Review: Shadowbox Live Tributes the Women of Rock with “Leather & Lace”
March is Women’s History Month and if you’re struggling with how to celebrate, Shadowbox Live has recently opened a fitting tribute. Running until May 19, Leather & Lace: A Musical Tribute to the Women of Rock features a set list of rock ‘n’ roll’s most iconic frontwomen and leading ladies, from legendary powerhouse divas to the belters and crooners that have forever changed music history.
Leather & Lace… features 20 musical renditions from acts like Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac) and Alanis Morissette, among others. Directed by Julie Klein and head writer Jimmy Mak, Leather & Lace… is a tribute that includes both captivating vocal performances backed by a full band and full-fledged dance numbers with the energy and theatrics of a Las Vegas show. You get a feel for not only what these women were up against and what they accomplished, but who they were as people, as MCs provide historical context and video interviews are interspersed between performances.
Much like the tribute itself, the show’s best performances center on its lead ladies. Noelle Anderson manages to command the stage as four background singers and a jovial Blues Brothers impression join in for Aretha Franklin’s ”Think.” And other tributes were made all the better with help from the cast: Courtney Love’s “Celebrity Skin” wasn’t exactly a big crowd pleaser, despite Stacie Boord’s enthralling performance; and while a rendition of “Call Me” struggled to hit the right notes, Eryn Reynolds’ well-dressed suiters make it a livable, if not charming, performance. But what was a stellar performance by Leah Haviland — performing Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” as a tribute to singer Amy Lee— became somewhat distracted by an equally stellar performance by Shadowbox Live dance captain Nick Wilson.
Rock music has introduced us to a range of personalities, as evident in costumes emblematic of acts from the showy and chic to the raw and rugged. But the best costume of the night goes to one of the night’s best performances — Decked in ’70s garb, Mary Randle’s Janis Joplin stole the show for a near-perfect rendition of “Piece of My Heart.”
Production design is always a highpoint for Shadowbox live, and Leather & Lace… is no different. Without a hitch, the cast’s sound and stage lighting ushered even the less notable performances into a high-quality production. In terms of grace and skill, this cast holds its own — and while not quite every performance needed such fanfare, the time and effort put into each tribute is much appreciated.
Honoring such monumental women is no small feat, and Shadowbox Live rightfully took things over the top. The casual rock and roll fan will have a good enough time, but the real fans are in for quite the show. Get ready for a dynamic show that will make you appreciate a group of women who largely go understated, despite being the very definition of rock ‘n’ roll.
Leather & Lace… runs on select Thursdays and Sundays through May 19. Find more information at shadowboxlive.org.