“Woman In The Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey”
Winner of San Diego's BRAVO AWARD for Best Solo Concert 2012
Reviewed by Steve Shirley for SD Theatre Reviews
The audience hushed in anticipation of the arrival of Michael Jackson. Even those of us who knew the secret were waiting for the arrival of Michael. The backlit mirror came to life and 'Michael' dropped in on us for the first few numbers as if in real life, real time. Who hasn't seen a Michael Jackson impersonator? This wasn't the case...Devra Gregory WAS Michael Jackson!!! Michael Jackson in his prime, in his Heyday. Michael when he was on top. Devra was tonight what Michael always hoped to be when he was at his very best. And we know when that occurred...Michael was the King. Of course we went crazy with delight. We sang along, clapped our hands, tapped our feet and bounced in our chairs.
Then Michael went into his dressing room and we got to watch as Michael morphed into Devra for the rest of the evening's entertainment. That change, performed to "Man In The Mirror", was awesome, worth the price of admission on its own even though it was only the beginning of Devra's life-long journey through the universe of Dance and Theatre—a voyage that began when she replaced on her altar of devotion her family's religion for her new religion...BALLET!
As each new adventure approached Devra's consciousness throughout the evening, she changed her religion again and again. As her altar kept filling with new icons to symbolize each new stage in her spiritual development we came to appreciate the depth of the artist before us. From extensive training and performing in Ballet, Devra immersed herself in jazz, then modern... continuing to train and perform in many styles and even working on a cruise ship.
Devra then went into Burlesque where she toured as Dance Captain and choreographer in a Vaudeville revival, "The Best of Burlesque." One of the opportunities for her in the Burlesque domain was the Gypsy Rose Lee type of stripper numbers, which tonight Devra did with the utmost class. She was sensational. That era in her journey was replaced by exotic dancing.
From there to Sea World performer in children's entertainment to her initiation into the occult as a Wiccan Priestess, her continuing path through life was presented in the style of dance, costume, make-up and props that accompanied each new aspect of her ever-changing experiences. And, may I remind you, we got to see each transformation happen before our very eyes on stage. Hair, costumes, make up, training, posture and attitudes were dropped off and newly donned with the ease of a chameleon, except the changes weren't just in color...they were in total. Accompanying all these changes was her dramatic, humorous, and enlightening narrative that clearly explained each stage of her progression and understandings.
Let me emphatically say that the sheer physicality of what was done tonight is important. One performer - an hour and forty-five minutes of constant dancing, changing, narrating, with no intermission (an intermission was not needed)...Devra's control over everything never faulted. Her energy never waivered. It was on in full force curtain to curtain. Before, the audience was waiting for Michael. Now... the audience is waiting... for Devra. It brings me great joy that Devra would go to such lengths to offer so much.
When she danced ballet she was an accomplished ballerina. When she changed to jazz she was an authentic jazz dancer. Devra didn't just change the music and keep the dance style the same. When she changed course in performing styles she acquired the actual professional skills to present them in their own elements. Obviously when it came to Hip Hop she was "The King Of Pop". One of my favorites was the Sea World dance—Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Conner and Mickey Rooneyish in style. It deliciously reeked of wholesomeness and frivolity. Of course I enjoyed the exotic pole dance Devra did that actually had the Father sitting next to us covering the eyes of his preteen daughter. It didn't do any good because the daughter was taking forbidden pictures with her cell phone. (Kids—you'll have to explain how to do that to your parents.)
Then as an audience we literally wound up holding hands and telling our neighbors that we cared for each other before the evening ended with the song "Black or White" by Michael Jackson, accompanied by the live drumming of the TAM TAM MANDIGUE DRUM ENSEMBLE. We were then invited onto the stage by Devra, dancing around the floor like a bunch of Hippies. (Parents you'll have to explain how to do that to your kids.)
The set had combined venues of a backstage dressing and makeup room, a sitting room, a meditation and worship space, a giant mirror used for many back lit observations, a ballet studio, a strip club, and much more. The open spaces left ample room for the dance performances that were the main presentation points of the evening's entertainment. The set was ingenious, great to just look at and carried the scene changes flawlessly. It was co-designed by Devra, Jessica Bird and Areta Mackelvie the lighting designer, who deserves an award for the numerous light ques. Kudos to Andrea Fields and Eben Alguire for Scenery and Props and Bonnie Breckenridge for sound.
Countless scene changes and a perfect script written by the Directors Jessica Bird and Devra Gregory came together to present Devra's dance, theatrical and spiritual journey through life... a complete life story filled with hopes, dreams, relationship struggles, growth and healing woven into the presentation of an extraordinary career on the stage.
This evenings' offering was obviously planned to showcase itself for other future presentations, and I'm sure it will succeed. Every piece of the puzzle was in place in spades, a total entertainment package. This was a show that, if we had been comped tickets as reviewers, we would have paid for on the way out! To acquire a video of this presentation before it goes to Vegas and you have to pay what it is really worth... or to find out where "WoMan In The Mirror, A Dancer's Journey" is playing for its next engagement go to www.DEVasMJ.com.