Dynamite Divas

From L to R: Dara Hogan, Dani Cleveland, Shirley Terrell-Jordan, Alisa Moore, Caitlin Mabon

If you like watching paint dry, grass grow, or wallpaper peel. . .well, to be honest, I worry about you and you’re reading the wrong review.  Now if you like sass, jazz, razzmatazz, soul, and rock n roll, buckle up your seat belts and get ready for four dynamite divas to add a little rocket fuel to your night.  They’re loud.  They’re proud.  They’re bold and they’re gold.  And all they want is a little Respect down at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Respect is a 90 minute concert that pays tribute to the trailblazing women of music.  You’ll sway, bop, and dance to hits from legendary performers such as Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes, and many more.  While you’re “Dancing In the Street”, you’ll also learn some trivia and facts along the way.

How good is this show?

Why don’t you tell me?  How would you rate a show that gets people clapping, has them bouncing in their seats, earns spontaneous standing ovations, and has them roaring?

My sentiments exactly.

The four singers just dominate the stage and had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands.  All of them have big, beautiful, powerful voices that excelled in harmony and in solo work.  Their colorful, sequined dresses designed by Lindsay Pape sparkled just as much as their voices.  They clearly had a blast performing these numbers and that enthusiasm infected the audience with a frightening rapidity.

Dara Hogan’s star really shone tonight with her complete and utter ownership of her numbers.  Confidence just poured from her as she out-Tinaed Tina Turner with a thunderous take on “Proud Mary”; hit a bullseye with a solo moment in “Don’t Make Me Over”; and brought it all home with a classic performance of “I Am Woman” that would make Helen Reddy weep.

Dani Cleveland has a nice throaty voice that just wraps you in warmth and has a flair for comedy as shown by her witticisms.  And such skill!  Cleveland showed mastery of multiple genres from the country stylings of Connie Francis’ “Who’s Sorry Now” to the soft pop of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and matched the mighty Diana Ross in “Stop!  In the Name of Love”.

Shirley Terrell-Jordan’s energy could power a bullet train and seemed imbued with the spirit of Dionne Warwick when she belted out “Don’t Make Me Over” and I thrilled to her take with Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”.

Caitlin Mabon really had a wide emotional spectrum with her numbers.  Particular standouts were an intense, even a little angry, take on Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” which was one of my favorite melodies of the night and a sweet take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Jim Othuse’s lights lent that big time concert feel to enhance the work of the larger than life quartet while Ananias Montague and his band (Myles Jasnowski, Darren Pettit, Jonathan Sanders, Raquel Taylor, and Jacob Sorensen) perfectly played the numbers of these legendary artists.

A few wonky microphone moments couldn’t stop the onslaught of this tuneful train and if you leave this show without having a good time. . .well, I fear you fit my opening sentence.

For the rest of you, you still have a chance to catch Respect, but move fast!  As of this writing, tickets are only available for June 23 and 25.  Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by calling 402-553-0800, visiting the box office, or heading to www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

The McGuigan Invasion

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On Feb 9, 1964, a group known as The Beatles made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Their triumphant American debut not only forever altered the course of American music, but triggered an event known as The British Invasion as a slew of English bands would find their way to our shores to dominate the pop charts.  Last night at the Wilson Performing Arts Center in Red Oak, IA, people got a chance to either relive that era or experience it for the first time with Billy McGuigan’s latest show, The British Invasion.

Like the Beatles, Billy McGuigan continues to churn out hit after hit and his latest show is certainly no exception.  With his one of a kind energy and ability, Billy and his band, the Downliners, took the audience on a blitzkrieg tour of the British Invasion as they snapped out a wide arrangement of songs from a variety of bands such as The Who, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Petula Clark, The Dave Clark 5, Herman’s Hermits, Cream, Them, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, The Beatles.

Billy McGuigan was in especially good voice last night and set the tone for the night with his opening number of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” complete with some pinwheel guitar playing ala Pete Townshend. From there, he gave his rich tenor quite the hefty workout.  Whether he was belting out hard rocking numbers such as “Under My Thumb” and “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” from the Rolling Stones complete with Mick Jaggeresque dancing and strutting to singing lighter rock numbers such as Herman’s Hermits’ “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good” to gently emoting tender tunes like Peter and Gordon’s “I Go to Pieces”, McGuigan could simply do no wrong.

McGuigan also proved his remarkable versatility by tackling The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” with a take that would make Eric Burdon proud.  And he actually made me like a Van Morrison song (my favorite number of the night, actually) with his interpretation of Them’s “Here Comes the Night”.

Billy McGuigan was powerfully supported by his multitalented band, the Downliners, including his brothers, Ryan and Matthew McGuigan, on percussion, bass, and backing vocals who shined in their own numbers.  Matthew worked some magic with The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting of You” while Ryan was in full John Lennon mode with The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” before the two joined forces on the awesome “Revolution”.  Tara Vaughan tickled the ivories as only she can and was featured in several numbers as her, oh so gorgeous, alto attacked Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Petula Clark’s “Downtown”.  Omaha’s answer to Pete Townshend, Max Meyer, dazzled the audience with skillful lead guitar playing and solos while Adam Stoltenberg’s drumming was the unbreakable foundation for these numbers.

Early in the night, Billy told the audience that for a fraction of the cost of a Rolling Stones ticket we were actually hearing the same songs complete with lyrics and sung in tune.  Well, the ticket may have been a fraction of the cost, but the talent is absolutely priceless as Billy and the Downliners make these classic songs their own and you should certainly get a ticket the next time you hear that Billy McGuigan and The British Invasion is coming your way.

Locally, Billy McGuigan will be back in action on March 30,2019 when he teams up with the Omaha Symphony at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, NE with yet another new show, America Rocks the 60s.  Ticket prices start at $19 and can be purchased at Ticket Omaha.

This summer, Billy’s keyboardist, Tara Vaughan, formally debuts her own show, She Rocks!, over at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  This production features the legendary hits of female singers and songwriters and will run for 3 weeks beginning on June 13, 2019.  Tickets begin at $30 and can also be purchased at Ticket Omaha.