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Cher, Diana Ross and Jennifer Lopez collide in Las Vegas in the Diva Super-Fabulous Bowl


Where’s Lady Gaga?

Oh, that’s right, at the real Super Bowl, on Sunday. It’s the only acceptable excuse for not being in Las Vegas on Wednesday for the Diva Super-Fabulous Bowl.

Cher’s kickoff of her much-anticipated last hurrah (or so she says) at the Park Theater doesn’t go unchallenged. Wednesday also marks the return of Diana Ross at The Venetian and Jennifer Lopez at Planet Hollywood.

The NFL puts up its best two teams, but the Diva Super-Fabulous Bowl will not be outsparkled, upping its number of combatants to three. If the NFL boosts its fabulousness quotient by recruiting Gaga for the halftime show, Vegas just takes it one step further, as Vegas always does.

Such a rush of sequins requires a “Tale of the Velcro” breakdown of contenders and oddsmaking for Wednesday’s matchup. (And though we’re having fun here, we should point out the obvious: You can actually see all of the divas by going on different nights.)

This uniquely Las Vegas task requires prognosticators, so who better than “Divas Las Vegas” producer-star Frank Marino and “Proud Larry” Edwards, the Linq drag show’s MVP as Tina Turner and Patti Labelle?

 

Age: Just a number?

At 72, Ross is the oldest of the competitors. But as with Tom Brady, any talk of retirement is only speculation, judging by recent home showings of “The Essential Diana Ross: Some Memories Never Fade” at The Venetian.

Cher is 70, but the two-year advantage might be offset by the rustiness of three years on the bench, following her “Dressed to Kill” tour, which stopped at the MGM Grand in 2014. But don’t bet against her showing some cheek when the chaps come out.

An expansion team Cinderella story, the 47-year-old Lopez has age on her side. And her skin exposure will be almost impossible to cover if “All I Have” keeps the striptease number “Into You” in the playbook.

Marino: “Cher has finally embraced her age in her jokes, but she still has the ability to look like she’s in her 40s. She’s like a genetic experiment.” He saw Ross in a similarly clustered time frame with Beyonce and Rihanna, and “the 72-year-old did better than the young girls.”

Edwards: “I’m in love with J-Lo. The way she’s just still sexy at her age and the choreography that she does. How she does all those costume changes and still has the energy to dance and sing. She can carry on that Super-Fabulous performance better than the other two.”

Cher: minus-1

Ms. Ross: plus-3

J-Lo: minus-3

Costumes: The sequin spread

You can’t underestimate the depth of Cher’s costume line. Whether she’s a Mayan priestess or an Egyptian queen who just gave birth to a peacock, the bead-count statistics are in a league of their own.

But the favorite shouldn’t get complacent. J-Lo’s “All I Have” put up some impressive numbers when it opened with 260,000 Swarovski crystals embedded in its uniforms last year.

A containment strategy has worked against Ross, who has been held to under six costume changes in recent outings. Still, she maximizes her arsenal, floating in from the back aisle, or erupting in a canary-yellow ball gown.

Marino: “I think Cher said it best years ago: ‘I have to change 25 times a night. Otherwise drag queens across America call each other up and say ‘I think she lost the will to live.’ ”

Edwards: “Cher wins on that one, that’s for sure. Cher gives you the glitz, she gives you the Vegas, she gives you the unique. Bob Mackie comes up with some incredible costumes for her.”

Cher: minus-7

Ms. Ross: plus-3

J-Lo: minus-4

Defensive dance line, strength of spectacle

Cher has a reputation to defend in this department too. She told the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes that “people will be overcome by the production” of the new show, thanks to the Park Theater’s computer-generated video technology.

But Lopez came out of the backfield with a surprise production show. Along with an overwhelming blitz from the shirtless boy dancers, coaches Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo caught opponents off-guard when they carved “All I Have” into distinct segments paying homage to old Vegas and old Havana alike.

Ross isn’t on the same playing field with a theater show that doesn’t allow for dancers or production design. But don’t discount the emotional power of the retro clips, photos and album covers that unfold on the big screen.

Marino: “While the other ones have a spectacular show, Diana Ross has a spectacular presence. J-Lo does a younger version of the Cher show. She puts a modern twist on it. Now that we lost ‘Jubilee,’ it’s nice to have what I call a Vegas production be part of a show. Cher’s shows are always over the top and spectacular. My grandparents have trouble getting up and getting the clicker for the TV, and she’s flying from the ceiling.”

Edwards: “Cher’s always had really great dancers, but they seem to do basically the same choreography. J-Lo’s show works in a variation of dance combos like Latin, jazz and disco. And I loved the part where she sticks her feet through trapdoors and they change her shoes. It was so quick and amazing how they got them on, and she continued dancing. That was so unique, knowing exactly where to stand and how to put her foot in without falling through that little hole.”

Vocal depth chart

Ross dominates this category, both in vocal firepower and the career record of completion yards for her catalog. Cher has limited range but knows her sweet spot and nails the short gainers. Lopez resorts to vocal augmentation because of the intensity of her dancing maneuvers.

Lopez also comes up the weakest in terms of catalog. Sing a few bars of “I’m Glad” or “Get Right”? Didn’t think so. Brilliant coaching by the D’umos to open up the number of potential receivers by having her throw beyond her own hits and connect with standards such as “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” and “I Hope You Dance.” Cher has always been able to intercept a lot of outside hits, such as Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.”

Edwards: “Diana is way ahead here, because she has so many Supremes songs, and then she has her own solo hits on top of that.”

Marino: “Diana Ross relies on her voice and the other ones rely on the spectacle of it. Cher has an interesting voice that we take to. But Diana sings and hits the notes. And if she has a sore throat that night, she does the song anyway. It’s not a Britney (lip-sync). J-Lo I would say is 50-50 on the lip-sync (to live singing). I give her a pass on the lip-sync because she dances like a fiend for two hours.”

Cher: plus-1

Ms. Ross: minus-8

J-Lo: plus-6

Picking the winner

Marino:Diana Ross, no matter what, is going to be my girl till the day I die. I went to every retirement show Cher did. She got me so tired of her farewell shows that I might have to retire.”

Edwards: “J-Lo, honey.”

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.