Chanelling legendary divas


JUST last month entertainer Ali Harper was in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, celebrating Doris Day’s 92nd birthday.
Next week, Harper will be taking on the silverscreen sweetheart’s persona for one of her two shows during the Southland Festival of the Arts.
A Doris Day Special premiered at The Court Theatre in Christchurch last month and is a project Harper has been working on for the past three years.
The show is set in a television studio in Hollywood in 1971. During the performance Harper shares some of the joys and tragedies of Day’s life, along with singing some of the songs she is best known for.
‘‘Doris Day is such a beautiful person and I love playing her on stage and singing all her songs and really telling her story, because there’s so much about her that people don’t know.’’
Harper said she had a wonderful time in California during the VIP weekend, which was attended by some of Day’s co-stars including Bernie Kopell, who is best-known for his role as ‘‘Doc’’ in The Love Boat.
The experience was a ‘‘real treat’’, she said.
‘‘It was wonderful in the fact that I got to stand outside her house and we all wished her a happy birthday. And then I actually got to sing for her.’’
Being a ‘‘bold Kiwi’’, Harper thought since she had gone all that way she was going to take the opportunity to talk to Day.
First she sang some of Secret Love, then she told Day how much she admired her.
‘‘She said ‘Oh my god, you sound amazing. You make my songs sound so good’, so it was really lovely.’’
Harper also features the work of inspirational women in her cabaret show Legendary Divas.
The show celebrates entertainers from the last century such as Edith Piaf, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey.
‘‘So many wonderful women who have influenced me to do what I do today,’’ Harper said.
They were women people adored and who, like Day, wore their hearts on their sleeves, she said.
‘‘What you see is what you get. They’re vulnerable women who’ve had a lot of tragedies in their life but have managed to remain centrestage, doing what they love no matter the price.’’
For Legendary Divas Harper will be accompanied by pianist David Sidwell.
‘‘Doris Day I like to think of as a musical play, whereas Legendary Divas is me standing there talking in the art of cabaret.’’
She said the show had lots of humour and emotion, with some audience participation as well.
‘‘It’s a really rich show full of lots of different flavours of music — even a little taste of Madonna thrown in as well.’’
Í A Doris Day Special, Wednesday, May 11, and Legendary Divas, Thursday, May 12, both SIT Centrestage Theatre, 8pm. Book at TicketDirect.