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Yvette Freeman reprises her
Obie Award winning role

By Oliver Goldstick

Dinah Washington was the self-described "Queen of the Blues". DINAH WAS explodes with the rhythms, tough breaks and tender notes of "What a Difference a Day Makes", "I Wanna Be Loved" and "Come Rain or Come Shine", spanning 20 years along the rocky path of fame of the brilliant Washington.

"Washington's music is the heart of the show; the fun numbers swing and the blues ballads hurt."
Washington Post

"Freeman is excellent as Washington, a whirlwind lustily sucking up hugh gulps of life...vivacious, and charismatic." The New York Times.



The Reviews

"Freeman is excellent as Washington, a whirlwind lustily sucking up Hugh gulps of life." "...vivacious, and charismatic."
Peter Marks, New York Times.

"Yvette Freeman's powerful performance and evocative singing made this a memorable evening."
New Yorker

"Freeman incorporates the vocal flips and brassy crispness that made the Queen of the Blues a heavyweight."
David Finkle, Village Voice

"Freeman possesses a fabulous voice...her energetic urgent delivery makes her a believable Queen of the Blues."
Aileen Jackson, Newsday

"Freeman has energy to spare and an engaging stage presence - she sings with feeling and fire to great effect!"
Erik Jackson, Time Out New York

"She has got it! Freeman is Dinah!"
Leonard Feather, the composer of many of Washington's hits. 


Dinah Was
New York
A WPA Theatre presentation of a musical in two acts by Oliver Goldstick. Directed by David Petrarca. Choreographed by George Faison. Orchestrations, arrangements, Jason Robert Brown. Musical direction, Lanny Hartley. Set, Michael Yeargan; lighting, Stephen Strawbridge; costumes, Paul Tazewell; sound, Laura Grace Brown; stage manager; Paul J. Smith, Artistic director, Kyle Renick. opened March 24th 1998. Reviewed March 22nd. Running time 2 hrs. 15 mins.


The latest entry in an Off Broadway season peppered with celebrity musical bios, "Dinah Was" keenly hits the right notes. The often turbulent episodic life of singer Dinah Washington is structured with a persuasive narrative and a markedly honest and vibrant performance by Yvette Freeman.

Incorporating familiar songs from the singers career, the homage covers a 20-year span in the life of Washington (Freeman), from humble beginnings as a Chicago church soloist to national prominence as the "Queen of the Blues". Hit recordings in the field of rhythm and blues to her final days and acclaim as a major crossover artist and club attraction, singing lush romantic ballads.

Beginning in the lobby of a Vegas hotel in 1959, Washington, wrapped in a white fur coat and setting on her luggage, defiantly refuses to accept accommodations in an outdoor trailer located beyond the kitchen entry. Casino entry is barred unless she is accompanied by a white escort. Now a major star, with a her name emblazoned out front, the singer takes a firm stand against a decade of racial indignities and career disappointments and refuses to perform. Oliver Goldsticks tightly woven book does not paint a flattering portrait of the vocalist, but manages to tell the story without unnecessary clutter. The music reveals the soul of the artist, and and the harsh reality of Washington's despair is poignantly realized with "This Bitter Earth". In flashbacks, the story follows a rocky path of fame. Conflicts with record producers, booking agents, and hotel managers reveal Washington as an abrasive, demanding woman.

In search for companionship and affection, she leaves several husbands behind, humiliates temporary lovers, and suffers a tentative relationship with her children. Driven to alcohol and the constant abuse of diet pills, Washington dies at the age of 39.

Freeman invests in the role with a sassy and earthy thrust. There is no attempt to copy the sweet, nasal tone of the real Washington. Freeman offers her own gutsy rhythm and blues swing flavor, adding a fervent sense of ballads. The trademark tunes "What a Difference a Day Makes", "I Wanna Be Loved" and "I Won't Cry Anymore" are not just rendered as juke box nostalgia, but become a integral part of the narrative...

KPCC (89.3FM/Los Angeles) Broadcasts
"Dinah Was" Starring Yvette Freeman

"ER's" Yvette Freeman reprises her Obie Award-winning role as Dinah Washingon in Oliver Goldstick's musical biography of the self-described "Queen of the Blues." Dinah Was explodes with the rhythms, tough breaks, and tender notes that fired the life and music of this passionate performer. Features "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," "I Wanna Be Loved," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and many other songs rendered unforgettable by Washington's singular style.

Gordon Hunt directs the original off Broadway cast, including Freeman, Lanny Hartley, Adriane Lenox (who also received an Obie for her performance), Bud Leslie, and Darryl Alan Reed.

The show was broadcasted on KPCC 89.3 FM and XM Satellite Radio.

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