‘A celebration of the world’s greatest musical divas’.
Taking a seat in the appropriately gloomy Phoenix Artist Club, images of smokey eyes, feather boas, glittering martini glasses and mobile phones thrown at unsuspecting servants flash through my mind. The very notion of a Diva is someone who unashamedly demands attention and often, but not always, deserves it. Teardrops & Tiaras, Pippa Winslow and Lee Richard’s collection of much loved and lesser known musical masterpieces, takes us on a brief exploration of the qualities and characteristics that separate these adored performers from us mere mortals.
The show begins with a clever medley of songs, linking themes and lyrics to segue from piece to piece. Moving on to an appropriate homage to what some would argue as the holy trinity of Divadom (Judy, Liza and Barbara) Winslow and Richard take turns channelling both the original singers and the characters of each song. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the trilling twosome move on to showcase pieces from some of their favourite shows, composers and artists. They share the stage, splitting the evening between tackling solo numbers and combining songs in innovative mash-ups. They cover a multitude of musical areas, presenting numbers from contemporary musical TV shows such as Smash, hidden theatrical gems like Legacy Falls and the elevated and renowned crowd-pleasers Wicked and Sunset Boulevard. Towards the end of the evening, Richard and Winslow present an insight into their own imaginings of the modern day diva.
Teardrops & Tiaras is ultimately an ambitious endeavour – there is a reason these songs and performers are so cherished, revered and celebrated. They require a strong voice. While there are certainly moments dotted throughout the show where the audience is captivated, leaning forward in their seats, these are few and far between. Winslow does an admirable job, carrying the evening forward with a charm and ease that make her instantly likeable. Not once does she read from a lyric sheet, providing an engaging commentary on the social and historical backgrounds of many of the songs. By far her most powerful performance comes towards the beginning of the show where her crystal clear soprano bursts forth in ‘This Place is Mine’ from Yeston and Kopits Phantom. Overall, her choice of song is shrewd, carefully picked to demonstrate her acting skills and emotional intelligence. With each song she performs, she maintains a firm grasp on its story and message. While Richard is equally likeable and clearly contributed the majority of the show’s material, his voice is not quite suited to the astronomical notes and burning intensity that come as part of the ‘Diva’ package. There is one blinding missed opportunity in Teardrops & Tiaras. There is no representation of the male diva. Including the likes of Freddie Mercury, Prince and Elton John to this show would boost the show’s appeal while simultaneously suiting a male performer’s voice.
Both Winslow and Richard have demonstrable experience of working professionally in the theatre and have an impressive combined knowledge of the performers and characters they present. However, in its current form, Teardrops & Tiaras does not reach the heights for which it aims. With some unnecessary and unsuccessful key changes and a distinct lack of up-tempo numbers, this show lacks the energy and vocal discipline to take a place on the Diva pedestal.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Teardrops and Tiara’s next plays at the Leicester Square Theatre on 2 October 2016