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Review: No bad in W.Va. orchestra’s “Wicked Divas”

By By David Williams
For the Saturday Gazette-Mail

Singers Alli Mauzey and Nicole Parker joined the West Virginia Symphony for an aural sampling of “diva” music from the world of American popular song Friday night at the Clay Center. Since both singers starred in Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked” on Broadway, the show is called “Wicked Divas.”

It was the best pops concert I have heard from the orchestra in my 24 years as a music critic for the Gazette-Mail.

Both Mauzey and Parker are vocally gifted. And they sing radiantly.

Mauzey drew the listener in with gently informed phrasing and mellow, never-edgy sound in “Think of Me,” from “Phantom of the Opera,” and a stellar “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from “My Fair Lady.”

James Horner wrote the music for “Willow” and “Aliens,” so I will give him a pass on the prosaic “My Heart Will Go On,” from “Titanic.” But Mauzey sang it with unforced artistry. Call it the passion of a well-sung melody without the hysteria of the original recording.

Parker is one of those artists who makes everyone around her better. If her singing doesn’t have the pure tone of Mauzey’s, she makes up for it with zest.

Her “Don’t Rain on My Parade” was fantastic in its switches from swing to driving pop. In “Ring Them Bells,” the different characters of the story sprang fully formed from her voice. In “Diva’s Lament,” from “Spamalot,” she was drop-dead funny.

Given the show’s title, music from “Wicked,” a prelude to “The Wizard of Oz” told from the two witches’ perspective, provided the climax to the concert.

Mauzey sang “Popular” slyly. Parker sang “Defying Gravity” with élan.

They didn’t sing many duets, but “For Good” was a magical ballad to close and a rollickingly delicious “All That Jazz,” from “Chicago,” opened the concert.

Conductor Grant Cooper and the orchestra were right on the mark throughout, even sneaking in a bit of Bizet’s “Carmen” and some shouting brass in the overture to “Gypsy.”

The concert repeats Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Clay Center.

You will have missed something very special if you don’t go.

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