If Beyonce was right about her fellow divas, then a whole lot of hustling will be going on in the Charleston Ballet Theatre for the next two weeks. The company brought back their production Decadent Divas for Piccolo audiences, reincarnating some of the largest female personalities to have graced Hollywood. Although Beyonce wasn’t chosen — she easily could have replaced Celine — 12 ladies from several decades were featured along with the songs that made them legends.
The show opened with an undeniable star, Ms. Fitzgerald, and the entire cast in “Summertime.” Having wandered around Charleston for days in the heat, the song seemed to hit home, and since original lyrics were written by DuBose Heyward, it seemed suitably so. The opening quickly led into a rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Complete with red, feather-trimmed dress and mile-high slit, dancer Melody Staples brought out the much anticipated sultriness of the singer, with beautiful leg lines in several lifts and promenades.
Judy Garland was sadly a bit of a flop. The choreography, as with several others, was more theatrical than dance based, with little poses and arm movements comprising the majority of the performance. Barbara, on the other hand, was like buttah. In a black sequined jump suit, the diva spent more time in the air than on the ground, thanks to some strong partners during “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
Some of the most dynamic and explosive choreography took place during Nina Simone’s “Feelin Good,” although it wasn’t carried out by the diva. Jonathan Tabbert commanded the stage. Decked out in white, he completed a few of the best jumps and doubles in the show.
Ashley Lazenby rivaled Tabbert’s performance as Maria Carey in “Emotions.” Lazenby captured the sexual bombshell that Maria was during her prime, with exaggerated hip gyrations and giant facial expressions. A middle split that moved to a grinding type movement on the floor caused some serious gasps from the older crowd, but helped make the performance spot on.
The rendition of Celine Dion was by far the worst, and the show could have easily done without it. The diva barely moved, save for a few small dips, helped by partner Britton Spitler, who looked as if he was scared he was going to break the skinny blonde. The dress, however, was a saving grace — even if it did restrict some movement. Thanks to designer Mary Porter, who designed and constructed the entire company’s costumes, many of the women looked as if they’d stolen ensembles their divas had already sported on stage. Cher’s outfit in particular, a black, skin-tight jump suit complete with large feather accessories, was something that could have easily been worn by the chartreuse in the ’80s.