It’s officially summertime, and while the living may or may not be easy for you, one thing that will certainly help you celebrate is a fun jukebox musical – especially when the performance takes place near the shore.
“Promises, promises,” you say?
“No, not ‘Promises, Promises,’” I reply. It’s a show entitled “Calling All Divas,” and it’s coming to Monmouth University Center for the Arts in West Long Branch on Thursday, July 11 for a one-night-only performance.
“Calling All Divas” is a new musical, featuring a pop, rock, soul and country hit parade of songs, that celebrates music, friendship and the power of sisterhood. It was created by Academy Award-winning songwriter Franke Previte and Lisa Sherman, a Broadway performer and Radio City Rockette.
“Calling All Divas” tells the story of four very different women – with a range of backgrounds and ages – but all unified by remarkable singing talent. Co-creator Sherman is one of those ladies, joined by Carol Riddick (a South Philly R&B singer), Trenna Barnes (of the band Cowboy Crush, from Nashville) and Alessandra Guercio (from season 3 of “The Voice” and season 10 of “American Idol”). The show also features Frank Dicopoulos as the club owner (you may know him from his 22 years on the soap “Guiding Light”) and Zach Holden – actor and composer – playing the role of Frankie.
And yes, my eagle-eyed readers: that’s three (count ‘em THREE!) people here with similar names: co-creator Franke Previte, actor Frank Dicipoulos (as Mr. D, the nightclub owner) and the character Frankie, played by Zach Holden. Luckily, they’re all spelled a little differently to help you keep them straight.
Frankie is a struggling singer-songwriter, and we follow his journey as he scours the city looking for the next “Un4gettable” female voice. There’s this nightclub, you see, that’s failing, and the idea is that by creating a competition-type thing, they can generate enough buzz to revive business and keep the club open.
Each of the four divas is a hoping to become the club’s star headliner, but along the way, the club owner ends up creating a quartet called The Un4gettables. Although they have very different musical styles, the four women come together, melding their talents together. In this way, they become even stronger together, but also take star turns in their vocal areas. (And really: From a business perspective, I totally admire this idea. What better way to attract an audience than to showcase four different singing styles? There’s always something for everyone here!)
A lot of this show is based on the participants’ real lives. The four women singers play characters based on their real-life backgrounds, showing the audience how talent can be showcased in different ways, and can take different paths over time. The journey taken by Frankie (the young struggling songwriter) is in similar in many ways to that of co-creators Previte, who went from being an aspiring singer-songwriter from New Jersey, to a celebrated Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning composer.
Oh, sorry! I guess I buried the lead on that, didn’t I? Previte is the songwriter of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes” from the film “Dirty Dancing,” (which formed much of the soundtrack of my own 1980s childhood).
In some ways, this idea of having the plot reflect areas of the actors’ and singers’ lives was born out of necessity: There was not a lot of time to develop the details of the script, and so many of those real-life details were brought to the fore in the development process. But this can be a really great thing, allowing for some deep, personal truths to be brought out.
As I mentioned earlier, “Calling All Divas” is in the jukebox musical genre, featuring his made famous by Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, The Pointer Sisters, Gloria Gaynor, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and more. The show also includes a band (not pre-recorded background tracks) and the singers sing live.
OK, so I’d like to point out two very admiration-worthy things here:
1) That’s a major exercise in vocal cross-training to go through every performance (and yes, vocal cross-training is a thing for singers).
2) Wow. I can only imagine the rights-clearance process for this to get permission to incorporate these songs into a show (sorry, that’s my geeky/professional side showing here).
As my longtime readers will know, I’ve spent much of my career in opera – on the administrative side, of course. And so, I’m a little wary of the term “diva” because it can often carry a negative connotation. But I like what Sherman has said about what that word means to her:
“A diva can be many different definitions,” she said. “A diva can be something that you feel within in yourself. A diva can be the best that you are. A diva is a confidence. A diva is an excitement. A diva is a sharing concept… A true diva is someone who has this inner energy, and this inner excitement and this inner talent. Whatever talent it may be… you could be someone who is an artist. We’re all divas.”
“Calling All Divas” by Franke Previte comes to Monmouth University Center for the Arts (400 Cedar Avenue in West Long Branch) on Thursday, July 11 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $38 and $48 ($78 VIP) and are available at monmouth.edu. For more information about the show, visit CallingAllDivas.com.
Want a taste? Check this out:
And yes, they promise that you’ll have “The Time of Your Life.”