It’s not easy to upstage a diva on the order of Diana Ross. But the legendary star’s glamor was undeniably overshadowed by the venue in which she performed Tuesday night. It was Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre, now reopened after closing nearly four decades ago and falling into massive disrepair. Having received a restoration to the tune of some $95 million, the theater seating more than 3,000 is now once again the borough’s largest.
Opened in Flatbush in 1929 shortly before the Depression hit, it was one of five “Wonder Theaters” built by Loew’s in New York and New Jersey. Hosting films and vaudeville, the lavish movie palace featured interiors inspired by the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House. It survived until 1977 — Barbra Streisand regularly attended movies there in her youth — before being allowed to deteriorate. But it now once again looks magnificent, with its gorgeous interiors featuring terrific sightlines and superb acoustics. It marks a major new venue for the area, with such stars as Sarah McLachlan, Gladys Knight, Sufjan Stevens, Frankie Valli and Crosby, Stills & Nash slated to appear in the coming months.
The grand reopening featured Ross, performing the same reliable, hits-laden show that she’s delivered for years. It opened, as usual, with the sounds of her singing “I’m Coming Out” from the back of the house, with her proceeding down the aisle towards the stage while being thronged by fans.
Hit after hit followed, beginning with a string of Supremes songs that established the nostalgic mood. She performed a healthy selection of her solo hits, as well as covers by the likes of Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love”), Billie Holiday (“Don’t Explain,” from Lady Sings the Blues), Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”).
There were, needless to say, numerous costume changes — five in all — with the 70-year-old singer looking resplendent in a series of glittery gowns and frequently cooling herself with a large fan. Sounding in fine voice, she was accompanied by a terrific twelve-piece band and three back-up singers.
The 80-minute show proceeded at a frenetic pace, with the star barreling from one number to the next. It wasn’t until late in the evening that she acknowledged her surroundings, marveling at “this beautiful palace” and commenting, “I feel like a queen!”
Giving instructions to turn the house lights up, she instructed the audience, “Take a look around guys…can you see how beautiful this is?”
For the reprise of the Gloria Gaynor anthem she brought her daughter Rhonda and son Evan onstage, the latter accompanied by his now-pregnant wife Ashlee Simpson and her 6-year-old son. It added a nice family element to a celebratory evening that marked a new beginning for the historic venue.
I’m Coming Out
More Today Than Yesterday
My World is Empty Without You
Stop! In the Name of Love
You Can’t Hurry Love
Touch Me in the Morning
Love Hangover/Take Me Higher/Ease on Down the Road
The Look of Love
Why Do Fools Fall in Love
Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
I Will Survive
Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)
I Will Survive
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.