DESPERATE DIVAS – St James Studio, London.
Tiffany Graves and Anita Louise Combe serve up sass, glamour and hilarity in their new cabaret Desperate Divas, an irreverent look at internet dating in your thirties and beyond. I can think of no better antidote to a wet and miserable Sunday evening than wine and show tunes delivered (the songs, not the wine) by two such accomplished west end veterans.
Both have outstanding voices which they use to full effect, they are equally accomplished in both the powerful numbers and quiet reflective ballads. Clear and controlled throughout, you are left in no doubt of their vocal abilities from the outset and it leaves you free to concentrate on other aspects of the cabaret.
This is a double-edged sword. For a first outing, put together amidst rehearsals for their day jobs, for they are both soon to be seen in The Producers and Gypsy respectively (so naturally we got treated to a couple of numbers from these shows too!), it was a tad rough around the edges but that added to its charm. Even so, you cannot deny their talent. They both have a knack for comedy, but Tiffany Graves appeared the more experienced in this kind of environment, effortlessly engaging and witty, her enthusiasm is infectious. Anita Louise Combe was perhaps little less sure of herself and the material, but as the act grows and develops, any issues will be ironed out and the finished polished product will be even more entertaining.
The easiest topic on which to build an evening such as this is probably Love. With such a huge array of Musical Theatre songs on the theme to choose from, the selection was strong, a good mix of classic staples and newer work. Tiffany’s rendition of ‘Always a Bridesmaid’, complete with Southern drawl, from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was very funny, as was duet ‘I Want a Man’ by Michael Bruce, a great comic song about two women listing the very different attributes they are looking for in a man. It would be interesting to see these different opinions explored in any future incantation of Desperate Divas, too often the personas the ladies adopted were interchangeable.
At the other end of the emotional scale, the often sung but no less beautiful ‘Who Will Love Me As I Am’ from Sideshow was a welcome change in tone. It is fitting that they have each played both roles of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly in Chicago, albeit at different times, as they are (arguably) two of the strongest female characters in Musical Theatre. This is also where they met Tom Wakeley, their Musical Director for the night. On a personal note, it is also probably my all time favourite musical so I had a smile on my face from their unique rendition of ‘All That Jazz’ onwards. Chicago is bold and brassy and sure of itself, something that these Divas need to find within this show if it is to grow into something truly strong. Confidence will come, but the talent is already there and this cabaret has a strong concept that I can see being very popular.
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By Catherine Duffy
22nd February 2015
St James Studio, SW1E 5JA