They are Strong, They are Invincible
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes
Five women and their amazing voices have been invited to the stage at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia to fill the air with song! Each strong woman brings something unique, offering performances to suit all tastes.
The five divine women begin the show by singing that it’s time to “Get Happy”. They’re dressed up in classic black, each outfit suiting the individual woman. Each woman has taken a different path in life to arrive on this stage together, and they share some of their background and personal details. They tell of how they became interested in singing and share some experiences about auditioning and performing. Sandra Mantini is one part of the widely popular group The Mantini Sisters. Michelle E. White, born in Canada with Jamaican heritage, was inspired by Ella Fitzgerald and can scat sing delightfully. Callandra Dendias, who calls VPP her place of steady employment, and is a Patsy Cline fan, is one of the best yodellers in the business. June Crowley is a supreme soprano, well known for her performance in Toronto’s Phantom of the Opera. Janet MacEwen is a wonderful performer in such productions as Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins and Mama Mia!
These women put their souls into such performances as Janet MacEwen’s “Cry Me a River”, Sandra Mantini’s “Yesterday Once More”, June Crowley’s “Think of Me” from The Phantom. Michelle E White takes “A-Tisket, A Tasket” to new heights! When Callandra Dendias sings “On My Own” from Les Miserables, you could hear a pin drop during a pause; the audience is so focussed on her. Teacher June Crowley and former pupil Dendias share the spotlight for “The Sound of Music” (which brought a tear to my eye, and I’m not moved like that very easily anymore.)
The incomparable Mark Payne is at the piano, with Dan Baerg on percussion and Bethany Harrison on bass. The stage is always colourfully lit due to the creative mind of David Rogers. It is as if the stage is wrapped in a giant silky scarf that varies in colour with each change of mood. Most impressive is the rainbow over Sandra Mantini as she sings “Rainbow Connection” and the Lion King yellow surrounding Michelle E. White as she dazzles the audience with a sampling from the musical. In the second half of the show, the women wear more formal versions of their earlier outfits with a little more bling, and then make a final change near the finale, this time wearing a little colour.
Outfit changes are fun, of course, but are not the emphasis in this show to honour these strong women. Even the usual VPP-style humour is cut back, as this is more of a showcase of the performing abilities of the five. With their extraordinary and diverse talent, these women succeed in making a lot of people “Get Happy.”
Divine Women continues at the VPP until August 14. Call 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 or visit www.thevpp.ca for tickets.
Photo: Janet MacEwen, Michelle E. White, June Crowley, Sandra Mantini, & Callandra Dendias. Photo by Diane O’Dell.
Directed by David Rogers
Choreographed by David Hogan
Performed by June Crowley, Callandra Dendias, Janet MacEwen, Sandra Mantini, Michelle E. White
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
August 2 to August 14, 2022
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes