Review: From Dream Girl to Diva, Diana Ross wows NAC Gala

Photo: Al Watson

In my memory there is a place and a time where you’ll find a small transistor radio that filled my head, heart and soul with the music of a generation.

We lived, in those days, an hour outside of New York City, and after watching Man From Uncle (if we were lucky) we children would repair to our rooms and pretend to sleep. At least I would pretend do that.

Instead of dreamland, I was listening to WABC radio out of the Big Apple. The legendary DJ ‘Cousin Brucie’ (Bruce Morrow) would play The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Four Seasons, Simon and Garfunkel and the original Dream Girls themselves, The Supremes fronted by Diana Ross.

Young brains remember what they hear and The Supremes’ songs remain part of the soundtrack of my life along with Lennon and McCartney and Mick Jagger and all the rest.

To see Diana Ross in concert in Southam Hall on Wednesday night, was a chance to revisit that halcyon time but also an opportunity to witness a singer who truly still has it all together. The now 74 year old diva, with her mane of dark curly hair, entered the stage to I’m Coming Out and proceeded to showcase her still amazingly powerful voice in a trip through her times from Baby Love, Stop In The Name Of Love, Where Did Our Love Go to songs from her solo career such as Reach Out and Touch, a scintillating Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Endless Love, the song she usually sings in a duet, she told the enthusiastic Southam Hall crowd.

In true diva form, Ross changed her outfit four times. She began in an emerald green gown which was revealed after she shed a cloud of light blue tulle. That was followed by more tulle and a tight fitting torch singer’s dress of burgundy and tiger stripes for her rendition of Don’t Explain from the Billie Holliday biopic called Lady Sings The Blues. Next was a shiny silver number, initially covered by a massive white puffy wrap. Finally she returned to the stage in a sumptuous blue ballgown.

She also pulled out the song Home from the 1978 musical The Wiz. And the theme song If We Hold On Together from the animated feature The Land Before Time, whcih my daughters watched incessantly. For fans of Ross, the performance in the second half of the gala was a tour de force complete with back up singers and choir, the NAC Orchestra and her own musicians filling the Southam Hall stage.

The first half of the night featured a sparkly, youthful performance of Pablo de Sarasate’s  Zigeneurweisen (Gypsy Airs) by the rising young violin star Blake Pouliot. The kid can play his Guarneri. 

The annual NAC Gala is all about raising funds for music education across Canada. The NAC Foundation reeled in $781, 000 which will go towards the National Youth and Education Trust and help support the NAC’s arts and education programs across Canada.

 The new acoustic shell in place in Southam Hall continues to impress both in sound and in even in sight. The wood panelling was bathed in coloured lighting and the effect was impressive, especially during NACO’s performance of Carmen when the lights bathed the backdrop in shades of scarlet. 

Share Post
Written by

Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.