Review-Battle of the Divas-Heidi Mak


By: Michael Dorsher

Battle of the Divas is a piece about 4 female singers who sing together in a group, get into a tizzy and then go into the musical-style singing equivalent of a rap battle.  Each brings their own personality, background, baggage and style into the mix of songs they deliver.  The musical choices vary in style and tempo, some with audio accompaniment, some performed live on piano.

From promotion, I was expecting a cabaret style performance, with the costume on the poster setting my expectations in terms of costume and setup.  The stage set was minimalist and fitted well with the theme, and the intro reveal was spot on for a night time battle of Diva Singers.  That’s when I discover I’m viewing what appears to be a rehearsal setting where our four Divas are in preparation for a show.  Their interactions lead to fighting which leads to the impromptu battle between the four stars to determine who the audience will crown as the Queen Diva.  You’ll find colored cards on your seat to vote for your favorite of the night.
The performers in this play are all extremely talented.  Heidi Mak showcases her abilities in acting, piano and vocals.  Andrea Nodroum steals the show with her numbers, as her ability to stay in character while delivering her numbers appears strongest amongst the ensemble – and it helps that her tunes are more quirky than the typical ballad. Erin McHugh’s lead highlight is in the number Taylor the Latte Boy Duet with Heidi Mak joining in for Taylor’s part. Alice McKay’s performance shines best when her Diva clashes with Mak.
Felix Brown’s lighting design sets the stage well as the various Divas take center focus in different parts of the stage.  Janel Yau’s set design is minimal and works well – we wouldn’t want to take away any attention from the Divas. Based on the marketing materials and the playbill, I’d have liked to see a bit more in the costumes for the show, considering the ball gown Heidi wears on the poster outside the venue.  A bit more dress-up would make it look like more of a divas battle rather than a tiff amongst divas, and I think this would lend well to the talents on showcase.  There’s one background element not credited in the program, which is the sound engineer/design – which is a shame, as it’s the majority of what I want to talk about.
Coming into a show with diva singers, expecting a showcase of singing talents, the sound for this show really let me down.
There are only 3 mics on stage and the first number “Heat is On in Hong Kong” is challenging to hear as one diva after another moves past the single center mic. There are not too many numbers where this becomes an issue but the first and last numbers both suffer from this element.
My second challenge with the sound is in the leveling.  With many of the songs playing background music off a cd or mp3, the vocals for the singer and the individual instruments cannot be leveled well together as a total piece.  There’s a fight between the level of the singer and the stage mic against the background track – and for me it doesn’t work. You want the transitions between the two to be seamless but, overall, the songs with piano and no background track work much better.  If music were played live, it would benefit the vocal quality of the four performers, which are all quite strong.
Most of the cast does well both in and out of the spotlight, paying attention to whoever is at center stage singing, bopping along to the music, smiling and cheering them on.  Mak breaks the fourth wall at one point to let us know her voice isn’t feeling well and, at times, is in the background wandering from the scene.  As the writer/director, this is completely understandable; however, as an actress in the performance, it’s a break of character and takes away from the scene on stage.
My Top Songs of the Evening:
Heidi Mak – Make Me Feel Your Love
Heidi plays piano while singing this piece herself, and is one of the standouts for her performance of the day.  Honorable mention to Diva’s Lament at the end, which gives her the opportunity to belt a long high note – an expectation I had for most of the songs due to the billing.  Diva’s Lament plays to the funny side, while Make Me Feel Your Love plays to the serious side.
Erin McHugh – Taylor the Latte Boy
Very amusing, sung with Heidi Mak taking the part of Taylor.  The way they foil each other in this boy-meets-girl piece is quite enjoyable.

Andrea Nodroum – Not Getting Married; I’ll Kill Her; On My Own
Andrea takes on humorous numbers from the start and has the strongest backstory in the Divas Battle, and her pieces reflect this.  She acts well in the pieces she sings and draws the crowd in.  When she closes it off with an emotional number, displaying growth of character from her initial position, it brings you in more.  I was expecting her to win the battle.

Overall – good performances, but the sound side didn’t hold up its end.  Considering the HK$250 ticket price, I'd give it a strong 2 speech bubbles.
Battle of the Divas is playing at the Fringe Club through March 1. For more information, click here.

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Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 2.8


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