The last time I saw Diana Ross perform live, it was July 1, 2000, at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., for her "Return to Love" national tour billed as a reunion of The Supremes, minus Mary Wilson and the late Florence Ballard.
For that tour, Ross used Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne as her singing bookends for her concerts, since both women technically did tour as Supremes, but only with the remaining member Cindy Birdsong; Ross already had her solo career, Ballard had died and Wilson already had bowed out. Top-priced tickets were $250.
Then in November 2004, she played Chicago Theatre on Nov. 19 and tickets went for $100.
Ross, who turns 70 next year, is finally playing our own Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, which has headlined nearly every major entertainer imaginable since it opened in 1979.
Star Plaza CEO and Talent Buyer Charlie Blum has lined up Ross to play one exclusive concert at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at our favorite legendary Northwest Indiana stage venue. Ross is playing this special date as the featured entertainment for this year's Ingalls Memorial Hospital Gala event, a tradition for the Harvey, Ill., medical center. In previous years, Blum has booked a number of big names for this special night for a good cause, including Gladys Knight, Jay Leno, and Tony Bennett, among others.
And the best news of all, tickets for the Ross concert are open to the public for just $50 each. Stop and visit the box office or call (800) 745-3000 or visit starplazatheatre.com.
When I saw Ross in summer 2000, I was surrounded by a crowd of 9,000 fans. So I guarantee Star Plaza will provide a much more intimate experience. In Rosemont, she was backed by a 40-piece orchestra, a 14-piece band, three female back-up singers and 10 dancers, in addition to the two semi-Supremes, Payne and Laurence. She did six costume changes for the two-and-a-half-hour performance.
For the record, Blum tells me Ross' Supreme sister Mary Wilson, who also turns 70 next year, has already performed on the Star Plaza stage.
When looking up my published review from the Ross concert in July 2000, I mentioned sitting near one of her extreme fans, a man named Gary Niebuhr from Wisconsin, who had just seen Wilson in concert a couple weeks before his trek to Rosemont, Ill., to catch Ross. He said he had gone backstage to say hello to Wilson, who he said was kind and gracious and even autographed all the Supremes record albums he had in tow.
When he told Wilson his intent to also have Ross sign the same album sleeves during her Chicagoland engagement, he said Wilson warned: "You'll be lucky if she only refuses and doesn't send these albums flying across your head, after she sees I've already signed them. I've known her a lot longer than you."