After opening 2017 with an impactful message (Breathless), I was able to close it with some impactful music. I was honored with the reigns of emcee as Memories of Motown rocked the Villagers Theatre for two shows on New Year's Eve. Director Diane L. Parker assembled some extraordinary talent from the singers (even having to pull in Sherese Bulluck from her duties as stage manager as a last minute replacement), to the musicians, right down to spoken word artist Lionel M. Macauley, who kicked off the festivities with a spellbound retrospective of the label's history. The All-Star band of Bruce Cummings on bass, drummer Jo Lucci, keyboardists Paul Chung and Larry Greenberg (from the R&B classic group Skyy), and saxophonist Joshua Harris kept the audience swaying as each singer brought the past to the present beautifully. Ericka Davis opened the show off with Dancin' in the Streets, hit us with a sultry My Guy, and turned out two Gladys Knight classics. Kirk Lambert channeled both David Ruffin & Dennis Edwards, and Jaleel Ritchwood Jordan handled Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye flawlessly. An Aretha Franklin set was added to the mix despite her not being a part of the Motown family, and Sandra Ward brought down the house with a soul-stirring rendition of Natural Woman. She also became Diana Ross right down to a gold-sequenced dress once worn by Whitney Houston. Na'jee Esmond closed out the show with the Lionel Richie hit All Night Long, and had the crowd up and dancing in the aisles along with the rest of the cast and the band. This was a perfect end to a successful year for me, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to host this talented ensemble. This night goes on the top shelf of the memory bank. I wish you all success in 2018. --AGP.
Photo credit: Rich Kowalski