Dennis and Greta Oglesby do Porgy and Bess
Photo by Tom Wallace
It’s impossible not to submit to Greta Oglesby in concert.
In her first Twin Cities headline concert Saturday at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis, the veteran stage actress opened with a series of gospel tunes. Even though she’s a minister’s daughter who is married to a preacher herself, it sometimes felt as if it was a theater artist performing gospel rather than a church singer.
Backed only by pianist Sanford Moore, she was effective but relied heavily on her upper register, which is a little thin and lacks the resounding and robust power of her rich mid-range. She started in her lower register for “Deep River” and delivered the spiritual (she learned it from seeing Lena Horne in concert) with deep soul and lofty determination.
From the get-go on Saturday (the show will be repeated at 3 p.m. Sunday), Oglesby won over the crowd with her conversation and personality. She was friendly and humorous, chatting about herself without being full of herself.
She praised the Capri, where she teaches theater to high schoolers. She told about being wined and dined with the rest of the Broadway cast of “A Raisin in the Sun” (she was an understudy) by fellow cast member Puff Daddy.
She talked about being courted in college by her husband whom she didn’t like at first (he didn’t match the needs on her check list) but she was won over when he took her dancing (she’s from a church family that forbid dancing). Said Greta: “If you have a man in your life who knows how to lead, women don’t mind submitting.” Then, in mid-song, Dennis Oglesby came out and danced with Greta during “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.” What a lovely moment.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Oglesby’s post-intermission set was devoted to Broadway tunes, and she lit up the Capri stage like a one-woman Holidazzle parade. Dressed in a full-length fur and huge sunglasses, she acted a quick scene as Dinah Washington (from “Dinah Was”), setting the stage for the sassy blues “Bad Luck.”
Each of the five Broadway numbers was unforgettable in its own way. “The Girl in 14G” enabled Oglesby to show off her operatic and jazz chops. “Bess, You Is My Woman” gave her husband a chance to show off his Broadway-worthy baritone.
Oglesby closed with “Lot’s Wife,” which was as overwhelmingly powerful in concert as it was when she sang it at the Guthrie in “Caroline, or Change.”
It’s high time that Oglesby made concerts a regular part of her repertoire – and she can bring Dennis onstage if he’ll submit to her.