The Belmont Divas

All Eras

Massey Concert Hall
Nashville, TN
Theatrically, the school year couldn’t have gotten off to a better start than it did last night at Belmont, when three of Music City’s most accomplished divas kicked up their heels on the stage of Massey Concert Hall with an evening of amazing songs that haven’t been done to death.

There are many fine mentors at Nashville’s university theater departments, but not often do they strut their stuff like Nancy Allen, Emily Speck and Jo Lynn Burks did on that stage, and to watch them made you want even more to see the young artists they are mentoring grow and flourish under their training.  And the place was packed with those students, who were clearly enthralled.

The women’s three distinctly different voices were a perfect spectrum of the sound you want in a musical and, while this wasn’t exactly a musical, there was a through line that gave it arc and momentum. “We chose songs we liked,” Allen told us. And what a selection it was—no “Over the Rainbow” or those other songs you usually find on the “cabaret jukebox”

One song Allen likes is “Nashville Nightingale.” Where did this come from? (The Greenwich Village Follies of 1923.) I saw it on the program and was primed to hear it when it came along, and it really tore in to me because it celebrates the spirit of our town in the mode of musical theater. It also gave Allen a great chance to show off her beautifully nuanced comedic skills.

Speck took us to the heart of motherhood with another unique song, “Lullaboy,” and she turned us on to a delightful number from the current hit, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder—a giddy little piece called “I Don’t Know What I’d Do.”

Being from Atlanta, Burks really triggered my down-home roots with her take on “Georgia on My Mind” and delivered a kind of quirky burlesque with “Loud” from Matilda The Musical.

Allen and Speck shared a duet with “I Know Him So Well” from Chess. And then there were the trios, where we got to enjoy the divas’ chemistry. “The Grass Is Always Greener” was the kind of thing we go to the theater for.

I hope this makes you wish you’d seen it because I think they need to do it again.

I’m just sayin’.

Come to Nashville and go to the theater!

Jaz Dorsey
Cabaret Scenes
August 25, 2014