There are divas galore in the biz we call show, but none burn brighter than Olivier Award-winning Lesli Margherita, or so she reminds us (tongue decidedly in cheek) throughout her self-lovingly titled dazzler of a cabaret act, All Hail The Queen.

Since ASTQ’s most recent incarnation was a Special Holiday Edition, it seemed entirely fitting of royalty that it should open with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” or in Queen Lesli’s case, “All I Want For Christmas Is ME.”

Backed sensationally on the stage of Hollywood’s Level 3 by vocalists Robin De Lano and Teresa Marie Sanchez and dancers Ray Garcia, Robert Laos, and Jeremy Lucas, Margherita proved herself the quintessential triple threat—and then some—in an eighty-minute set which included “Greatest Hits” from previous All Hails, plus a number of holiday tunes thrown in as befits the season.

Whether belting out “Gypsies, Tramps, And Theives” in her best Cher imitation, or recalling being cast against type as Ariel in The Little Mermaid warbling “Part Of Your World,” or executing an onstage costume change while singing the heck out of Dreamgirls’ “I Am Changing,” Margherita made it clear to her packed house that “Nobody Does It Better.” (The latter song became a Lesli + Lesli duet, with the real Miss Margherita performing opposite a Muppets-style mini-version of her divine self—voiced by Brian Beacock.)

Duet was also the word when Margherita was joined by whiz kid musical director/bff Ryback for a lively medley of Love Duets accompanied by a slide show of their many adventures together, both real and photoshopped.

Directed with panache by Lauren Bass, All Hail The Queen allowed Her Majesty to reminisce on Lesli Margherita career highlights (and a lowlight or two, as when she stepped in at the last minute at the El Capitan for an ailing Ariel, despite being at least a cupsize too curvaceous for The Little Mermaid’s signature shell bra). Highest among those highlights was winning the coveted British equivalent of our Tony Award for her performance as Ines in the Gypsy Kings’ musical Zorro on London’s West End. In addition to showing a clip from the award ceremony (no British reserve from this elated Italiana), Lesli revealed her three tips for winning an Olivier—1) pretend that Margherita is a Spanish last name (as in the cocktail), 2) be out and proud about being an American, and 3) (in the words of Zorro choreographer Rafael Amargo) “Bantees. Chodem,” which Margherita did every time she lifted one of Ines’s skirts. (Think about it.)

Still, it was Margherita’s exquisite rendition of Nik Kershaw’s “Wouldn’t It Be Good” from the movie Pretty In Pink that provided the evening’s vocal (and emotional) highlight, followed by a powerfully sung “That’s Life.”

Since this most recent All Hail The Queen arrived smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, it featured such Christmas favorites as “The Little Drummer Boy” (with puppet Lesli banging a tad too hard on that Drummer Boy drum), a deeply felt “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and the evening’s finale “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (as Phil Spector pumped it up for The Crystals).

Written and conceived by the phenomenally talented Margherita, All Hail The Queen Special Holiday Edition featured Katy Durham’s spirited choreography and Kristie Roldan’s pizzazzy lighting design and was produced by Lauren and Jordan Bass.

Lesli Margherita has been a personal favorite of this reviewer from my first discovery of her work nearly six years ago in her scene-stealing turn as Amneris in Aida to her recent stellar performance in The Blank’s production of See What I Wanna See. All Hail The Queen Special Holiday Edition made it amply clear that truly Nobody Does It Better. Lesli Margherita is The Best!

–Steven Stanley
December 6, 2010

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