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Dazzling Divas by Issy van Randwyck

Given there have been entire shows about just one of the seven ‘divas’ showcased in this production (such as Dusty at the Charing Cross Theatre in 2015, Janis Joplin: Full Tilt at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2016, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndham’s Theatre in 2017), I wonder if this one is a little too ambitious. Issy van Randwyck has a good vocal range and the songs are pleasant to listen to, to the point where I would listen to an album recording if one were made available.

Issy van Randwyck - photo by Andreas Lambis.
Issy van Randwyck – photo by Andreas Lambis.

Covering twenty-eight songs in a couple of hours seems impressive on paper, though a few tracks are truncated, which is potentially frustrating if it’s a song you’re in the middle of enjoying. The life and times of each ‘diva’ are captured through rapidly delivered monologues. Some of them sounded, frankly, like a recitation of the Wikipedia entry on a given performer. There was, at least, a running theme – they all died before their time: Billie Holliday died at 44, Marilyn Monroe at 36, Patsy Cline at 30, Janis Joplin at 27, Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter at 32, and Dusty Springfield at 59. The audience is mercifully spared dull yarns about what each of the songs mean to her personally: aside from a brief recollection about buying an album by The Carpenters many years ago, van Randwyck keeps it all about the divas in the show’s title. Oh, and there’s no requirement to have any prior knowledge about any of the divas before coming to the show.

The introvert in me liked being at a concert and not being asked if I was having a good time, if I had a good interval, or if I wanted one more song, only to be asked the same question again because apparently, the performer couldn’t hear. Maybe such things annoy van Randwyck too. But a little more engagement with the audience wouldn’t have gone amiss. The band, led by Corin Buckeridge, is only namechecked once, at the very end of the evening, and while they are all very competent, they stuck to their remit of accompanying van Randwyck’s vocals, without much of a ‘wow’ factor of their own.

There was no attempt at impersonating any of the singers (that much was evident pretty much straight away, as she opened with a section about Billie Holliday without sounding anything like her), and there were some things about the divas that turned out to be revelations for me. The set from the venue’s previous production, a revival of the Sondheim musical Gypsy, was retained for this brief run, though the dazzling lights to go with Dazzling Divas were somewhat underused. Was the intention to provide relatively brief overviews of each singer, to allow the audience to come away with a desire to read up about one or two (or more) that were of particular interest?

Some props were used in the first half, and then none in the second half. A cowboy hat, a nod to Patsy Cline, was worn for all of five seconds, and I’m still not sure what purpose a headless mannequin on stage served. A whirlwind experience, performed adequately.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Dazzling Divas is a mesmerising musical journey illuminating the lives and work of legendary performers Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Karen Carpenter and Dusty Springfield. Seven trailblazing women whose lives lit up the world and whose influences continue to this day. Relive their music and stories, each one as extraordinary as the next in one magical evening.

Issy van Randwyck is a triple Olivier Award Nominee most recently seen in The Boyfriend at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in the film Blithe Spirit with Dame Judi Dench. She was a member of the satirical cabaret group Fascinating Aida. Her many recordings include The Glory of Gershwin with Larry Adler produced by George Martin.

Written and performed by Issy van Randwyck
Directed by Edward Hall

Q&A with Issy van Randwyck from the cast of The Boy Friend (2019)

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

  1. Q&A with Issy van Randwyck from the cast of The Boy Friend
  2. ‘Divas London’ onboard The Tattershall Castle
  3. Divas: From Stage to Screen – Rose Theatre Edinburgh
  4. Divas London at The Prince Of Wales Cabaret Venue
  5. London transfer of multi-award-winning Janis Joplin: Full Tilt


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