Sheryl Lee Ralph: One Night Only: A Diva Simply Singing

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Sheryl Lee Ralph

One Night Only: A Diva Simply Singing

Metropolitan Room, NYC, July 30, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Sheryl Lee Ralph

The packed room buzzes in anticipation. The pianist (the charming Ted Arthur) strikes the first chords. The Diva enters. A red brocade cape reaches to the floor. A silver mask covers her face, her hair a medusa of braids and cords. She begins to sing. Growling, fiercely challenging, an ice queen issuing a declaration to the audience: “Welcome to the theater!” And then the mood shifts; the mask is removed, revealing a lovely face. The cape is dropped to display a still spectacular figure clad in red and bugle beads. And the diva is vulnerable and approachable as she delicately sings “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” Without speaking a word, Sheryl Lee Ralph has captivated the audience.

Of course, she does talk during the show, telling delicious stories of her adventures in the theater, both flops and hits. Though she doesn’t exactly criticize anyone (“I don’t throw shade,” she constantly assures us), there are amusing slings.
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She also generously salutes those who helped her, and introduces several who are in the audience.

Some of them even join her on stage, including: former co-star Ben Harney, with whom she recreates their duet from Dreamgirls, “When I First Saw You”; her dresser from her stint in Wicked, Hannah D, who knocks the audience out with a belt version of “Fabulous Baby” from Sister Act; and friend Clifton Davis who, in turn, introduces Ralph’s son, Étienne Maurice, who delights the crowd with “Go the Distance.” Étienne then turns tables on his mother, who had insisted he perform, by inviting his sister, Ivy-Victoria, on stage and the three of them sing “The Lord’s Prayer” as they had when the siblings were young. It is a touching moment. Finally, Ralph is joined on stage by her husband, Senator Vincent Hughes, to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary, with the Diva singing “For Good.
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The evening also served as a fundraiser for the Ralph-created The DIVA Foundation, which raises money for AIDS awareness. She clearly takes great pride in all the organization has achieved.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."