Courtney Rose Brown
When Harper performs, she holds the emotion of the song as if it were her own and it is captivating. She holds the room in the palm of her hand and with every gaze held, hearts melt. Often I find my face mirroring her expressions of vulnerability as I lean forward, laughing and ready to clap along with her.
Williams and Harper have the charming chemistry of life-long friends. In moments of interaction between the two, Williams is able, with a cheeky comment or the raise of an eyebrow, to send the audience into fits of giggles, paired beautifully with Harper’s responses.
The music is recorded and played through speakers, apart from the live piano performed by Michael Williams. It is when Harper’s voice is accompanied only with Williams playing, that the moments are the most heartfelt. The lyrics and the music, seem to sweep through the room and slow down time, and in such moments, the audience is transfixed. However, with the recorded music, a different element is added, generating either a show tune, or a casino lounge vibe, which supports the piece, but holds magic differently.
The stage set up is simple. As we sit, the darkened room is illuminated by one spotlight, with a microphone stand in the middle and to the sides sit a piano and a stool. With Harper’s ability to entertain and perform, I begin to crave a larger spectacle as I imagine chorus members and costume changes from the musicals that she sings.
The lighting design sets up the different worlds of performance. A general wash is used as Harper speaks to the audience and spot lights or tighter frameworks of lighting pull the audience into moments of intimacy and those of performance. The black curtains that cover the back of the stage, have pinpricks of lights scattered through them, switching between blue, red and green as well as different combinations of all three. This hints towards that of the glamourous, but doesn’t add much, as a more theatrical staging would have been more aesthetically pleasing.
Harper is charismatic, she easily warms the crowd, stating that “we’re all friends here.” As the show begins Harper readily wears singing styles and personalities, but as it continues, these became less distinct and start to blur. Although her voice is phenomenal, I would have liked to see how these legendary divas performed more.
Legendary Divas concludes with sing-a-longs and dancing, where with ease, Harper is able to get the entire audience to stand. Many audience members, who were eager to sing along throughout the show, but were doing so in whispers, adore the chance to belt it out, especially when she directs the mic towards the audience.
Legendary Divas is worth seeing for an intimate concert of Harper’s talent and her show stopping voice. It runs until the 20th of August at Circa Theatre, show times vary. For more information or to book click here: <circa.co.nz>