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Broadway diva LaChanze charmed in Diana Ross tribute at 54 Below

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 6/21/2013, 12:48 p.m.
Broadway diva LaChanze charmed in Diana Ross tribute at 54 Below

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Broadway diva LaChanze charmed in Diana Ross tribute at 54 Below

Broadway diva LaChanze performed "Love Hangover: LaChanze Sings Diana Ross" at 54 Below, located at 254 W. 54th St., on a recent Sunday night. It was touching to see one diva confess and demonstrate her admiration for another diva. While Ross has many amazing songs that she has left her mark on, LaChanze managed to recreate some of those timeless numbers and give them dramatic interpretations that were so astonishing, original and unforgettable.

When she sang "Love Hangover," it wasn't the usual disco version, but it was moving to hear. LaChanze obviously deeply respects the work of Ross, who has been in the business for 50 years and who has performed more than 200 songs. She spoke of how Ross' songs had a consistent theme of love, and LaChanze definitely brought the love to the stage at the intimate 54 Below.

She gave an exciting and thrilling performance of "I'm Coming Out!" and clearly had a great time with the song. She was ably accompanied on stage by Jason McCollum and Milan Conner and had the audience delighted not only by her singing, but also by her expressive dance moves.

LaChanze told the audience of her love for Ross--for her songs, her voice, her dramatic expressions and diva gestures. LaChanze gave a memorable, creative delivery of Ross songs like "Them There Eyes" and "Touch Me in the Morning," which had a Caribbean beat that actually worked.

LaChanze performed song after song with an expression of respect, admiration and contentment as she continued to share her love for this musical icon through this marvelous, unique tribute. This Broadway diva, seen in "The Color Purple" and "Dessa Rose" off-Broadway, spoke of songs sometimes being like monologues in a show. Then, she did something that knocked me off my feet: LaChanze performed "Last Time I Saw Him," a song about a woman who is taken advantage of by a man, who then leaves her and never comes back, but she keeps hoping that he will return. It is a sad song about the pain this woman feels, and when Ross sang it, it was something to be entertained by. However, LaChanze gave it a dramatic rendering and brought it to a level I didn't realize was possible. Bravo!

"Good Morning Heartache" was the next number that this diva tackled, and she did a moving job. She made it move more slowly than usual and had it come across in a much more dramatic way that you felt deep down inside. You could hear the pain the singer was going through. She gave a hip-hop feel to "You Can't Hurry Love," but it worked!

She performed "Do You Know Where You're Going To," in a very proper voice. She sang "I Hear a Symphony" with a Broadway-style flair. LaChanze performed medleys that included "Baby Love" and "Baby Don't Leave Me." She sang the songs with such a sense of pain that you could feel the sadness in each word. You could feel her disappointment. I had never thought of the pain in these songs until I heard LaChanze's interpretation. LaChanze was magnificent!

Among Ross' other classics LaChanze performed were "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and "You're All I Need to Get By," which she performed with accompaniment by Jerry Dixon. She sang "Love Taught Me," and "Remember Me," and everyone sitting in 54 Below will remember LaChanze as a "Good Thing." "Set Me Free," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "It's My Turn" were also part of this fabulous, moving and dynamic diva-to-diva tribute.

LaChanze is a diva who charms. Her band was fantastic and included Michael O. Mitchell, her musical director and pianist; Marvin Sewell on guitar; Eric Brown on drums; and Chris Parks on sax.

The environment at 54 Below is so welcoming, the waiters are friendly and pampering, and the food is tasty. For more information, visit 54Below.com or call 866-468-7619.