27/07/2016 - 20/08/2016
16/10/2015 - 17/10/2015
12/05/2016 - 12/05/2016
01/03/2015 - 01/03/2015
06/02/2019 - 06/02/2019
05/11/2015 - 07/11/2015
16/02/2019 - 16/02/2019
NYC Award Winning Chanteuse to Perform at Court Theatre
“Quiet please, there’s a lady on stage….”
Join Ali Harper as she celebrates those legendary divas we grew up with: Shirley, Dusty, Judy, Vera, Peggy, Dolly, Edith and many more…
Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield with a bit of Madonna thrown in for good measure – these and other stunning singing stars come alive in Christchurch performer Ali Harper’s new show “Legendary Divas”.
It’s a project the talented performer has been inspired to write over the past couple months since she began appearing overseas as a guest entertainer on cruise ships and while in America late last year. Harper was invited to perform at the renowned New York City United Solo festival in late 2014. She took the one woman play “Bombshells” (in association with The Court Theatre), to the Big Apple for which she received the festival’s “Best Actress” award.
“That just blew me away,” she says. “It was such an honour to be invited and perform in New York alongside 130 other one person shows from all over the world; the award was the icing on the cake.”
While in the US, Ali Harper went on a search for Doris Day, one of her “heroes”.
“I’ve wanted to meet her for so long. I know where she lives, where her Hotel Cypress Inn is. She is 90 now so I respect her privacy, but I would have loved to have knocked on her door and tell her how much I adore her. The signed photograph she sent me last year and the selfies I took outside her front gate will just have to satisfy me for now.” she says.
Doris will be amongst the legendary divas Ali will perform in her new show. “These women are not only incredible performers, they all have an interesting and often very sad story to tell too. That’s something I incorporate into “Legendary Divas”. It’s a way to honour these women, up close and personal.”
Musical director Richard Marrett returns to work with Ali Harper and her 8 piece band, which includes Michael Story, Tim Sellars, Maddy Addis, Gwyn Reynolds, Cameron Pearce, Scott Taitoko and Hamish Oliver.
“Ali Harper lights up every room she enters, owns every stage she steps onto and steals every heart that hears her sing.” New York review
The Court Theatre, Addington, Christchurch
Sunday, 1st March
2.30pm (Tickets still available) & 7.30pm (SOLD OUT)
*Bookings online here or call 0800 333 100
$49 Adults $45 Senior/ Groups of 6+
Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton
Friday, 16th October 7.30pm and
Saturday, 17th October 2pm & 7.30pm
Bookings: Ticketek Ph 0800 842 538
4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth
5, 6, 7 November 2015
“Harper dominates this delicious evening out. She sings divinely. She shares snippets of women’s lives in between singing their songs and her rapport with the audience is infectious.” (Theatreview)
SIT Centrestage Theatre
12 May 2016, 8:00pm
Early bird $35; Full price $40
Ali will be joined by Wellington’s much loved Michael Nicholas Williams on piano for this spell-binding evening.
27 July – 20 Aug 2016
Preview 26 July
Price:$25 – $39
Lake Wanaka Centre
Wednesday, 6th February
Theatre Royal, Nelson
Sat 16 February
Theatre , Solo , Musical ,
1hr 30mins (including interval)
Fills our heads and hearts with music
Review by Gail Tresidder 17th Feb 2019
At last spring’s Nelson Arts Festival, Ali Harper gave a memorable performance with Songs for Nobodies. On more than one occasion, and like others in the audience, I was moved to tears. And, foolishly perhaps, I expected more of the same. However Legendary Divas was created earlier by Ali Harper. It is altogether lighter, more cabaret, the first half rather like a Royal Variety Performance – a bit of this and a bit of that.
After a somewhat frenetic introductory set, running through a whole lot of different singers, hurrah – with a marvellous Ethel Merman and then an even lovelier Doris Day: ‘It’s Magic’ – things really gel. We are with her 100%.
Harper is fabulous on stage. After a mercifully short interval, she appears looking wonderful in a black dress with glinting, sparkling gem-studded motif and gives Shirley Bassey a run for the money with ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ followed by other great Bond themes. Now we are eating out of her hand and the pathos of these brave, often flawed and very human divas is palpable; is touching. Stories of Piaf, Callas and others, illustrated with songs that made them famous, have us caught in the moment, our memories, their memory.
