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.

She Pre-Rocks

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On an absolutely perfect night at the Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, IA, the one and only Tara Vaughan delighted the crowd with a spectacular night of song and storytelling dedicated to the women of rock and roll and produced under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

Though it didn’t explicitly have the title, this was a variation of Tara’s She Rocks show (coming soon to the SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion, NE).  Not only is it a revue of some of the classic songs from female rockers, it also serves as a testament to Vaughan’s awesome versatility.  Vaughan covers a slew of songs from a variety of performers ranging from Petula Clark to Amy Winehouse and whacked them all out of the park.

Outside of her insane talent as a singer and keyboardist, what I like best about Tara Vaughan is just her genuineness.  I agree with her manager, who calls her endearing.  She has a sweet, very shy, storytelling style as she talks about growing up, how she sing-narrates her life, and the stories of her friendships that just melt one’s heart like butter. 

But, ultimately, it’s all about the music and Vaughan delivers that and then some with her octane powered alto.  Highlights of Vaughan’s performance included her take on one of my all time favorite songs, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”; a ripping cover of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “When Will I Be Loved”; an energetic version of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”; a spot on performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me”; not to mention a fine performance of her original song “Blame it On My Youth”.

Vaughan is strongly supported by her amazing band which featured Adam Stoltenberg providing the backbeat on drums and Max Meyer heating up the night with sizzling lead guitar solos.  Ejanae Hume not only shines as a backup vocalist, but she also gets her own moments in the spotlight with a take on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” which made me want to get up and dance with somebody and a splendid cover of The Supremes’ “Keep Me Hangin’ On”.  The Given McGuigans (and I stole that description from Vaughan), Ryan and Matthew, not only serve as Vaughan’s partners in comedic crime, but also soar with Ryan’s acoustic guitar and percussion work and Matthew’s bass playing.  Matthew McGuigan and Tara also have a very sweet duet with Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” which seems to serve as an ode to their own friendship.

If you missed this show, well, too bad for you.  Thanks for reading my review.

Of course, I jest.  If you missed this show, you’ve got another chance to see this divine diva of the ivories when She Rocks plays at SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion, NE from Sept 9-19.  Tickets are $20 for lawn seating and $35 for stadium seating and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/sherocks.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 7pm.

If you’re ready for a bevy of hits from a mighty mistress of music, then you’re ready for Tara Vaughan.  She will rock your socks off.

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A Melange of McGuigan

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He’s been thrilling crowds since 2002.  Now the master maestro of Omaha, Billy McGuigan, is set to make his 500th performance at the Omaha Community Playhouse and it will happen during his latest run of Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

Billy McGuigan was ready to rock tonight and, believe me, that’s really saying something.  Attacking the music with a thunderous energy that never let up and actually increased to something cataclysmic, McGuigan and his Pop Rock Orchestra delivered a fiercely awesome 2+ hour concert that had the audience in the palm of their hands from the first note to the last clap.

If you have never seen Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist before (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) what you get is a show that offers classic rock songs done with a big band flair.  Even if you have seen this show, you really need to see this incarnation as Billy and company have completely revamped the show with a new set, lights, set up, and an almost completely new set list.  Truthfully, I rank this as one of McGuigan’s best performances to date and I have seen plenty of them over the years.

Few connect with an audience the way McGuigan can with his charming wit and storytelling abilities and when you add in his phenomenal musical abilities, you’re really in for something special.

Versatile seems almost too small a word for a guy who makes everything he plays sound like his own creation.  McGuigan hit the ground running with ELO’s “Evil Woman” and ran through rockers such as The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” with his pulse pounding tenor and killed it in a guitar duel with Omaha’s personal Pete Townshend, Max Meyer, in the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”.

McGuigan also slowed it down a notch with the Beatles’ beautiful “Yesterday” backed by the string trio of Melissa Holtmeier, Axelle Verboon, and Mindy Zimmerman.  And tears were a flowing when he teamed up with Tara Vaughan to perform an epic take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Speaking of Tara Vaughan, the mistress of the keyboards also got a fair chance to shine throughout the night with her one of a kind tickling of the ivories and that dreamy alto serenading the crowd with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, the Supremes’ “Stop!  In the Name of Love”, and Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”.

