing "The Music Still Plays On" (William Finn). She brought a depth of feeling to the lyrics and a rich, mellow sound to the melody. And speaking of beautiful voices, Heather MacRae also stood out with her performance of "Hope Floats" (Brourman/McBroom). Then came the boomers -- and we don't just mean Baby Boomers. There was Marta Sanders in a mucho, mas, grande rendition of "Besame Mucho" and Baby Jane Dexter wailing her signature anthem, "Hold On."
Songwriting divas were also on hand. Carol Hall entertained the crowd with the story of writing, selling, and recording her first hit, "Jenny Rebecca." Noting that the song itself is 41 years old, she sat down at the piano and played and sang it for an appreciative audience. On the other hand, while it was great to hear the team of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford sing their hit tune "Old Friend," they were far less effective when offering a long segment from their musical-in-progress about Eleanor Roosevelt. And the show really went off track when Kathleen Gaffney launched into an overlong, overblown monologue of her own composition, titled "Goddess."
Shari Upbin (the show's director) and Sandi Durell (its producer) are ShaRell Productions. They took stage together at the end of the evening to sing "I'm a Diva" with the help of the show's gifted musical director, Tracy Stark. It was a light and upbeat finale to a new variety concept that will allow some of cabaret's most valued entertainers to be showcased. Timeless Divas returns to the Triad with new casts for each of its next two shows on April 6 and May 18.
[More reviews by the Siegels can be found at www.cabarethotlineonline.com. For information on the First Annual Nightlife Awards, to be co-presented by Scott Siegel in January at The Town Hall, click here]