Harper is not afraid to engage with the audience. She sits on a knee here, teases and coaxes on stage a fireman there, gets us all to sing along. She is so energetic, moves gracefully and looks terrific. Now we love her.
I particularly appreciate the projection of so many divas, the dates they were born and the dates they died. A true roll-call with Etta James rightly acknowledged, as is Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. Harper sings ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’. Perfect. Happy and contented we walk away from the theatre, our heads and hearts filled with music.
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For old school song lovers everywhere
Review by Pip Harker 07th Feb 2019
The latest show (in Wanaka, anyway) starring award-winning singer/actor Ali Harper (oh yes, and writer, director and co-producer) is a loving tribute to Divas of days gone by, a nostalgia trip and a celebration of them and the songs they gave us. Garland, Holiday, Bassey, Streisand, Springfield, Day and more more more.
Accompanied by backing tracks and a living breathing pianist – Richard Marrett – the effusive Harper (a saucy Doris Day) owns the room as she takes us through medleys and mash ups of different genres and eras with pizazz and a very obvious affection. It’s ambitious to take on all these songs and Harper is probably the only woman in NZ who would even try; she has the kahunas and, in general, the chops.
The show is super slick, with tightly scripted banter between songs offering little-known anecdotes about these divas: some sad, others hilarious.
Harper’s great skill is as storyteller and vocally really shines when singing the softer songs accompanied by just piano, a standout being Edith Piaf’s heartbreaking torch song ‘Hymne a L’Amour’, written for her great love Marcel Cerdan who died tragically.
Other highlights include: a hilarious spoof of ‘I Could’ve Danced All Night’, from My Fair Lady – ‘I Couldn’t Hit The Note!’; a song-backed poignant slideshow of The Divas and a few lines from Dolly Parton in character.
The sound at The Wanaka Events Centre could be better and indeed kinder for singers and the high stage is not ideal for an intimate show like this but where else is there?!
The de rigueur audience participation and Harper going into the audience to tease and flirt is a huge crowd-pleaser. And the ‘victims’ seem extremely happy about it too.
I would’ve loved and was expecting more characters from Harper as that’s clearly where she has outrageous talent and it makes for more theatre but apparently that is a different show called Songs For Nobodies.
Harper informs us she is taking this show on a cruise ship soon and it’s gloriously cheesey qualities are perfect for this. We were transported to said cruise ship with Harper the powerhouse at the wheel. Aye aye Captain!
There is no doubt Ali Harper is a national treasure. Who else could ask a Kiwi audience to stand and boogie to a Motown medley finale and they actually do it?!
This show is a fun night out (or evening on the cruise ship) for old school song lovers everywhere.
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A great evening of musical entertainment
Review by Ewen Coleman 29th Jul 2016
For any performer to cover the styles and range of the countless female singers from the past decades is a big ask, yet somehow the ever-talented and accomplished Ali Harper goes a long way to achieving this in her show Legendary Divas, currently playing at Circa Studio.
Harper’s many years of experience in musical theatre and cabaret shines through in this show, as she is the consummate performer, confident and grounded, yet full of life and energy. Her ability to be able to move from one style and genre of song to another at the hitting of a note is quite extraordinary. [More]
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Respect, humour, style and charm
Review by Maryanne Cathro 28th Jul 2016
Well people, this is how it is done. Put two outstanding performers on stage who have also known each other for 26 years, and the magic happens.
I first saw Ali Harper in Circa Two performing Tell Me On A Sunday back in 1998, and she was fabulous then. Eighteen years later, her talent has matured like a good cognac, developing breadth and depth and soul, although on stage she sparkles like champagne!
Michael Nicholas Williams has finally returned to Wellington after a year in Europe, and it is a joy to see and hear him performing here again. The two enjoy some affectionate interplay that adds fun and spontaneity to the show. The accompaniment is sometimes boosted by recorded orchestrals that enhance the tremendous range of songs brought together.
Divas have been a part of our musical landscape for most of the 20th Century and we are treated to hits by Cilla, Dusty, Shirley, Judy, Diana, Dolly, Barbra – all the Divas! Harper is an excellent impersonator of these singers, with utmost respect, some gentle humour and with her own unique style.
This show has been on the road, on and off, for a while now but you would never know it as Ali Harper’s performance is as fresh as if it were her first opening night.
