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Pop Music Review

Stirring Moments Spring From 'Divas' Benefit

May 08, 2000|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's one of the best parties in town, where the music raises the roof, the applause pours out like love and tears flow like redemption.

But as Sheryl Lee Ralph, founder of the AIDS fund-raiser "Divas: Simply Singing!," said at Saturday night's 10th annual event, this is one party she would have preferred never to host. Still, she and her fellow divas keep singing--to keep alive the memories of the friends they've lost and to keep hope alive for the rest of us.

In a never-ending succession of shape-hugging gowns, Ralph (TV's "Moesha," Broadway's "Dreamgirls") kept the packed Wilshire-Ebell Theatre roaring with her bawdy comedy and take-no-prisoners attitude, while contributing a soaring rendition of "Home," from the musical "The Wiz," to this showcase of female soul and pop singers.

Melissa Manchester turned her smooth, dusky voice to a lullaby called "A Mother's Prayer," an invocation of love to heal an incomprehensible world. Maureen McGovern set aside her microphone to perform a soft, prayerful, a cappella rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and Jane Olivor, who dropped from sight for a decade, greeted fans with a satin-smooth rendition of her '70s duet with Johnny Mathis, "The Last Time I Felt Like This."

Oleta Adams put a languorous, jazzy spin on the pop anthem "Let Me Be the One," and the Emotions infused even more trills and flourishes than usual into the soul harmonies of their '70s hit "Best of My Love."

Also simply fab-ulous at this fund-raiser for Project Angel Food and the Safe Place for Pediatric AIDS were Erin Hamilton, Lillias White, Nnenna Freelon, Vann Johnson, Sandra Pires, E.G. Daily and Tisha Campbell-Martin.

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