Warren Soars With Bassey Music
Jennifer Leigh Warren and Dame Shirley Bassey have two things in common, according to Warren. They are both short at 5'3", and they both divorced their first husbands. I'll add one more: they can both sell a song, sending it soaring to the heavens. Now @ the Renberg Theatre of the Gay and Lesbian Center, through this Sunday only, June 19, sublime and sassy Jennifer Leigh Warren is singing the songs of the one and only sexy sensation Dame Shirley Bassey in Diamonds Are Forever: The Songs of Dame Shirley Bassey. This must be the rapture they've been talking about. Did I die and go to heaven?
Backed by a spectacular seven piece orchestra, led by Kevin Crouch on piano, Warren makes her entrance in a gorgeous floor-length light brown frilly gown designed by Ali Rahimi and belts out the title song "Diamonds Are Forever". There's a little dialogue interspersed, but mostly what Warren does best: singing and acting the hell out of each number. Of course, she does "Goldfinger", "Hey, Big Spender", "My Life" and "I Am What I Am", which as signature tunes bring out Bassey's grande theatrics, but in addition there are many less familiar ones like her very first recording "Burn My Candle (At Both Ends)", which shows her SINful side, "Something (In the Way He Moves)", "Puhleeze! Mister Brown" and even "The Liquidator", which as Warren describes "took the cake" in Bassey's repertoire of movie theme songs. There's a fantastic medley of "What About Today"/"History Repeating", which Bassey used to point out the futility of war in the 60s and 70s, and a beautifully simplistic - jewelry and eyelashes off, in wig cap and robe in front of a backstage dressing room mirror - "The Greatest Performance of My Life", followed by the gorgeous "And I Love You So". The band also does a brilliantly brassy rendition in between costume changes of music from Bassey's heyday. Glorious sounds!
There are two costume changes. Warren changes half way through into a slinky, glittery street-length white number with hanging tassles and short mixed-blonde wig very a la Tina Turner. Rahimi has certainly done some conscientiously detailed planning with his designs to match just the right looks in period glamour for Warren. The simple blue robe and wig cap for the finale bring out the down-to-earth quality of Warren, the lady who can strip away the fashion and just be herself as she talks to her loving audience, very much the way Judy Garland did in her time with her adoring fans. Richard Jay-Alexander's direction of the material is thoroughly winning, making the entire evening an unforgettable experience. As finale, there is also a short delightful film trailer from the late 70s Bond movie Moonraker with Bassey's disco version of the title song over the substituted credits of this Diamonds Are Forever production.
What makes Warren so right for Bassey is of course her big voice and theatrical style. And, she is in no way trying to impersonate Bassey, but rather pay homage to the great music she has always sung. Warren is a star in her own right. She's warm and giving, whilst totally enveloping herself in every single note and lyric of every song she sings. This is a fabulously classy evening that no true theatre goer can afford to miss. Warren singing Bassey is divine bliss!
(photo credit: Chad Hill)
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4 PERFS ONLY | JUNE 16-19 | THE RENBERG THEATRE AT THE VILLAGE AT GOULD PLAZA
In The Heart of Hollywood's Theatre District
(One Block East of Highland, just north of Santa Monica Blvd)
1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles, CA 90038