Concert Review: DIVAS THROUGH THE DECADES (Pasadena POPS with Michael Feinstein)

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by Jakera Willis on June 25, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Los Angeles


Guests took advantage of the beautiful backdrop of the LA Arboretum & Botanic Garden with picnics and wine last Saturday, June 24, when Pasadena POPS presented Divas Through the Decades, conducted by Michael Feinstein, as their second show in their Summer Concert Series

Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” set the stage for the first diva, Catherine Russell, graced the stage with “A Porter’s Love Song To A Chambermaid,” by Jimmy Johnson and Andy Razaf. Her black dress glistened as she sang with conviction and a bit of sorrow, capturing the hopeless love of the porter. Ray Noble’s arrangement of Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” by  and Joe Garland & Leo Corday’s “Leap Frog” were up next with a lighter, more up-beat pace. Some in the audience got out of their seats, grabbed their partner and enjoyed a little swing dancing.

Freda Payne, best known for her smash hit “Band of Gold,” wowed the crowd in a showstopping purple gown, but her looks didn’t make up for her performance. Payne’s rendition of Noble’s arrangement of The Gershwins’ “Oh! Lady Be Good” fell flat (and not just the notes) and she almost forgot that her set included the iconic “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)” by Sam Coslow. But, in true diva fashion, Payne sashayed back on stage, flung off her purple shawl and scat-sang effortlessly. She won the crowd later in the show with her performance of her hit song “Band of Gold.”

As the sun tucked behind the trees of the Arboretum, the last (but not least) diva of the night, Nicole Henry, one of jazz world’s most acclaimed artists, gave us a show as she sang Gerry Goffin & Carole King’s “Natural Woman” originally sung by Aretha Franklin. Mr. Feinstein took a break from conducting and sang a dramatic and heartfelt duet with Henry of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” composed by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Henry kept the good times rolling down the river as she sang “Proud Mary” made famous by the late Tina Turner. Backup singers Cynthia Bass and Cydney Davis danced the signature Tina Turner moves with extra flair.

The night ended on a high note as all three soloists joined on stage to sing the legendary “I’m Every Woman” by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. The Pasadena POPS Divas Through The Decades was a sizzling show with a great orchestra and terrific arrangements, perfect for those who appreciate the classics and aren’t afraid of a little diva energy.

Divas Through The Decades
The Pasadena POPS
Michael Feinstein, conductor
Saturday, June 24, 2023 at 7:30 pm
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia
for future shows and tickets, call 626.793.7172 or visit Pasadena POPS

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