Review by Robin Breon
Billed as a celebration of "class, sass and style" 3 Mo' Divas (written and directed by Marion J. Caffey) certainly has all three of those qualities and much more. In the genre of compilation musicals, this one lays out its project right off the top. We've all heard of the 3 Tenors, the three great men who fill stadiums and sing the great classical repertoire of the opera, hitting high Cs with the velocity and precision of a space shuttle lift off. Well, now meet the 3 Divas who can sing the classics, hit the high notes and then some. And it's the "then some" that's important in this show.
It's not really important to have a book driving one these musicals. Ain't Misbehavin', the grand-daddy of the compilation musical (based on the music of Fats Waller) has no book to speak of and it does just fine, thanks very much. But sometimes just a smidgen of a story line can help the music along. Forever Plaid opened with a guy group having met their sad demise in a highway accident in upstate Pennsylvania on their way to a gig at the high school prom. They find themselves in guy group limbo and have to accomplish that last show before they can move on up heavenward for their eternal reward ("Won't you help us do it, folks? Please?"). And 5 Guys Named Mo kicks off with an opening scene that introduces us to a young man deep in depression and contemplating taking his own life until five guys named Mo pop out of the juke box and redeem his immortal soul with the jump-up, feel good music of the great Louis Jordan
We get a touch of possibility in the opening number of 3 Mo' Divas when diva Laurice Lanier, with her imposing mezzo-soprano voice and no nonsense physical stature takes center stage and indicates her growing displeasure when divas Jamet Pittman and Nova Payton begin to top her in Quando M'en Vo from La Boheme. It's all in good fun of course and could easily have become the running gag of the show. But this is just a very slight quibble to a show that has much in it to enjoy
And as to comparing these remarkably talented ladies to the 3 great men who started it all? Well here it is folks and I think it needs to be said. These women have studied the classics and sing the arias and the art songs second to no one. Think of the first section of the show as a tribute to Marian Anderson if you will (and I mean that seriously). But it's when they move into the popular repertoire that the comparison becomes interesting to the 3 maestros of tenordom. The guys can't hack it. Somehow their classical training gets in the way and they just don't have the chops as anyone can hear when they launch into an embarrassing Feliz Navedad on the perennial PBS broadcasts during the Christmas season.
This is certainly not the case in 3 Mo' Divas. These women can roll with the classics, belt out the Broadway show tunes, bend the notes in the jazz standards and move right on into the soulful and the spiritual with skillful and equal aplomb. What a wonder to behold and what a wonderful evening to spend.