It wasn’t just funny that when Michael Krajewski, the jocular conductor of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, reached for his microphone at the beginning of “Three Broadway Divas” and it wasn’t there.
It was fitting.
There wasn’t much he could get in edgewise anyway given the snazz, pizzazz, and oomph of his guests for the evening, Debbie Gravitte, Jan Horvath, and Anne Runolfsson.
His dry humor and the singers’ flair combined to create an evening in which no stops would be pulled out.
Vivacious yet classy.
Divas who aren’t drama queens.
To say the divas were outspoken would be to put it mildly. Their banter amongst themselves and with the audience was lively and animated.
It’s a good bet that that group of late arrivers had never before been verbally escorted to their seats by a Tony Award winner, Runolfsson.
Nor would it be too much of a stretch of the imagination to assert the redhead, the blonde, and the brunette had the panache and style of the women of Sex in the City.
Wait, does that make Krajewski Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw?
The women were funny, they were light-hearted. They each wore a dress in a different shade of red. The color reflected their devilish demeanor (Oh God, yes) as well as demonstrated the various stages of passion and brio each voice projected.
The opening orchestral Overture from Gypsy was lush and understated. It was nostalgic, not a little wistful. Well-paced, it set the musical tone for the rest of the evening. It harkened to golden, innocence days when being a stripper really meant something.
The second song, “Let Me Entertain You,” by the three women, stated in no uncertain terms what we had in store.
Entertainment and enchantment.
The solos were magnificent.
When Runolfsson sang “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from Funny Girl, clouds and naysayers had no choice but to comply. Her rendition was spirited and defiant. When Creedence Clearwater Revival asked “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” look no further: it was Runolfsson.
When Horvath sang “Broadway Baby” from Follies her voice soared and so did we. She was dreaming about her destination, a career on Broadway. But she sure was having fun on the way. It could have been us riffing on our own dreams, on our own Broadway, a few blocks north.
And when local girl makes good Debbie Gravitte (Los Alamitos High alum; her grandmother lived in Tent City; she disported on the beach a few blocks from the arena) sang “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line, a song about however bad things were at home, things were always beautiful at the ballet, she could have substituted “POPS!” for “ballet:” things were lovely at the POPS!
The song list was well chosen. It mixed Broadway classics (from Funny Girl, Candide, Mame, and Sweet Charity) as well as soon-to-be Broadway classics (from Evita, Wicked, and Manna Mia!). The orchestra, under the stewardship of Krajewski, appearing, as he joked, for his fifth annual farewell performance, was in fine fettle.
In a gilded age divas may seem superfluous.
In our post-gilded age, they can hoist us out of our pre-something malaise. Like a trio of well-plumed Dantean Beatrices they can lead us out of our particular hell.