I wasn’t sure how Edith Piaf and Tina Turner numbers could share a stage, but Harper makes it work seamlessly. She weaves medleys, full songs, upbeat Motown and a truly moving performance of ‘Send in the Clowns’ together with spoken and musical segues, audience interaction and effervescent charm.
I am particularly moved by the tribute to the courage of the Divas who got up there and sang for us through lost love, addiction, estrangements and entanglements, ruin and triumph. However this is balanced throughout by Harper’s owning her own talent and ‘Divanicity’.
At the end we were all on our feet, but I am sure it would have been a standing ovation anyway. Great work, La Diva Ali and Maestro Michael!
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Review by Jane Milne 14th May 2016
Tonight I am expecting to be wowed and wowed I am. Ali gives each Diva the justice they deserve with an outstanding performance. Her range is amazing, not just in the songs she sings but in the different tones her voice brilliantly reaches.
Pianist David Sidwell introduces Ali Harper who waltzes in wearing a clingy dress with a pattern depicting chains on it: a nod to Janis Joplin’s classic ‘Ball and Chains’; a reference to the fact that every Diva must take the good and bad that comes with being famous? Maybe it means nothing. Regardless the dress is stunning and Ali looks every inch the Diva.
A fun and brilliant Motown Medley starts up with ‘Baby Love’, ‘Stop in the Name of Love’, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’; we are bobbing in our seats, hooked.
The audience is asked to think of music that has touched, healed or inspired us. Music that conjures up memories; first heart break perhaps? As ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’,a Cilla Black number, rings out many of us think of that first guy or girl who broke our heart. We recall when we wanted to escape from reality as the‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ fills our ears; her one nod (fittingly it seems) to a male Diva. Ali reaches each note perfectly.
The scenery is mentioned, or lack of it: the backdrop is black with a piano on the left of the stage, a chair near the back middle and a microphone at the front. “Who needs scenery,” Ali asks us, “when I have a silver fox?” Yes, true, and who needs scenery when you have a Diva commanding the stage? ‘No Business Like Show Business’ rings out giving, us goose bumps.
We are asked to ponder the definition of Diva, about which we are given some interesting facts. Ali asks, “Do I look like a challenge to you?” More than a few men reply, “Yes!” bringing raucous laughter.
Diva, we learn, has some really positive connotations including “Devine one”. Ali breaks into some pretty fantastic opera high notes … David on the piano and Ali have been friends for a long time and it shows in their funny banter. His piano-playing skills really complement Ali’s singing.
The delightful Doris Day song ‘Magic’ is magic for us! We hear a hilarious story about Barbara Streisand having once slept in the room Ali was about to stay in for her wedding. Ali appears to have endless entertaining and interesting tales to tell. And her laugh is absolutely contagious.
Ali hits all the right notes with Julie Andrews’ ‘I Couldn’t Teach the Note’,perfectly articulated in a high English Accent. We are treated to some lip-syncing: it appears David can sing too.
‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ starts up honouring amazing women and all of the leading ladies who have played Eva in Evita. She does this song complete justice. The audience is star-struck, tears moisten the corner of some eyes.
Next Ali informs us that Etta James said “even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it.” She launches into her own beautiful rendition of ‘Send in the Clowns’,written for the 1973 musical A little Night Music, where the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life.
From this very moving and touching performance an imaginary scene is set for us; its 1986 in Alis bedroom and she is wearing leg warmers; a scene many a teenage girl can relate to regardless of the music of their era and whether or not leg warmers were in; a fan is on, the music is upbeat and we have a mash up of whole array of fun fast music starting with; “Now I hear the music close my eyes I am rhythm” from the song ‘What a Feeling’.
As the music goes through an array of fun 80s music, Ali starts to walk up the aisle into the audience. The conservative Invercargill crowd shrinks into their seats, not wanting to be singled out yet wanting to. One guy gets chosen, much to the disappointment of many a man in the room I am sure, as Ali sings to him …
Back to thestage, Ali blasts out Madonna’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and Donna Weiss’ ‘She has Betty Davis Eyes’. From the heavenly high notes of Evita to the upbeat sound of the iconic Princess of Pop Madonna, Ali nails them all in voice and style.
After interval Ali is dressed as a Lady in Red (wow I wish I could rock a red dress like that) and – wearing stunning diamonds on her wrist, ears and the centre line at the top of her dress – sings ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and continues through some other James Bond chart toppers: every inch the Bond girl with a sensual voice to match.
