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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at St. Luke’s Theatre

By Bill Stevenson

  Alan Palmer/PH:Josef Reiter

Without a smidgen of diva attitude, Alan Palmer pays tribute to 32 divas-from Andrea McArdle to Carol Channing-in just 85 minutes. Although Palmer doesn't have the pipes to do justice to belters like Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand (partly due to a recent bout of laryngitis), his affable manner and affection for the singers who have inspired him makes this a diverting evening for diva devotees.

Palmer, who wrote and directed Divas and debuted the one-man show in Los Angeles, intersperses anecdotes of his life in theater with renditions of songs made famous by Broadway divas. Highlights include Ellen Greene's Somewhere That's Green and Liza Minnelli's Ring Them Bells (during which audience members are encouraged to shake their keys). Palmer cleverly segues from Judy Garland's Boy Next Door to daughter Minnelli ringing her bells by shedding a black dress to reveal a red dress. He also does fast and funny costume cheanges during a fast-paced New Diva medley that includes Kerry Butler in Xanadu, Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked, Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and others.

C. Buckley designed the costumes, which help conjure up the various divas. Palmer often changes costumes while standing behind an on-stage screen and telling stories. Avoiding offstage changes keeps the show moving along, and Palmer's autobiographical tales are generally entertaining. While he doesn't make light of his fondness for Broadway's leading ladies, Palmer doesn't take himself too seriously. He also doesn't claim to be an expert mimic. It's not about doing impressions, he says, but about the impressions they made on my life.

Fair enough. But Palmer is trying to look and sound like his idols, and he does a pretty good job despite the fact that his voice wasn't in top form during his first press performance.

Palmer breaks up the show nicely and involves the audience several times. There's a Name that Diva sequence in which volunteers compete to name the most divas, and later Palmer rewrites What I Did for Love using words suggested by the audience, à la Mad Libs. Shy types might want to avoid sitting in the front row, since they might be recruited to be in a kick line behind Palmer as Carol Channing warbling Hello Dolly!

That would make a fine finale, but Palmer comes up with an even better one: He sheds his flashy costume and makeup while singing Peter Allen's The Lives of Me. It's an apt ending for a highly personal homage to some of Broadway's greatest divas.




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