Roles of Gladys, Patti, Dionne Revived
It’s been 32 years since HBO first aired the iconic Sisters in the Name of Love concert. The television special starred Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle and Dionne Warwick and was both a critical and rating success. Now, local event producer El Ross is putting on the special in Gigi’s Cabaret Room with local drag legends. DeAngela “Show” Shannon will play Gladys, Diva will play Patti LaBelle and Fantaysa will play Dionne Warwick.
“I grew up watching the concert over and over,” said Ross. “My mom and brother always had it playing in the house. I was at work one day listening to it and I thought this would be great idea to bring back to the stage. Although it has been done before it hasn’t been seen in some time and I just thought it was time to bring back a great classic.”
All three stars of the show have experience playing their roles.
“Dionne has always been a part of my career,” said Fantasysa, who first started performing in the 1970s. “When I first started doing this type of entertainment you really had to do a character to fit into a cast. And the individual who booked the shows, she looked at me and said ‘Dionne Warwick.’ And it pretty much stuck with me. I was taught to emulate her.”
Ross said that casting Fantasysa was the only possible choice.
“No one else could embody Dionne like Fantaysa,” he said. “I couldn’t see this production without her.”
And most Detroiters know that the city’s premier Patti LaBelle impersonator is the legendary April Summers.
“I first reached out to April Summers and after talking with her she gave me the blessing to ask Diva to play the role,” said Ross. “Next to April nobody, in my opinion, comes close to doing Patti like Diva. And DeAngela was chosen to play Gladys because I felt that she could do the part justice. I have seen her do Gladys as a character on two occasions and it was epic to watch.”
Diva to Make Return Appearance in Detroit
While DeAngela and Fantaysa live in the city, Diva relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, seven years ago. There, she recently bought a new home and continues to perform regularly when she’s not working her day job as a senior makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics.
“I was assistant manager for a year when I first came down here but I started doing drag so had to let that go,” she said. “When I moved down here I thought I was going to retire. But that wasn’t the case, obviously.”
Diva said she performs on average five times a week.
“I love performing in Florida because they have a different respect for drag,” said Diva. “In the south. Period. They have more respect for female impersonation because down here pageantry is very prevalent.”
Diva, who once told Between The Lines she had retired from drag at age 30, shows no signs of slowing down now that she’s in her 40s.
“The love of the art form keeps me going,” she said. “And now that I’m in a new spot it’s like all is new again. So moving down here revived me a little bit to keep it going. They love me down here and I love it.”
Despite that fact that Diva is in Florida, the ladies, said Ross, are having no trouble preparing for the show.
“They are in constant contact with one another and myself,” he said “All the ladies are professional and legends and all you have to do is give them their parts and directions and let them go from there. I’m learning so much from them. They all have seen the original concert and are bringing their own flavor to their parts.”
Ross said the choosing the venue for the show was a no-brainer.
“I choose to have the show at Gigi’s because Gigi’s is legendary in our community,” he said. “It has stood the test of times for over 40 years and to bring this type of show and production it could only be at Gigi’s.”
The one and only performance of Sisters in the Name of Love will take place Sunday, Aug. 19. Gigi’s is located at 16920 Warren Ave. in Detroit. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door.