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Burgh Vivant review of Dinah (2024)

Posted to Facebook April 14 2024

Dinah-mo, Delana Flowers – A Review of “Dinah”

By Lonnie the Theater Lady

After having seen “Dinah” when Pittsburgh Playwrights produced it about nine years ago, I wondered if it were possible for the show to be any better this time around. To my delight, although hard to imagine, yes, it is even better!

This biographical music review written by prolific Pittsburgh playwright (more than 27 produced plays and musicals), Ernest McCarty, provides some insight into Dinah Washington’s controversial life and her propensity for entering into numerous marriages. Her philosophy, “I’m going to keep getting married until I get it right.” Ruth Lee Jones first married at the age of seventeen (before she changed her name to Dinah Washington). One of the life events the show highlights is her struggle to keep her weight down with the aid of diet pills that affect her moods, and which are eventually blamed for her untimely death at the age of 39. Being a perfectionist about her music is another of her qualities that is featured in the series of vignettes that tell parts of her story.

The show opens dramatically as Dinah (Delana Flowers) dressed in a gorgeous white satin gown with a fluffy white boa draped around her neck, glides onto the stage, perched on an ornate white throne. Several of her husbands (wearing numbered placards that identify their sequential place in her numerous marriages) circle her on the stage. That scene foreshadows the elegant, shimmering, stunning costumes that Flowers wears in each costume change.

Flowers is a magical, versatile vocalist. She sings nearly thirty numbers, all to perfection. Dinah dubbed herself: “The Queen of the Blues” And, Flowers rendition of the bluesy number “Baby Get Lost” might have just earned her the title, “Princess of the Blues'”. Wonderful! Flowers is warm, elegant and relaxed on stage, with the bearing of a diva. Flowers, like Dinah shows a wide range of versatility of musical styles. Not only does she sing expertly but she is an accomplished actor, as well.

Her gospel duet with Willa “Katy” Cotten, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” was Cotten’s opportunity to belt it out from way down –and she does, to the delight of the audience. Her powerful, rich voice is a joy. Coupled with Flowers vocals, this number is a standout. Cotten also shines as one of the “Dinah-mites”, (Cotten and Cheryl El-Walker) backup singers to Flowers for a couple of lighthearted numbers reminiscent of the background singers of the 50’s and 60’s. A gleeful performance by both Walker and Cotten as backups!

Brook Benton (Les Howard) has several duets with Flowers, the most well-known is “Baby You Got What It Takes”. And this duo truly does “Got What It Takes”. Howard exudes a charm and sweetness as Benton. The affection between the two characters is authentic and heartwarming.

The rest of the cast features many well-known accomplished Pittsburgh favorites. They all deliver with polish.

The band is a remarkable group of musicians. Pittsburgh icon Roger Humphries on drums dazzles at intermission, with a rhythmic drum solo. Tony Campbell on sax, is a wizard—his sax laughs, cries, talks, sings and wails. The band is completed with Dwayne Fulton (Minister of Music and Fine Arts at Mt. Ararat) on keyboard, and Dwayne Dolphin (formerly with Wynton Marsalis’s band) on upright bass. This band, loaded with individual talent enhanced by their unity, enriches this theatrical experience. They are out of this world–extraordinary.

Director Mark Southers triumphs with this showpiece performed in a lovely cabaret setting. “Dinah” is a sensation that is not to be missed.