Miami-raised singer Mimi J is a woman with a powerhouse voice, an appealing stage presence and the ability to get even a relatively passive crowd involved in her show. She taps into all those talents in On the Radio: Sounds of the ‘70s, a new revue at Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.
Together with director-choreographer Kevin Black, Mimi J revisits an eclectic array of hits from the 1970s. How eclectic? Try a Stevie Wonder medley followed by three Carole King songs, six ABBA tunes, then two hits by the Carpenters. And that’s just the beginning of the first act.
Backed by impressive dancers Joey Lopez and Luke Stockton, the singer serves up her show on a small, simple set. The format works on a legit stage but would be equally at home on a cruise ship. Mimi J’s banter about the ‘70s songs and artists is minimal; instead, On the Radio is all about the music, and the star has the pipes to deliver all or part of almost four dozen songs.
The performer keeps things visually interesting by switching up her costume and wig multiple times, giving her the look of an elegant chanteuse with a bob at the beginning of the show, then finishing up with a wild gown and huge Afro for the Donna Summer-dominated finish. There’s even a great visual joke about all the different outfits and ‘dos.
Vocally, Mimi J has a rich, low voice a bit reminiscent of Gladys Knight’s on her renditions of Neither One of Us and Midnight Train to Georgia. But her voice is also a malleable one. She’s a pop balladeer on King’s I Feel the Earth Move, It’s Too Late and You’ve Got a Friend. She turns disco diva on the Freda Payne hit Band of Gold, and on Summer’s Hot Stuff, Bad Girls and Last Dance. And she brings a soulful sound to Stevie Nicks’ Landslide.
What’s tougher in the smaller Stage Door theater where On the Radio is playing is getting a participatory rise out of the matinee audience. Mimi J asks for the sound of train whistles on Midnight Train to Georgia, works to rustle up a dance partner and generally tries to keep a back-and-forth involvement with theatergoers who are likely a shade too mature to have been out dancing to the disco originals.
Mimi J, Lopez and Stockton soldier on. But her effort makes another of Summer’s hits the show’s unofficial theme song: She Works Hard for the Money.