Thomas Magill reviews ‘Respect la Diva’, a tribute to some of music’s finest female stars.
By Thomas Magill
Respect la Diva was only ever going to be about the music. It’s an homage to the very best female artists the world has ever seen – from Aretha to Aguilera, Bassey to Beyonce, Springfield to Streisand. The new, the old and the no longer are all celebrated in a hair-tingling, jaw-dropping musical extravaganza. This is no trashy tribute act; there’s no attempt to imitate or look like the original artists. It’s just an astonishingly perfect set of songs, performed with the same, passion, power and attitude of the divas that these songs will be forever associated with.
Sheila Ferguson, who’s teetering on the brink of diva status herself, leads the ensemble, which comprises her and three other reasonably well-known singers. Ferguson is no longer simmering at three degrees, but positively smouldering as she belts out some of the biggest tracks of the night, in a role she was born to play.
But it’s Denise Pearson, formerly of Eighties group Five Star, who steals the show. When she takes to the stage to sing Beyonce’s ‘My Own’, she is world class. Rarely do an audience get to their feet midway through a West End show to applaud, cheer and whistle – so when they do, it’s absolutely clear to them and the artist that it’s well deserved.
Zoe Birkett and Katy Setterfield may have come from the world of reality TV, but both of them held their own; Birkett is stunning, seductive and sexy with her rendition of ‘At Last’.
Unfortunately there is a weak and unnecessary attempt by the producer and director, Adrian Grant, at a storyline. Sporadically, a shy sound operator tumbles on to the stage to bark her frustrations at being ignored and forgotten by the four divas and those around. But with little engagement with the character – and a predictable ending in this feel good show – it’s unclear why she is needed or relevant.
There’s no doubt Respect la Diva is all about the music, and it’s just as well because at times the costumes hint at pantomime dames. Jonathan Park’s staging, however, accurately recognises that this is a show solely about the music and singing; there were only a few minor changes to the set throughout the show, as the band and an impressive boulevard of sparkly stairs took centre stage for the whole evening.
At its heart, Respect la Diva is more than a trashy tribute to tawdry floor-fillers that play in countless gay bar on Friday and Saturday nights. It remembers the great women who fought prejudice and personal tragedy to bring great music to the public. One to see.
Respect la Diva plays at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0HH until 24 September. Tickets start at £10. For more information visit the official website.