We are treated to more Divas with great quotes from them and brilliant medleys of their songs: Janis Joplin; Dolly Parton (The Dolly Parody is hilarious Ali appears to look at me as she says in a southern drawl “make sure you write this down”); Judi Garland; Edith Piaf.
Back into the audience Ali goes with an eye on her first half target but he has bonded himself into the seat so a nearby Hugh, after much convincing, gets up. Ali has him side stepping finger clicking and bobbing with her … The fact that she can reach the octaves of Celine Dion and the depth of folk portrayed by Dusty Springfield doesn’t cease to amaze.
Ali doesn’t let the rest of us off lightly, imploring us to join her in a Carole King song as she sits with David at the piano: ‘You’ve Got a Friend’.The audience gets right into this, which is a step out of the normal for this cautious southern crowd.
Ali is up moving for (you make me feel like a) ‘Natural Woman’,inviting even the men to join in; what happens in the theatre stays in the theatre so my lips are sealed as to whether I heard any male voices joining in.
Ali dedicates the last song – ‘Quiet Please There’s a Lady On the Stage’ –to the Divas who are no longer with us as a TV appears and the Divas photos and names pass across the screen
“Put your hands together”: we have witnessed a Diva tonight.
We are thinking the journey through amazing music of so many talented Divas performed by one very gifted Ali Harper is over when she bounces back on stage and has us up dancing to her encore medley.
Post-show, the foyer is a-buzz with people buying CDs talking to Ali and her husband and discussing the show: “Wonderful”, “What a treat” and “Phenomenal”.
Phenomenal it was with David’s excellent piano playing and Ali singing a huge range. Ali is a star! Ali is a Diva!
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Creates intense moments of delight and sorrow
Review by Ngaire Riley 06th Nov 2015
The promo line of “Quiet please there’s a woman on stage” is litotes in Ali Harper’s Legendary Divas. She dominates this delicious evening out. She sings divinely. She shares snippets of women’s lives in between singing their songs and her rapport with the audience is infectious.
‘Diva’ comes from the Latin – feminine of divus, god like, from which we get ‘divine’. And it is sublime performance that she shares with us. Ali Harper is a complete package: a beautiful singer, instantly able to create mood, and a wonderful mimic. Whether it is Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Miley Cyrus or Dolly Parton, the style and timbre of voice emerges.
The stories of women’s lives enrich the evening. Edith Piaf posed with French prisoners of war and smuggled the photo to them so they were able to cut out their images and create false passports. Harper also redirects the reputation of some, like her comment from Judy Garland’s daughter who said that her mother had tragic moments in her life but was not a tragic figure. This adds to our understanding of success and suffering that many of the women experienced.
Harper gives a list of great singers who were estranged from their mothers – Bassey, Garland, Callas, Billy Holiday … It’s a slick, well-paced evening and when Harper drops into the conversation that she performs on cruise liners, I can see where she has honed her skills.
Aspects of the evening that jar are the collision of styles on stage. Greek columns frame Greek vases with metre-high floral arrangements in each upstage corner, yet upstage centre is a screen lit with blurry coloured blobs of light. There is a red plastic bar stool. This seems an ugly collision of faux classical with ’80s colour.
The lovely piano playing of David Sidwell is engulfed by the backing tracks. Often it is hard to hear the live piano at all. A piano line already exists in the canned music. At times, when the backing merges with the live playing the syncing is a little clunky. During the mellower start to the second half, after the Bond medley, Harper sings with just the live piano and this is very successful.
The slide show of the divas near the very end of the performance seems poorly positioned. Perhaps this would be better in the rather long interval.
The most annoying aspect of the performance was the hiss of the microphone when Harper uses sibilants.
Despite this, Ali Harper has a wonderful ability to act, use accents and create intense moments of delight and sorrow. I particularly love her ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ and ‘Bring in the Clowns’. Her ’80s medley in bare feet and loose hair raises the spirits and her final medley raises people off their seats and onto their feet to dance and sing with her.
I’m taking my husband to see her again on Saturday.
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A voice and stamina to be marvelled at
Review by Gail Pittaway 17th Oct 2015
What great women they were and still are: Dianna Ross, Judy Garland, Dusty Springfield, Peggy Lee, Barbara Streisand. Like the old party game where we have to remember objects after they are flashed in front of us on a tray, Ali Harper’s ebullient switch between these legends of the stage and disc is mind boggling.
