‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ brings soul and sparkle to the Lamb’s stage
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, February 5, 2023
Jukebox musicals may be having their moment in San Diego, but all this production is asking for is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Lamb’s Players Theatre’s newest show, created and directed by Kerry Meads and written in conjunction with Vanda Eggington, celebrates the big music of the 60s and all of the female powerhouses that made it rock in its run on Coronado Island through March 26.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, which features Angela Chatelain Avila, Caitie Grady, Rebecca Jade, Janaya Mahealani Jones, Sydney Joyner, and Joy Yandell, offers a lineup of fan-favorite 1960s songs on a quick turnaround as some songs only include 32 bars, while others are sung to near completion. Accompanied by a talented live band, this six member vocal ensemble nails the tunes of the time one after the other with confidence and vibrance.
While each of the performers has special moments throughout the evening, some highlights of the production include a trio of songs from the emotionally charged “Society’s Child” to the ensemble acapella rendition of “What the World Needs Now” and then onto the heartbreaking “Universal Soldier,” Jones’ spot-on turn as Tina Turner for “River Deep - Mountain High,” and Joyner’s twinkling-eyed headlining of the song that inspired the title, “Respect.” The songs differ greatly in style from “One Fine Day” to “The Look of Love,” yet the six artists manage to be stylistic chameleons, weaving their way effortlessly through a variety of genres.
Accompanying these changes are a series of projections which appear on the tassel curtain and feature faces, album covers, and design elements iconic to the era. Lacio Pontes has done a fantastic job selecting images to project that keep the audience in the moment celebrating the great vocalists they know. He also avails himself of the opportunity to introduce - through photos - the female songwriters and lyricists that many may not be as familiar with.
The costumes for this production (Jemima Dutra) are also stunningly selected. It seems that every song or two has a new look and each is more beautiful than the last. There are floor length mixed-tone gold sequined numbers, matching cornflower sheath dresses with sparkly bows, an array of pantsuits, go go boots, and more. All costumes fit the performers well and feature styled wigs, accessories, and shoes… and best yet, they add a bit of flair to the high energy line up on songs, making the show feel even more like a stadium concert.
The house band features guitarist Steve Gouveia, keyboardist Ben Read, percussionist Dave Rumley, and bassist Oliver Shirley, all of whom are on point throughout the show, and who are joined periodically with musical surprises, courtesy of the actors. The band’s sound levels are well matched to the singers, but a few reverb selections are made throughout the show that detract from the performers’ vocal cut-offs and the differing timbre of some performers’ voices cause the occasional part to get lost in some group numbers.
These minute challenges aside, Lamb’s Players’ World Premiere R-E-S-P-E-C-T is ready to rock as it celebrates the dynamic female vocalists that defined an era, and is worth catching before it closes on March 26.