On Sunday, June 11, at First Presbyterian Church in Monterey, Aria Women’s Chorus presented DIVA – a program of Broadway’s best with some classic light opera thrown in as sprinkles on the top. We heard many fine voices of all ages performing with featured soloists in most numbers. Under the direction of Dr. Sean Boulware these women present the true joy of singing in an ensemble. Overall on a scale of 1 – 10, this afternoon’s presentation was a 12! Handling twenty-three songs with their myriad musical personalities was no mean feat.
Michelle Galindo continues as the consummate pianist on all of the arrangements that were not prerecorded. Framing this delicious mélange was “Shine” from the musical Billy Elliot, and “And All That Jazz” from Chicago. Billy is the young son of a Welsh coal miner who winds up being a dancer – definitely unlikely under the circumstances. This number really set the stage for all the glitz that followed. “And All That Jazz” perfectly tied up the afternoon’s selections with a musical bang.
The first featured soloist was Julie Posey in “Climbing Over A Rocky Mountain” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Her personality and voice set this piece of giggly girls off to the best start. From the Leo Delibes opera Lakme, Michelle Boulware and Anna Hallock beautifully blended in the delicious “flower duet” – Duo des fleurs/Sur le dome epais. A nice effect was moving to the back of the church to finish their lovely harmony. Sierra Alvarez became the young Cinderella with Rogers and Hammerstein’s “In My Own Little Corner.” The audience was transported along the imagination of wishes to be just about anything when in her “own little corner, in her own little chair.” Young Sierra is a definite personality and terrific talent to watch. The TV show Smash is about the “how to” of creating a Broadway show titled Bombshell about a Marilyn Monroe character. Two selections from this show featured Diane Goldman in “Don’t Forget Me” and Diane Ehlers in “They Just Keep Moving The Line.” These “Dianes” definitely know their stuff in presentation!
Wonderfully talented Julie Posey returned in the classic Barbra Streisand number from Funny Girl, “Second Hand Rose.” Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme continues to be a timeless story. Anna Hallock returned to display her considerable operatic chops in the well recognized Quando me’n vo soletta. There is difficulty in arranging a well-known Broadway song – in this case “For Good” from Wicked – to SSA. This a cappella arrangement by Audrey Snyder featuring Michelle Boulware and the chorus beautifully brought the idea of a “handprint on the heart” to life. “Diva’s Lament” from Spamalot featured a hilarious performance by Jennifer Foreman. Rounding out the first half was a semi staged “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees. Sisters Morgan and Roxanne Cheysson became tango dancers to terrific effect even dancing down the aisle. Meanwhile the singers added red boas and two chorus members enticed their husbands on stage for a bit of schtick. All together this was another hilarious presentation.
The second half got off to a great start featuring Lynn Chiment in the Thoroughly Modern Millie “Forget About the Boy.” Chiment exhibited all the frustrated personality of Millie as she takes advice from the office girls. Tango dancer Roxanne Cheysson returned to absolutely nail “Astonishing” from Little Women. As Boulware announced, “The Song of Summer” from Spring Awakening” is not a DIVA song per se. However, it is a lovely selection that fit these women’s voices to be a vocal feature in this program. Waitress is another current Broadway show and “Opening Up” featured Chris Rowland, Jeanne Abbott, Lyn Chiment, Diane Ehlers and Kristine Boyle-Topete as the gals who “open up” and prepare for the day – in a very humorous way. Perhaps the most dramatic turn of the afternoon belonged to Michelle Boulware exquisitely performing “Always Starting Over” from If/Then. Idina Menzel was the star on Broadway and Michelle could certainly give her a run for the money in this afternoon’s presentation. This is a song with an edge that has to be maintained while keeping vocal control and Michelle carried the emotion to the max.
Chess is a musical that did not last long on Broadway. The music has remained, though, and one of the best numbers from the show is “I Know Him So Well.” Kristi Reimers carried the opening just right to set the mood of this piece. Turning to light opera again was the Victor Herbert “Art Is Calling Me” from The Enchantress. As the featured soloist, Sarah Galley was a definite WOW! A contrast followed with the beautifully poignant “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife.” This is a story about making choices beautifully handled by Abby Warburg. Supreme Diva of the group, Judy Kay Dawson, did the over the top honors in “The Man in The Moon” from Mame. Properly attired in hat, boa and glitz as handed to her by her minion – conductor Boulware – she had the voice and personality to totally pull this off. Jennifer Foreman returned to properly open “Already Home” from Wizard of Oz. She beautifully conveyed, “…home is a place in the heart.” The ultimate in kitsch is the jukebox musical Mamma Mia. Michelle Boulware, Diane Ehlers and Megan Root appeared in 80’s spangled bell-bottoms, sparkly silver platform shoes, and headbands to become the “Dancing Queen.” This riotous presentation could easily have been the end, but wait…there was one more. The aforementioned “And All That Jazz” perfectly topped off a show of mighty DIVA strength in voice, looks, and personality.
Kudos should go to the sound techs who kept the prerecorded accompaniments at good balance with the voices. For continuing pleasure hearing this group, mark November 11 and 12 for their Missa Femina program which will include the newly released SSA version of the Faure Requiem. 2018 brings She Sings March 24 and 25, and Women On The Rise on June 9 and 10.