Mary J. Blige

If Oprah ever decides to branch out into music, Mary J. Blige would be the perfect recommendation. The singer's No More Drama tour, which Wednesday pulled into the Shrine Auditorium for two nights, could be a musical version of the books the talkshow host champions: It's an affirmative tale of a woman who finds strength through adversity.

With:
Band: Gerald Heyward, Loren Dawson, Jeff Motley, Luke Austin, Terral Santiel, Robert JJ Smith, Montina Cooper, Kimberly Morton, Cheryl Jones.

If Oprah ever decides to branch out into music, Mary J. Blige would be the perfect recommendation. The singer’s No More Drama tour, which Wednesday pulled into the Shrine Auditorium for two nights, could be a musical version of the books the talkshow host champions: It’s an affirmative tale of a woman who finds strength through adversity.

Divided into three acts (each with its own costume and musical motif), the show reworks the classic love story for a generation raised on self-help manuals. Girl meets boy (the hip-hop segment) in an energetic medley including “Love” and “Real Love.” Boy treats girl badly (big ballads), leading to the evening’s emotional climax, the gospel testimony of “Where I’ve Been.” Finally girl comes to the realization she doesn’t need boy because she’s a fully actualized, self-contained person (the two versions of “No More Drama”).

Steamrolling her way through the fast-moving, 90-minute perf, Blige manages to play the star to the hilt without turning imperious; she is the people’s diva, who promises however big she gets, she won’t let it go to her head. And the soldout house loves her for it, unabashedly cheering her on as if, like Tinkerbell, Blige’s star would dim if they stopped.

But no more drama? What she really means is no more of anyone else’s drama.

Without her drama, there would be no show. Still tormented by those who want to keep her down, reminding her of the past, she insists the way to “keep hitting up” is to ignore them.

But the evening ends on an optimistic note, with the Dr. Dre-produced hit “Family Affair.” The song’s vision of a world without “hateration” and “holleration” is a utopian finale to an emotionally intense night.

Mary J. Blige

Shrine Auditorium; 6,300 seats; $62.50 top

Production: Presented by MTV. Opened, reviewed March 6, 2002; closes March 7.

Cast: Band: Gerald Heyward, Loren Dawson, Jeff Motley, Luke Austin, Terral Santiel, Robert JJ Smith, Montina Cooper, Kimberly Morton, Cheryl Jones.

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