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Melinda Doolittle: Love 101

The former American Idol star smoothly blends Broadway, R&B, and pop into a solid hour of entertainment.

Melinda Doolittle
(© Russ Harrington)
Beyonce. Bieber. Bruno. Feinstein's at Loews Regency. If these words are rarely heard together, former American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle has found the recipe to blend them together in her new show , Love 101. Drawing from the worlds of Broadway, R&B, and Pop, Doolitle has crafted a solid, occasionally thrilling hour's worth of entertainment sure to gain to her new fans.

With a voice and personality that's part sweetness and part sass -- and a seemingly perfect sense of pitch -- Doolitle is never less than beguiling. But admittedly, she lacks the distinctive vocal qualities that have propelled fellow Idol alums Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson into the stratosphere.

Like a typical Idol season; Love 101 touches all the musical bases. Pop-haters needn't worry, though; Justin Bieber's infectious "Baby" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade" and "Marry You" are combined for a short if cleverly conceived medley, and Doolittle throws little more than a snippet of Beyonce's super-catchy "Single Ladies" at the end of a well-done pairing of "Blues in the Night" and "Ain't Nobody Business (If I Do)."

Most comfortable in the R&B mode, Doolittle excels on "Wonderful," a catchy 1970s-sounding tune from her 2009 album, Coming Back to You; adds a healthy dose of grit to a full-out rendition of "At Last"; brings on the bravado in a jazzy "Down with Love"; and practically tears down the house with a passionate, in-your-face take on "I'm a W-O-M-A-N."

Doolittle doesn't shy away from the Broadway canon; better yet, she opts for some unusual selections. She perform Avenue Q's "The More You Love Someone," with remarkable straightforwardness, offers up a suitably roof-raising version of "Home" (from The Wiz) mid-set; and concludes the night with the stirring ballad "Love Will Stand When All Else Falls" from Memphis.

While the conceit of Doolittle's act is that she's been trying to learn all about love, there's little question she has mastered the tough task of presenting a crowd-pleasing show.