Featured performances were supplied by Natalie Thomas who practically had the audience purring with a throaty, sultry interpretation of Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” that was further bolstered with the almighty tenor of Ryan McGuigan; Steve Gomez made his singing debut with The Champs’ “Tequila” which featured his singular bass playing and a stellar solo from Stan Harper on saxophone; Matthew McGuigan took a moment in the sun with The Temptations’ “My Girl”; Omaha’s legendary jazz musician, Doyle Tipler, soloed on his trademark trumpet as only he could; Patrick Peters and Willie Karpf solidly rounded out the horns while the Doctor, Tomm Roland, kept the beat going on his drums.

The volume of the microphones could have used some slight boosting on a couple of occasions, but the only real disappointment of the night was that it had to end at all.

If you haven’t had a chance to see a show with Billy McGuigan and his band, this is the one to see.  You’ll feel like a million bucks before the night is through and if you strike fast you may be able to snatch up a ticket to see that magical 500th performance on August 17.  But any night of this run is going to be smoking good.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist runs through August 18 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $42 and can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, by calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the Box Office.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse.

She Rocks! She Rocks, Indeed!!

World, Tara Vaughan has arrived and she is tearing it up at the Omaha Community Playhouse in her new show, Tara Vaughan’s She Rocks.

Produced under the auspices of Rave On Productions, Tara Vaughan’s She Rocks is a killer revue focusing on the legendary female artists and/or songwriters of the 60s-80s with a splash of the 90s and today thrown in for good measure.  In a thrilling night of rock and roll suitable for people of all ages and presenting artists of all eras, you’ll hear numbers from Linda Ronstadt, Heart, The Go-Gos, Fleetwood Mac, Sandie Shaw, Amy Winehouse, Sheryl Crow, and even an original tune written by Ms Vaughan herself.

Long known as a talented singer/songwriter (and the keyboardist & vocalist for the Rave On Productions), Ms Vaughan’s talent explodes in a stunning tour de force performance for this revue.  Tara Vaughan does not play music. . .she exudes it.  It’s as if the notes just come from the very depths of her soul and she then shares it with the audience with every fiber of her being and her incredible alto voice.

Kicking it off with the sweet, but melancholic “When Will I Be Loved?” by Linda Ronstadt, Ms Vaughan proceeded to demonstrate an unmatched versatility with an extremely diverse set that included the Sandie Shaw version of “Always Something There to Remind Me”, Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”, Heart’s “Barracuda”, and Blondie’s “Call Me”.  But she could also slow it down with sensitive and moving songs such as a little Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”, and Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues”.  However, I thought two of her best numbers in a night full of great ones were her take on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (a personal favorite song of mine) and her own original number written “in a similar vein of “You’re So Vain’”, “Blame it On My Youth”.

In between numbers, Ms Vaughan shared stories with the audience about the creation of the show, memories of her life, and gentle ribbing of her mother with a soft-spoken, almost shy stage presence that hooked the audience in from the first word.

The arrangement of the numbers gave the night’s music a familiar, but fresh feel and Ms Vaughan was epically supported by a powerful band which included Ryan McGuigan on keyboards, percussion, and backing vocals; Matthew McGuigan on bass and backing vocals (and a solo on The Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love”); Jess Errett on electric acoustic guitar and backing vocals (plus a solo with The Go-Gos “Head Over Heels”); Max Meyer, who provided some stellar solos on lead guitar, and Adam Stoltenberg on drums.  The night even included a guest appearance from Billy McGuigan who teamed up with Ms Vaughan to belt out Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.

This is just a taste of what those of you lucky enough to have tickets to tonight’s sold out performance have in store for you.  And if you don’t have a ticket, don’t worry.  Tara Vaughan and She Rocks will return to the Omaha Community Playhouse in late June 2019 for a three week engagement.  Tickets go on sale November 20.  I promise you an experience you won’t forget and you will find that Tara Vaughan most.  Definitely.  Rocks!!!