By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk -
Nostalgia can be a powerful thing.
A hint of a smell or a few musical notes can take us back to a time and place we once knew, as if we’re there once more.
But when singer Katrina Rose Dideriksen, singing “Piece of My Heart, belts “come on” four times in a row, there’s no thought that you’ve suddenly slipped back into the past.
Damned if that isn’t Janis Joplin herself, singing right in front of you.
That was only the beginning of the Grand Rapids Pops’ Women Rock. Boy, do they.
Three stars of stage, screen and the studio joined the Grand Rapids Symphony under guest conductor Robert Thompson for an electrifying show on Thursday, July 27, for the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops with songs of Carole King, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Heart and more.
Women Rock repeats at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Cannonsburg Ski Area. Lawn tickets on the day of the show are $24 for adults, $21 for college students and seniors, or $10 for ages 2-18. Children younger than age 2 are admitted for free.
Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 during business hours or (616) 885-1241 evenings or go online to PicnicPops.org
Dideriksen along with Cassidy Catanzaro and Shayna Steele, three seasoned professionals who know how to work a crowd, treated the audience to nearly two hours of music by the leading ladies of rock and roll, all wrapped up in tasty arrangements by Jeff Tyzik that made ample use of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Smiles of recognition swept the audience for the opening bars of songs such as the main theme from “Flashdance.”
Carole King’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” featuring Dideriksen, Catanzaro and Steele all sharing the stage, became a playful competition, each interpreting a verse in their own way. The audience, clearly, was the winner.
By the end of the night, the special guests and the Grand Rapids Pops had the audience on its feet, rocking out to “Proud Mary,” with all the fire and brimstone of the well-known, version made famous by Tina Turner and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.
Shayna Steele, a powerhouse of a singer, who has appeared on Broadway in Rent, in Jesus Christ Superstar, and in NBC's production of Hairspray Live, turned nearly every song she sang was a show stopper.
With “Dancing in the Street,” not surprisingly, she snuck in a mention of “Grand Rapids, Michigan.” She sang “Freeway” with all the same soulful exuberance of a young Aretha Franklin as well as “What’s Love Got to do with it?” with the wisdom and worldliness of a mature Tina Turner.
“Authentic” is the best word to describe Cassidy Catanzaro singing songs of Carole King. The former lead singer for the all-woman rock group Antigone Rising strutted her stuff with “I Feel The Earth Move.” But on songs such as “Far Away,” Catanzaro sang with an intimacy that nonetheless projected far out into the audience.
Katrina Rose Dideriksen, who starred on Broadway in A Night with Janis Joplin, had the wickedly accurate scream of Janis Joplin down pat, but also the steely sweetness of Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart singing “These Dreams,” and the “I’m all-that attitude” of Pat Benatar ripping through “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Conductor Robert Thompson, who years ago taught at Hope College and ocassionally subbed with the Grand Rapids Symphony in the late 1980s and early 1990s, clearly was having fun leading the orchestra he once played in.
There were a few surprises in the show. Catanzaro, a 2017 Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter, was featured on “Up on the Roof.” The Drifters made it famous, but it was Carole King’s song, and Catanzaro’s interpretation was poignant with tight orchestral accompaniment. Steele went against type to deliver Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” with gentleness and warmth.
I never thought I’d hear “Love Is a Battlefield” as a ballad. But that’s how songwriter Holly Knight first envisioned it when she wrote it. The 2013 Songwriter's Hall of Fame inductee collaborated on the production of Women Rock, and Dideriksen put the pedal to the metal on volume but not on tempo for this surprising and revealing interpretation.
Women Rock, a brand-new show that only debuted in June, pays homage to some of the biggest stars and best-known female singers of the past 50 years including Martha Reeves and Joan Jett, reminding listeners just how much of an impact women have had on the history of rock music.
“We can cook you a meal. Make a baby. And we can get up and sing and pay the bills,” Steele told the audience. “And we can treat your good.”
Yes, they did.