Sunday, October 10, 1999

Reba's life makes great concert

Enquirer contributor

        Don't let the title of her new Broadway-style tour, “The Singer's Diary,” lead you to believe Reba McEntire is pulling a Garth and is now Christine Gaines. The show, which stopped at the Aronoff Center's Procter & Gamble Hall Thursday night, is 100 percent Reba.

        Reba loves acting, and here she played her easiest role: herself.

        The two-hour event came in two halves. The first was the “Diary,” with Ms. McEntire taking an autobiographical look back at her rodeo-to-riches story through monologues, video clips and song. The second was an 11-song concert.

        The concert was nice, but didn't compare to the first half. She sang some of her best songs in the “Diary,” giving them context and meaning usually unattainable in a concert setting. Plus, the “Diary” was so good. The show is an eye-opener for the Reba fan who only knew snippets about the country-music star's life. But, because Ms. McEntire's performance is so upfront, upbeat and likable, even the all-knowing Reba fan needs to see it.

        The story began with the rodeo. She came from a line of rodeo men, and her first break came via the rodeo. Country-music producer Red Steagall discovered her when she sang the national anthem at the 1974 National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City.

        She told this story from off-stage, then began singing an a cappella version of the anthem. Probably because it was part of the play, the audience didn't stand up at the beginning of the song. When she finally appeared on stage halfway through it, people stood. Reba-ism is a force stronger than patriotism.

        From that point in her life came trips and an eventual move to Nashville, a record deal, recording sessions, tours, a marriage, a divorce, another marriage, a child, and of course superstardom.

        Star power hasn't made everything right, she showed. During a scene in which she's putting her child Shelby to bed, she brought up her regretful relationship with her own father.

        She tells Shelby “those three little words” every night at bedtime, she said, which reminds her of her father, because she never heard them from him. He was too stoic to show his feelings, she said.

        Then she immediately broke into her 1992 hit ballad “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” and hankies began mopping tears throughout the crowd.


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