3 divas — Lanier, Payton and Pittman — capture hearts

Laurice Lanier, Nova Payton and Jamet Pittman’s Valentine at Proctors on Thursday received raucous a

It may be a coincidence that Laurice Lanier, Nova Payton and Jamet Pittman sailed into Proctors on Thursday night during Black History Month, but the modest-sized and very appreciative audience indicated they’d be happy to see them back anytime.

The divas’ Valentine came in the form of raucous applause and a standing ovation.

Much merited, I’d say.

These gifted singers pulled out all the stops on their instruments in two acts that embraced opera, Broadway show tunes, jazz, soul, blues and gospel. (Attention sound crew: they don’t need quite so much miking!)

They were backed by a remarkable pianist/music director named Annastasia Victory, who sailed through tough piano reductions of orchestral accompaniment in the opening opera set, and then unleashed her 10 flying fingers and five bandmates for the rest of the evening.

Pittman was stellar on an aria from “Adriana Lecouvreur,” and she displayed her Oberlin-trained voice to great effect on the powerful “Your Daddy’s Son,” from “Ragtime.”

Payton carefully negotiated an art song by Gluck, but she found her real metier in “Defying Gravity,” from “Wicked,” and a fresh take on “Summertime.” Her theater background was everywhere evident during the evening.

And alto Laurice Lanier triumphantly closed the opera portion of the show with a stunning treatment of “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix,” an omen of the good things to come with “God Bless the Child” a little later.

Alas, the show, which was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Marion J. Caffey, is not an unmitigated success.

You come away feeling that some of the gifts of these women have been squandered on material that is not always right for them, or material that has been arranged without a point of view.

For example, “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and “Little Shop of Horrors” are negligible ways to showcase their superb ability to harmonize.

When they cut loose on the soul medley late in the show, you wish that they had sung it much earlier — and not just as a medley. They are clearly having a ball, and so did the audience.

Elsewhere, you’d like to get a better sense of who these three are, but there are only scraps of commentary. There is little context for any song except for genre.

When Pittman and Lanier sing “Strange Fruit,” a dramatic moment is beautifully, chillingly, conjured up. More of such interaction among the women might sharpen the focus.

After all, “diva” means “goddess,” and anyone knows that when you get three goddesses on the same stage, there are bound to be a few shenanigans.

But there’s no question that these performers captured hearts. If any of them comes back to the Capital Region, cop a ticket immediately.

Categories: Life and Arts

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