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New West celebrates “Divine” female voices

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When women sing, it is a “divine” experience. So catch New West Theatre’s excellent production of “Divine: The Divine Women Of Song,” which continues at  The Yates Theatre until Saturday, Aug. 24.

Olivia Earl performing in New West’s production of Divine. Photo by Richard Amery
 In my books there is nothing sexier then a woman  who sings. And there is plenty of them in Divine as the talented cast present a crash course in famous women in song, and yet barely touch the surface. But it is a really good overview, going all the way back the ’’40s with  Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

 New West shows tend to follow a well founded formula and it works. There’s plenty of song, dance and comedy.
The cast includes beloved members like Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter, returning member Jordana Kohn, who performed with New West like 25 years ago, relative newcomers like the multi-talented Rylan Kunkel.

 But the newcomers Katie Fellger and Olivia Earl almost steal the show. Actually drummer Keenan Pezderic really does steal the show in his voice over bits and in a particularly inspired comedy bit in which he voices Scott Carpenter’s innermost thoughts as he makes a fool of himself at a wedding.

 The singing is wonderful as always.
They cover  the highlights, opening with “ You Can’t Hurry Love” and each cast member gets their solo spots. Though it is a female powered show, the guys also get to shine. Rylan Kunkel plays sweet saxophone on Olivia Earl’s version of  Connie Francis’s pop hit “Vacation,” and adds  keyboards in a few other places.

Surprisingly, he also sings a solid version of Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep” and knocks it out of the park.

 Bente Hansen steps out from behind the keyboards  to play bass as  Katie  Fellger unleashes her inner demon rocker on Joan Jett and the Runaways’ “Bad Reputation.”

 As always, Erica Hunt  shows off her powerhouse pipes but also croons a gorgeous version of  Patsy Cline’s Willie Nelson penned hit “Crazy.”

 Jordana Kohn is absolutely hilarious, especially in a sketch about a doctor dealing with patients with unusual problems.  She is also hilarious as an old woman playing off Erica Hunt’s old woman character and shares the New West news beat with Olivia Earl.

Jordana Kohn performing in New West’s production of Divine. Photo by Richard Amery
But she also shows how well she croons, not to mention is able to belt out some Tina Turner.
 Usually Erica Hunt takes over “Proud Mary,” but for this show, Jordana Kohn makes it her own. She did a spoken word tribute  to female comedians including Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett and touched on a few credible impressions  of them as she mentioned  some of her favourite bits by them. I would have liked to see more of the impressions, as I was a little lost, not being that intimately familiar with the details of their work

 I enjoyed the second set more, which focused on comedy. It opens with a gorgeous a cappella version of “Wrecking Ball,” with Erica Hunt, Jordana Kohn, Katie Fellger and Olivia Earl all singing beautifully together, backed only by Scott Mezei’s tender acoustic guitar. Olivia Earl’s version of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” was another highlight of the second set. Scott Carpenter and Rylan Kunkel alternately danced with her and hit on her during it with hilarious results.

 Scott Carpenter shone in those as usual, and let’s say he puts in an unforgettable version of Cher’s hit “ If I Could Turn Back Time” in the second set, which also includes an inspired “Punderdome” battle between Rylan Kunkel and Katie Fellger, with Keenan Pezderic playing the ring announcer.

 Divine runs in the Yates Theatre at 7:30  each night except Sunday and Monday until Saturday, Aug. 24.

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