Wonderful, Witty, Wicked Divas! Jan. 12 – 14

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Nashville Symphony’s Bank of America Pops Series: Wicked Divas (All ages)
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Place, Nashville
687-6400 • nashvillesymphony.org
Remaining show times: Fri – Sat 8 p.m.
Tickets: $39 – $109

“Tonight is a celebration of divas, particularly Wicked divas,” says Conductor Albert-George Shram when introducing the Nashville Symphony’s current pops installment, succinctly titled, “Wicked Divas.”

The charming, witty Shram leads the orchestra in a glorious night of music that does celebrate the music of powerful female characters from Broadway along with that of pop music and opera. Kicking things off is a rousing rendition of Jule Styne’s “Overture” from Gypsy, followed by notable selections from the opera, Carmen.

The show’s leading ladies — Alli Mauzey and Julia Murney — take the stage for a fun version of “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Both Mauzey and Murney hail from the Great White Way and shared the Broadway stage together starring in Wicked as Glinda and Elphaba, respectively. Both lovely ladies shine bright taking turns belting out tunes from beloved shows like Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, My Fair Lady and Spamalot, as well as memorable duet numbers, including a vibrant offering of “No More Tears (Enough is Enough), the easy listening/disco fusion number made famous by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer in 1979. They play off each other tremendously well, giving the audience a few laughs as they humorously play up the “diva” ‘tude.

Mauzey’s amazing soprano vocals — although a bit shrill on a couple of occasions — add a lot of oomph to numbers like “I Could Have Danced All Night” and her fabulous performance of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic the movie.

Murney is a truly dynamic songstress who knows how to embody and embrace each song she sings. She visibly embraces emotion and vulnerability while manifesting wit and strength. Her delivery is very much reminiscent of the way the great Bernadette Peters owns each song she performs. Murney, in fact, offers up the evening’s show-stopping number, Liza Minnelli’s “Ring Them Bells.” From the physical comedy to the colorful spectrum of vocal characterizations the tune requires, Murney perfectly nails it.

Intermittently, the symphony performs alone on numbers, including “Over the Rainbow” and the brilliant “Symphonic Sounds of Diana Ross,” comprising her three biggest hits: “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Touch Me in the Morning” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The only misstep of the evening is the inclusion of Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” from the Miami Sound Machine days, the final number going into intermission. This song doesn’t quite fit compared to the rest of the material during the show, and the orchestration is a little clunky and would be better suited with only percussion, keyboards and brass.

Saving the best for last, the three standout numbers from Wicked grace the concert hall. Mauzey delivers the comical song, “Popular,” with panache. Prior to Murney’s powerful performance of Wicked’s signature tune, “Defying Gravity,” she gives the audience a really fun little morsel about the Broadway show’s back-up plan when the witch’s flying rig malfunctions on stage. Succinctly, the women wrap the set with “For Good,” the final song Glinda and Elphaba share in Wicked.

Wicked Divas is by far one of the best pops concerts in the Nashville Symphony’s history. It’s great fun for all ages to enjoy, and it’s hard to beat great Broadway music.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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