“Pressure Makes Diamonds” Showcases the Brilliantly Polished Denise Lee
Sixty years ago today Denise Lee came into the world. No fool, she just came close enough to April Fools Day to have a great deal of humor alongside a great vocal talent. She started out in 1961, a diamond in the rough, but at the 60th anniversary of her birth, she shines brilliantly. It is the pressure that creates the diamonds whether hidden deep in the ground or visibly glowing for all the world to see. Lee examines her life through the prism of diamonds classified in terms of color, cut, carat and clarity. The terms reveal the important aspects to consider in evaluating a diamond and are just as appropriate unveiling a life and a career. Each aspect of her character and life relating to these four ‘C’s takes about 15 minutes and each ‘C’ is communicated in song with a lot of humor and bantering. Lee belts out her selections with meaning; a little jazz, a little blues, very snazzy with a lot of truth.
Joined on stage by her band, “Pressure Makes Diamonds” packs a punch just as hard as any diamond. Lee collaborated with Monique Midgette in the writing of this hour or so of cabaret with Midgette also directing, and Norman Williams as Musical Director. Williams also accompanies on the piano along with band members Clinton Trench on bass, Brady Mosher on guitar and Lawrence ‘Peebody’ Ferrell on drums.
Midgette and Lee put together an original program as a Lyric Premiere showcasing the songs of many great talents such as Kirk Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and also incorporates the poetry of Maya Angelou, Amanda Gorman and Nikki Giovanni. At the top of the show is “I Am Woman, W.O.M.A.N” by Lieber and Stoller and recorded by most of our favorite divas from Peggy Lee to Bette Midler. The show is kicked off with excitement and waves of sound. Other great memories are ignited by a fascinating “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and from ‘The Color Purple’ is a wonderful “Push the Button” illuminating Lee’s great range.
Sound designer Corey Ray works outdoor wonders much appreciated by the audience as well as Williams and Lee. Scenic designer Kimberly Powers and Lighting designer Fabian J. Garcia along side Adam Brand, the shows technical director overcome all the obstacles from an outdoor performance skillfully with the invaluable assistance of stage manager Gabriella Trevino-Bandy. Denise Lee is a beautiful woman and her flamboyant dress is a flattering creation of Lyric’s Costume Designer, Jeffrey Meek.
Lee hails from Dallas but she is no stranger to Lyric audiences having appeared in Lyric’s amazing 2018 production of “Crowns” written by Regina Taylor and directed by W. Jerome Stevenson. Midgette is also very well known to Lyric audiences. “Having Our Say” the brilliant story of the Delaney sisters adapted by Emily Mann and directed by Midgette in February of 2020, played just prior to the pandemic. Midgette’s astute direction sandwiches the classic “A Christmas Carol” with both the pre and post pandemic regular season shows. Clearly the collaboration of these two gals with Williams musical direction creates a stunning show telling a personal but universal story of struggle and success.
Lee’s voice is strong and emotive connecting with the audience beautifully and possibly ending a trifle soon. Her humor ranges from self-deprecating to a little racy and it isn’t hard to figure out that Denise Lee is a very feisty as well as lovely lady with a powerful voice and connection.
“Pressure Makes Diamonds” runs through April 3 at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage in downtown Oklahoma City. The fun begins at 7:30 weeknights and 8:00 weekends with a Saturday, April 3, matinee at 2:00 pm as well. Visit www.lyrictheatreokc.com for information or call the box office at 405-524-9312. For more information about the award-winning diamond, Denise Lee, visit www.deniseleeonstage.com. To fully enjoy “Pressure Makes Diamonds” a light blanket or heavy shawl is great to either sit on or put on in case Oklahoma breezes become a little chilly.