- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Doo-wop music has survived the dawn of rap, grunge rock and disco. It almost didn't make it through a sketchily organized concert Friday at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.
The Divas of Doo-Wop assembled an impressive lineup of acts, from the Marvelettes to the Toys. The women gave it their all, even if the majority of the arena's seats were empty. Perhaps doo-wop fans were busy with their Christmas lists.
They missed an evening with plenty of show-stopping oldies but too many gaps between them. A great doo-wop number should be short, sassy and to the point. Any doo-wop concert that stretches past the four-hour mark does the music a disservice.
The evening featured original band members, such as Denise Morgan of the Marvelettes, and some new recruits, but all played the same old doo-wop, a genre rooted in the '50s and '60s.
A few acts, such as the Toys, shared stories of how their songs raced up the charts many years ago. Others described singing on street corners to let their voices be heard. The recollections must have given the baby-boomer crowd more than a few goose bumps.
Every time an act hit its groove, though, it left the stage and an interminably long break followed before the next group arrived. That might be acceptable in an arena rock lineup, in which each band needs to have its own instruments set up and the crowd's average age hovers just below 20. Doo-wop attracts an older clientele, and each act relied on the same capable musicians for support.
The breaks in the action forced local disc jockey Scooter Magruder, from oldies station WBIG-FM (100.3) to plug the gaps with strained banter.
Perhaps the late arrivals were a case of divas acting the part, but for ticket holders, the results were less than impressive.
Worse, the arena's sound mix resembled a high school prom setup, forcing the singers to slice through sonic clutter.
The Bobbettes, dressed in sparkling black gowns with silver trim, kicked off the concert. The women appeared sluggish as they ran through numbers such as "You Are My Sweetheart" but found a second wind with the exuberant "Mr. Lee."
Any group with such a cherished hit in its repertoire should never hang it up, but the group's lethargy didn't bode well for the upcoming acts.
New York City's Barbara English and the Clickettes quickly put fears to bed. These divas, apparently, have plenty left in their tank.
Miss English and crew juiced the arena with "Let the Good Times Roll." Miss English's potent pipes and her backing group's slick moves gave their act a modern polish.
Local act Kimmy & Klasse began their tight set, inexplicably, with a remarkable version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The brightly garbed trio then launched into a series of songs that, while crisply performed, leaned more toward R&B; than doo-wop.
The Toys returned to the spirit of the affair, belting out a modified "The Toys Are Back in Town" before covering "Stand by Me." Their feminized take on the Ben E. King classic proved both reverential and touching.
Denise Morgan, original lead singer of the Marvelettes, earned the unofficial title of chattiest diva.
After a rousing "Too Many Fish in the Sea," Miss Morgan kvetched playfully about her girdle, teased her band mates and otherwise discussed how the years had treated her.
The District's own group, the Jewels, cut through the arena's acoustic mess with ease, while the Chantels paid tribute to the holidays with a poignant version of "Silent Night."
Shirley Alston Reeves, the Shirelles' original lead singer, was saved for the concert's final slot. Miss Reeves, her voice a bolder, slightly huskier version of its old self, tore into "Heat Wave" and "Tossin' and Turnin.'"
Miss Reeves dubbed her new backup singers the Shirellettes because "they're too young to be Shirelles."
Such concessions to the passage of time gave the evening a wistful tone.
WLF Productions, based in Forestville, assembled the acts and promises more doo-wop shows in the new year.
@Ifyougo:**1/2
WHAT:
The Divas of Doo Wop
WHERE:
Show Place Arena, Upper Marlboro
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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