Work of Art Productions, LLC presented The Chocolate Diva, Peggy Eason at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, July 28, at 2pm.
Elegantly entering from the back of the theater, singing I Got The World On A String, (T. Koehler, H. Arlen) Peggy Eason easily reaffirmed her status as a diva, in the best sense of the word. Ms. Eason, now admittedly 72 years young, and blind since birth, is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music, and her lovely Lyric Soprano was used, but not overused, to great effect.
Throughout the performance Ms. Eason demonstrated an old world phrasing reminiscent of Sarah Vaughn, coupled with just the right amount of bluesy/belty sex appeal of Dinah Washington.
Humorous as well, Ms. Eason first addressed her audience remarking “You all look so gorgeous!” Later hilarious offerings included The Ebonic Love Song (Howard Smith), and an engaging coupling of All The Way/All Of Me (S. Cahn, J. Van Heusen / G. Marks, S. Simons) during which she passed out plastic body parts, while never losing a deep connection to text nor her velvety vocal mix.
Of additional particular note were her renditions Of Teach Me Tonight (S. Cahn, G. DePaul), Someone to Watch Over Me (G&I Gershwin), all sung with a creamy, or perhaps I should say “chocolate creamy” voice that both honored her education, while staying firmly rooted in the world of Cabaret, and at the same time, betrayed her age.
She ended the evening with a rousing performance of Equal Opportunity Lover, and encored with Because Of You (D. Wilkinson, A. Hammerstein) which once again displayed her facile use of voice, and emotional range.
Ms. Eason’s strengths are clearly her upper vocal mix and her endearing, and self deprecating, sense of humor. And while she is clearly able to “belt it out” I found myself wanting to hear more of her “Sarah Vaughn “ and a little less of her “Dinah Washington”, as a couple of the belt numbers seemed to tax her otherwise-fully-capable voice.
Ms. Eason benefitted from the keen music direction of Tracy Stark, as well has her band, Steve Doyle (Bass), Howie Gordon (Drums), and John Isley (Saxophone), all top notch performers in their own rite.