|Photo by Dan Norman|
|Dane Stauffer, Ben Bakken, and Julius Collins in When a Man Loves a Diva.|
While you'll have to wait until the Fourth of July to read all of my thoughts on When a Man Loves a Diva (think of it as a holiday bonus), here are a few preliminary reactions.
The musical revue takes a pretty simple idea -- have a trio of guys singing tunes made famous mainly by ladies from the top of the pops -- and builds it into a frothy bit of summer fun.
A good chunk of that goes to the men at the front of the stage: Ben Bakken, Dane Stauffer, and Julius Collins. There's a lot of music and stage experience right there (even the youngest, Bakken, has plenty under his belt, and an Ivey Award to boot), and all three of them are fearless in tackling whatever the show tosses at them, be it "Stand By Your Man" to a bit of Lady Gaga.
Another key factor is the work by music director Sanford Moore and director Andrew Rasmussen. The show works when it tackles comedy or dives in full force with the music. That could be a medley of classic soul and pop tunes as heard from the perspective of the backup singers (it's a joke that goes back decades, but is still fun to see) or Bakken absolutely nailing Adele's "Rollin' in the Deep." That performance is aided by the band (James A. Young, III on bass, Geoff Lecrone on guitar, and Demetrius Mabry on drums) who does a beautiful job of building the song's tension.
Collins's higher pitch and fluid voice make him a perfect choice for Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Not a personal favorite as a song, mind you, but his performance was pretty arresting.
Stauffer, a longtime acting and comedy vet in the Twin Cities and California, put on his best virtual Cher wig for "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," and then -- with the rest of the cast -- hammered into his best Tina Turner for "Proud Mary."
Personally, there was a little too much standard-issue rock 'n' roll (Pat Benatar's "Shadows in the Night" -- really?) and not nearly enough Donna Summer, who only came up twice, one of those being a brief snippet after an audience request.
Quibbles aside, When a Man Loves a Diva does exactly what it sets out to do: give a trio of talented performers (and a hot band) a chance to flex their performing muscles for a night on material that usually isn't in their songbooks.
IF YOU GO:
When a Man Loves a Diva
The Lab Theater
700 N. First St., Minneapolis
Through July 28
For information and tickets, call 612.333.7977 or visit online
700 1st St. N., Minneapolis, MN