The Divos are in fine form this year. Yes, you read that correctly.
Just as Las Cruces’ own divas – Megan McQueen, Janet Mazdra, Della Bustamante, Carrie Klofach and Thea Cordova Mills — will be coming together for the third straight year to present a fundraising extravaganza to benefit the American Southwest Theatre Company, the divos are also making a grand return to the stage.
Originally invited to accompany Sassy Diva McQueen for one number, last year, the Divos, as they were affectionately dubbed by the divas, found themselves interjected into several of the numbers and eventually wound up stealing the show. Because of that reception, McQueen, the organizer of the event, has decided to give them their own numbers this year.
“I thought what they did last year was awesome,” she said. “I mean, the word diva implies flashy and grandiose… and they definitely are, so… yeah. It just made sense.”
Last year, the divos – Philip Alvarez, Walter Carr, Matt Esqueda, Austin Parrish, Donny Prosise and Karlos Saucedo — were brought in primarily to help McQueen, who had been diagnosed with vocal polyps and, thus had to “take it easy,” get through her rendition of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” This year, they’ll strut their stuff in two big numbers, “There’s Nothing Like A Dame” and “It’s Raining Men.”
“There will be lot more divo-ness in the other numbers this year, too,” McQueen added. “I think it totally raises the bar.”
Lest we forget, however, as integral as the divos have become to the show, it is still the Divas who rule the roost. And when it comes to raising the bar, these gals are ready to pull out all the stops.
“The first year was conceptually about presenting the rules of being a diva,” McQueen said. “It playfully introduced the concept of rivalry and fabulousness and we just went from there. Last year was the year of the divo, but it continued the whole diva vibe.”
If it sounds like McQueen is actively looking for ways to top her previous shows, it’s because she is. It isn’t enough to have five of the brightest stars in Las Cruces appear on stage together, held together by local thespian Charles Lecoq as emcee and the masterful David Cunniff on piano. Nor is it enough, apparently, to introduce a campy male element. For the sassy diva, the sky is the limit.
“I was literally driving home from the show last year, saying, ‘how can we top what we did this year?’” she said. “What better time to figure it out than when it’s fresh in my mind, right? For example, Thea, our opera diva, last year sang “Glitter And Be Gay,” which is the most fabulous song ever, so how do you one up that? This year, we’re bringing in a tenor from El Paso, who is amazing, to sing a duet with her. The first year we just had a piano. Last year we had a piano player, a drummer and a guitar. This year, we’re going to have a full band and we’re ending the show with a huge group number.”
Originally conceived as a fundraiser for the American Southwest Theatre Company’s guest artist outreach programs, the event has been, according to ASTC Managing Director, and Department Head of NMSU Theatre Arts, Tom Smith, the organization’s largest fundraiser two years running.
“It’s been a really popular fundraiser, but what’s really cool is, in addition to the ticket sales, we also have community sponsors,” Smith said. “For a $200 sponsorship, audience members can choose which diva, or divo, they want to sponsor. For the price they get four reserved seats to the show, they get a special VIP reception during intermission, they get a picture with their diva at the end of the show and it’s just a really great way for them to connect with an artist.”
But more than just a business prospect for the organization he oversees, Smith also admits to having become a fan.
“It’s fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of fun banter. It’s a little bit campy… okay, it’s a lot campy, especially with the boys up there dancing. It’s very much in the vein of an old variety show and is really about getting a group of artists together who are at the top of their game for one big concert. They sort of exaggerate their personalities, in true diva style, and that adds to the humor. It’s just a lot of fun. We look forward to it every year and so do a lot of our regular patrons.”
It’s all music to McQueen’s ears, who likens the proceedings to “an enjoyable evening of carefree fun.” She is also very quick to point out that another big highlight of this year’s show will be the venue.
“We’re naturally going to have a bigger, more fabulous event because we’re in the new Center for the Arts,” she said.
Smith agrees and admits that he is always eager to show off the new facility.
“If there are still people who haven’t been to the new building yet, I think this is a great opportunity for them to come into the space and see how it can be used for something other than traditional theatrical performances,” he said. “We just introduced a musical theatre component to our program, last year when we moved into the new building, and I want people to start thinking of the Center for the Arts not just as a place to see great plays, but also as a place to see great musicals.”
What it all comes down to is having fun for a good cause.
“It’s become an occasion for celebration,” McQueen said. “Who doesn’t want to have an over-the-top, festive good time and forget about everything else they have going on for just one night?” She paused, falling into her diva mode, eyes twinkling. “Besides, where else are you going to get this much fabulousness on one stage?”
7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 17
Center for the Arts
Corner of Espina and University on the NMSU Campus
General admission $15; students $5