The Artist She is Today: “Witches, Bitches and Divas”


Presented by Club Oberon
Written, arranged and performed by Christina Pecce and Steve Bass

Sunday Sep 7th, 2019
Club Oberon
2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA
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Review by Piyali Mukherjee

(Cambridge, MA) Christina Pecce’s show Witches, Bitches and Divas was presented as a crossover musical comedy and it delivered. Christina was accompanied on stage by her music director, Steve Bass, on the piano, George Darrah on the percussion instruments and Nick Franchese on the viola.

The narrative structure of Christina’s show outlined an autobiographical journey of how Christina came to be the artist she is today. Each section of her story started with her conversational storytelling and then had two to three songs follow the theme. The songs were selected from a variety of genres ranging from opera to country west. Christina’s soulful voice filled the space of the theater while her conversational storytelling style made the environment seem private and familiar. 

She began the show with a tribute to her origins in music – her training as an opera singer. The opening song was the popular Habanera (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle) from Carmen (1857) by Bizet. Christina starts by comparing how similar her personality is to that of the titular character Carmen, especially Carmen’s defiance of love and Carmen’s desire to upset the status quo. After setting the initial context, she diverged from the traditional libretto into rendering the song entirely through whistles, falling into a call-and-reply pattern with the pianist. 

The story progressed on to how Christina had to work as a nanny while she was auditioning for roles. She emphasized the roles that she played as a caretaker by singing about two caretakers. She sings about the nurturing positive care through Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins (1964) and then remembers the frustrating, tedious, difficult times through Little Girls from Annie (1982) and completes this section with a song that imagines Miss Hannigan from Annie finding her voice at a local bar. 

The next section covered the different emotional tone of Christina’s life. Despite the very positive overall tone of the show, she never failed to also point out the difficulties of pursuing a worthwhile dream. With Lush Life (1936) by Billy Strayhorn, she highlighted how jaded she had felt after many rejections, and with The Ladies Who Lunch (1985) by Stephen Sondheim, she saluted everyone who was still trying their best to succeed in the face of many overwhelming setbacks. Later in the show, she mentioned that she had added a special tribute (The Eye (2015) by Brandi Carlile) for those struggling with mental health concerns in order to celebrate Mental Health Awareness month in May, and decided to retain it for future shows.

The comedic highlight of the show was when Christina suddenly announced that she was tone deaf. Through a song that parodies the pretentious nature of concerts, A Word on My Ear (1951) by Flanders and Swann, Christina tried to portray that she is apparently musically inept and does not possess the ability to follow or adhere to the music of her accompaniment. However, her talent is so great that these deliberate deviations from the musical score sounded as if these were a genuine component of her performance. 

Christina also addressed the difficulties in keeping and maintaining healthy relationships with the people that abound a woman’s life. She told the story of how the man who introduced her to the genre of country western eventually became her husband. Through Being Alive (1983) by Stephen Sondheim, she conveyed the power of emotional intimacy and through Could I leave you? (1971) by Stephen Sondheim, she conveyed the turbulence of working through issues in such a relationship. 

Finally, Christina ended her show with a tribute to the “pop divas” she grew up with. She continued with her theme to push the audience to chase their dreams and their aspirations,  by rendering Defying Gravity (2003) from Wicked. The audience gave her a standing ovation and she was invited back on stage for an encore with a celebratory confetti shower. 

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