Diana Ross
Diana Ross
There's a distinct irony to the fact that Diana Ross has dubbed her new U.S. tour, More Today Than Yesterday, since the show -- which played a sold-out gig at New York City's Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday, May 19 -- is blatantly designed as a "greatest hits" extravaganza celebrating the singer's five decades of chart-topping tunes. But what makes this 90-minute show not just one of the most extraordinarily evenings I've had recently, but so fresh and lively as well, is the use of a kick-ass 15-piece orchestra (plus three backup singers) that brilliantly augment Ross' still pleasing if slightly thin voice.

Truth be told, Ross' success was never dependent solely on her vocal instrument. What still blazes as brightly as ever, if not even brighter, is her unparalleled star quality; as she glides across the stage in a series of figure-flattering ensembles that show off her superb 66-year-old body and delivers dazzling smile after dazzling smile, the joy one feels to be in her presence can't be contained.

For that reason alone, Ross doesn't need to rely on elaborate pyrotechnics or muscular back-up dancers to have the audience feel they're part of a wholly satisfying experience. Indeed, a series of projections, mostly showing Ross in various stages of her career, are the only major visual effect other than the singer herself!

Ross barely engages in patter -- speaking only briefly at the encore to honor her great friend Michael Jackson -- which helps her cram a remarkable assortment of songs into the show's tightly-packed running time. Theater lovers can take pleasure in a truly joyous take on "Ease on Down The Road" (from The Wiz, in which Ross appeared as Dorothy in the film version) and a heartwarming rendition of "What About Love" (from The Color Purple); and there's a brief yet excellent section of blues songs, highlighted by the singer's sublime rendition of the Billie Holliday classic "Don't Explain" (which she originally performed in the film Lady Sings the Blues).

Still, most audiences are on hand to hear the chart-toppers, and Ross delivers the goods: "You Just Keep Me Hanging On," "Stop In the Name of Love," "Love Child," "I'm Coming Out," "Inside Out," "Touch Me in the Morning," "Endless Love," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to name but a few.

She's also smart enough to know that these numbers will turn into sing-alongs and dance-alongs whether she wants them to or not, and generously encourages the audience to participate. And even though, to my surprise, she never asks us to reach out and touch somebody's hand, you're likely to be reaching out and touching someone's something in the frenzy of the moment!