Press Release - November 2, 2014 Asbury Park Press
Chris Jordan, @ChrisFHJordan 11:49 a.m. EST
From left are Jilly Sentino, Lisa Sherman, (foreground), Reagan Richards, Layonne Holmes and Eryn Shewell. The cast of Decades of Divas were photographed in Oceanport, NJ, on Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
(Photo: Russ DeSantis )
What is a diva?
She's the main female singer in an opera company or a famous and successful woman who is very attractive and fashionable, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
But as the term has moved from the opera stage to the pop charts, a new definition is in order for a new era. The folks behind the "Decades of Divas" revue, which premieres Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, are ready to make their mark.
"They make the audience feel like they're right next to them," said "Decades of Divas" star Lisa Sherman of diva-dom. "What makes (a fan) compelled to be near a person, to go miles out of their way to hear that person perform? It's got to be that that person makes you feel better when you leave the venue than when you came in."
"Decades of Divas" features Sherman and a group of A-list Jersey Shore singers performing the songs of divas ranging from Billie Holiday to Adele. Franke Previte, the Academy Award-winning composer from the movie "Dirty Dancing," is the man behind the divas.
"That's the true sign of a diva or a really great entertainer, that connection, that thread to the audience," said Previte, a resident of Oceanport. "You're singing to them and not at them."
The show was originally conceived by Sherman, a Rumson-raised talent who's a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, a Broadway performer and has hosted her own New Zealand TV show.
Previte, the New Brunswick-raised former frontman for Franke and the Knockouts, first saw Sherman perform on the water in Point Pleasant Beach last year.
"When she got onstage and talked to the audience, they connected with her as a person and they started rooting for her even before she sang," Previte said. "Then she was good, and at the end of the song, they were standing on their feet."
Hence, a diva is not one who has a superior talent and an impenetrable guise, but one who has a superior talent and welcoming warmth. The British singer Adele is an example of a contemporary diva — she's one whose diva-ness is enhanced by her imperfections.
"It makes her human, it makes her like every one of us," said Previte of Adele, whose hits include "Rolling in the Deep." "She's not like on some pedestal and nothing can hurt her. She can be hurt, she can be vulnerable, just like you and I. She looks in the mirror, and says, 'I got to lose 20 or I got to lose 10,' like the rest of us."
"She gets onstage and she doesn't let that affect her performance. She lets it contribute to her performance."
From left are Jilly Sentino, Reagan Richards, songwriter Franke Previte, Lisa Sherman, Gerald Carboy, Eryn Shewell and Layonne Holmes. The cast of Decades of Divas were photographed in Oceanport on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Photo: Russ DeSantis )
The music of Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Celine Dion, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Adele and more will be performed.
The local divas taking the stage include Layonne Holmes, who has backed Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi; Eryn Shewell, a Shore jazz and blues chartreuse; Reagan Richards, one half of the new Shore country duo Williams Honor, and Jilly Sentino, who's backed everyone from Felipe Rose of the Village People to Gloria Gaynor.
The band is led by local legend Gerald Carboy of Bayville. David Sancious and Ernest "Boom" Carter left the E Street Band to play with Carboy in the group Tone in the '70s. Bob Himmelberger, piano; Ralph Notaro, assistant musical director; Joe Bellia, drums; David Biglin, keyboards; John Martin, brass; Rick Brunermer, reeds; and Gary Oleyar, violin and guitar, make up the band.
The guys like to have fun. A read-through at Previte's home was sprinkled with a bit of bawdy banter, not quite fit for a newspaper and within listening distance of Previte's Oscar.
It's a multi-media production with videos and all the bells and whistles.
"We're going to have seats onstage, there's going to be tables, chairs, there's going to be a bar," Previte said. "Then, the audience now has a connection onstage. When the people sitting onstage are inspired to stand up, it's going to trickle down into the audience."
The Basie performance will be filmed, and it won't be a one-time deal.
"It'll be Feb. 21, 2015, at the Strand (Theatre in Lakewood) and we want to take it on the road and to the casinos," Previte said. "We're putting on a show."
Chris Jordan: 732-643- 4060; firstname.lastname@example.org
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