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Dynamite Divas

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Dynamite Divas, Black Ensemble Theater. In its way, Jackie Taylor's latest musical pays homage to Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack, and Nina Simone. But it's not a show for those who want any biographical insight into these influential singers, who catapulted to stardom in the 60s and early 70s.

Scant on personal details, it also suffers from a contrived plot: these five egotistical women are sharing a dressing room before a "Dynamite Divas" telecast in the year 2008. The threat of a catfight is the most dramatic prospect, and obligingly the divas do bicker in the second act. But they don't have many genuine conversations, instead spouting theories and imparting their wisdom about music, men, marriage, age, record labels, and religion.

Yet for most audience members these shortcomings will be irrelevant. A sturdy plot is beside the point when you have enthusiastic renditions of "You've Got a Friend," "I Loves You, Porgy," "Respect," "Midnight Train to Georgia," and "Guess Who I Saw Today?" LaVondra Hinton as Franklin, Rhonda Preston as Wilson, Katrina Tate as Knight, Cherisse A. Scott as Flack, and Eva D. as Simone are all gifted vocalists. So when "diva time" arrives and audience members are treated to 20 minutes of uninterrupted singing, they're obviously itching to get up and dance and clap along. If your only concern is the music, rest assured the show is a chart topper.

--Jenn Goddu

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