by Lisa Joy Reitman Dobi
On Friday, July 8, the Metropolitan Room presented Dorothy Bishop’s revue featuring a baker’s dozen of legendary divas. It’s a daunting enterprise, to say the least. Your favorite and beloved stars presented by one woman? Will it fly? Fly is not quite the word; Dorothy Bishop soars. The Dozen Divas is divine; Bishop is dazzling. This is a show you’ll describe to your friends until you realize that her comedic genius and amazing voice do not translate over lunch. The magic of live performance seldom does. You’ll simply bring your friends with you and annoy them. “See? See? I told you about that one! Oh, this one is hilarious! Wait’ll you hear her hit the high–” Your friends will smack your arm and tell you to shut up and watch. You have wise friends.
Opening with Joan Rivers, Dorothy entered the room with the signature chatty, “Can we talk?” Naturally, this spot-on Joan had her complaints. Imagine dying after Labor Day and being forced to wear Heaven’s requisite white! Between the Fashion Police blotter, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Joan in the afterlife -as in life- had no shortage of material.
Rivers introduced famed Bond singer Shirley Bassey, who delivered “Diamonds are Forever.” Dorothy’s rendition would have impressed Bassey herself. It was clear that this performance would hit all the marks. And it did.
Dorothy has an exceptional knack for nailing each diva’s signature gestures, phrases. Her facial expressions were flawless, from Judy Garland’s lips to Barbra Streisand’s eyes, Stevie Nicks’s blank countenance in between her lop-sided twirling and snorting something suspicious off the piano. Every character was fastidiously delivered. Dorothy captured meticulously individuated speech inflections such as Liza Minnelli’s customary substitution “sh” for “s,” (“…while I shit on this shtool…”) or Renee Fleming’s monotonous elocution while attempting to tell jokes.
Dorothy’s impersonation skills deserve significant space. However, I was too enthralled by the parade of funny, fabulous women to consider Dorothy at all.
Yes, yes, Dorothy was behind it all. But really, the woman strutting the stage in spandex, leather and fishnet was none other than THE husky voiced, svelte and seductive Cher. I understood that Dorothy was quite present during Barbra Streisand’s duet with Judy Garland. But I was too engaged watching Barbra roll her eyes as Judy knocked over martinis and raved about the marvelous people she met in heaven, such as Jesus. “What a lovely man! It’s such a pity you’ll never get to meet him, Barbra!”
Who had time to think about Dorothy Bishop when Madonna took the stage, wearing leather straps, thigh high boots and a crucifix that could block the Midtown Tunnel. The 22, (32, 42 or 62?) year old pop star denies, I mean defies age. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it! (Flexiril must help her through it.) VOGUE.
Dorothy hosts a bevy of divas whose songs are deliciously familiar as well as deftly witty. Her operatic training is far from a biographical side note. Within 30 seconds I went from laughing with my legs crossed to wide-eyed astonishment as her exquisite voice climbed the uppermost octaves and filled the room. You’ll have to remember to close your dropped jaw. Such a stellar ambush will inevitably showcase many a half-chewed appetizer.
New York is known for its superb league of cabaret performers. Somehow, I could not pinpoint Dorothy as archetypical of that league. But as I wrote, I realized why. Superb cannot be static. Without revivification, superb slips and slides down to predictable. New York cabaret has an advantage: every so often, a performer of extraordinary aptitude and charisma comes to the epicenter of live performance and shifts the paradigm from familiar back to fabulous. Original, smart and remarkably gifted entertainers such as Dorothy Bishop are precisely why New York City cabaret will remain at the top.
Twice nominated for Best Comedy Impersonation Show by both MAC and Broadway World Awards, The Dozen Divas showcases Dorothy’s abundance of gifts, training, skills and passion. But Dorothy has a gift that cannot be learned or honed: her presence. She has a smile that beguiles, a contagious enthusiasm that fills the room, and a boundless love for what she does.
So will you.
You will also love her singing Chihuahua. And so much more. The abundance of wonder in The Dozen Divas cannot fit into one review. In fact, it’s an impressive feat to fit such a vast amount of fabulous into one show!
The Metropolitan Room was, as always, a wonderfully accommodating, warm venue with perfect acoustics and an array of delicious appetizers, desserts and libations.
Every time I’ve been there, the wait staff has been friendly and on point. It’s easy to spot enthusiastic, young talent, especially when a server is extremely attentive and says nothing about professional pursuits. But I tend to ask questions; Hannah Burke is a name to remember.
The Metropolitan Room is indeed an exceptional venue, one that radiates genuine love and support for live performance. And we love and support The Metropolitan Room right back.
Please visit metropolitanroom.com for artist-in-residence Dorothy Bishop’s upcoming performances or call 212 206-0440
For additional information on this remarkable artist, visit dorothybishop.com.