Her energy is phenomenal, while her warmth and ability to work with the band and to the audience is delectable. She is unafraid to break down the wall and come out into the audience or invite a male victim up to join with her in a fast-paced dance medley game of ‘Guess the Divas’. She is so glamorous in her slinky gowns and golden hair that the men certainly aren’t complaining and, sign of the true Diva, even the women think she’s gorgeous!
Harper opens the show with a medley of Motown numbers which leaves the audience fully informed of her powerful voice. But this is tempered with later softer numbers: Judy Garland in swing mode, Edith Piaf mourning her lover Marcel Cerdan in the spine tingling ‘Hymn to Love’ and the song which made divas of Elaine Paige and even Madonna, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’.
With an ability to capture but not parody Streisand’s slightly nasal tone, Julie Andrews’ immaculate diction, Merman’s hint of metal, and Janis Joplin’s or Carole King’s bluesy edge, virtually every song is a show stopper. But, gloriously, the show goes on!
By half-time we are marvelling at her voice and stamina. But the second half is even gutsier, opening with a belting, melting tribute to Shirley Bassey.
Harper’s speaking voice is soft and gentle, also easy on the ear, and she intersperses brackets of numbers with snatches of information, gossip and myth; after all, no evening celebrating Legendary Divas should go without some of the legends.
It’s great to learn new stories – the name changes, the desperation to be loved and recognised, or about who beat whom to which role (My Fair Lady: the film role of Eliza Doolittle being played by Audrey Hepburn, chosen over Julie Andrews who played it on Broadway, only to have Hepburn’s voice, carefully coached for the movie, dubbed by Marni Nixon).
And some of the old stories: Maria Callas’ legendary tapeworm, the need for affirmation and the all-too-often decline into booze and drugs; here the list of names too numerous to mention.
Harper is supported on stage by an eight-man band led by the show’s musical director, David Sidwell. Relaxed and in his element, he parries and parties on stage with the leading lady from behind the grand piano, whose ivories are well and truly tickled, stroked and given a jolly good hiding. It’s a joy to see such mutual pleasure in the music; the ladies and their legends shared between singer and musicians.
Some of the business of the show business atmosphere is made by intricate and interesting lighting; roving spots, back lights, solo spots and drifts of blue or red haze colouring the words so often sung in dark cabarets. It’s a memorable night of great music and song from a New Zealand legend, Ali Harper.
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Enriches the experience of being human
Review by Lindsay Clark 01st Mar 2015
The exuberant and versatile Ali Harper is no stranger to the stage at The Court and it is no real surprise to learn that she has recently been awarded a prestigious Best Actress award at a New York festival. Loud applause for this generously gifted actress, with an all-enveloping voice that can take us with her no matter what she sings, is a further extension of the celebration of song that she offers.
The programme is a veritable cornucopia of favourites, from “Shirley, Dusty, Barbra, Judy, Vera, Doris, Peggy, Dolly, Edith and many more…” Backed by a brilliant 8-piece band and under the assured musical direction of Richard Marrett, also often applauded for his work at The Court, the line up provides a real treat.
The voice, presence and sparkle are all there. What is doubly striking for me, in the performance, is the sheer artistic energy and skill which allows a seamless segue between disparate musical experiences. Our engagement is due not only to a cleverly sequenced programme and astute direction, but to the captivating charm of a natural sharer, especially in pieces where a dramatic scenario or ‘invisible listener’ is implied.
Renditions of the Evita classic ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’ and from A Little Night Music, ‘Send in the Clowns’, are examples of the freshness brought to the whole repertoire.
From the outset, and again later, Harper acknowledges the individuals who will contribute to the programme and her relationship with the audience is as spontaneous and friendly as the neighbour who offers you a basket of garden bounty. Interplay between the singer and the musical director, who is there at his keyboard, is similarly jokey, all helping the warm glow which pervades the theatre.
Life for many of the celebrated singers, whose music and voices are reproduced for our pleasure, was often hugely challenging. Bio-snippets and quotations often introduce the songs, and the positioning of the show as a tribute to their bravery and tenacity, as well as the power of music itself to enrich the experience of being human, is very clear.
‘Quiet please, there’s a lady on the stage’ is not a difficult instruction to follow, captivated as we are. The heartfelt applause at the end says it all.
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