A DIVA-LOVER'S DREAM
As if the past ten months haven't been enough of a treat --beginning with Betty Buckley's succession to the Norma Desmond throne in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, followed by Patti LuPone's breathtaking Broadway concert--the summer months promise a bevy of diva delights.
It all begins on June 10 with the solo Carnegie Hall debut of none other than that Norma Desmond delight, Betty Buckley. Buckley's concert, which will be a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, will be the cherry on the proverbial sundae for Ms. B's great year. If her recent Bottom Line concert was any indication, it should be a thrilling evening. Buckley tried out a lot of new material at her Village haunt, ranging from standards like "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Hello, Young Lovers" to lesser-known Broadway songs ("My House" from Peter Pan)) plus a rock tune here and there.
In a recent item in the New York Post, Buckley promised also to sing "Memory," two songs from Sunset Boulevard and a few songs from Carrie. Buckley has already recorded "When There's No One" from this cult show, but has not recorded any of its other wonderful music ("Open Your Heart," "Evening Prayers," "I Remember How the Boys Could Dance").
Perhaps her record label, Sterling Records, will record this event. Every artist should have a "Live at Carnegie Hall" recording, and Betty Buckley, now at the top of her fame and interpretative powers, should add that honor to her recordings. Following the Buckley gig, is an entrance by another divine diva: Patti LuPone. La LuPone will take over for Zoe Caldwell in one of the most-acclaimed plays of the season, Terrence McNally's Master Class. Portraying Maria Callas should be a wonderful role for one of our favorite ladies. Who better to play this grand diva than Patti? Throughout her career, LuPone, like Callas, has been heralded for her remarkable, if not always conventional, vocal style. And, like Callas, LuPone knows how to wring the emotional content out of a song like few others. Caldwell, as most everyone attests, is wonderful in the part, but LuPone will bring a fiery edge to the show as well. LuPone begins her Master Classes July 2.
Then, in August, comes one diva event right after the other. On August 24, Betty Buckley will give her last performance (for now) as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Perhaps Buckley will return to the show at some point in the future--either in New York or another production. This farewell performance promises to be an emotion-filled evening of theatre. For anyone who saw either her first preview or her opening-night performance, it was a night not to be missed. The audience went wild after each of Buckley's big numbers, rising to their feet while calls of "brava" echoed through the house. This performance is a must for all the Buckley lovers out there.
Then, on August 26 is a performance many have been waiting years for--the Broadway debut of Elaine Paige, who has been knocking 'em dead in London for the past two decades with starring performances in Evita, Cats, Chess, Anything Goes, Piaf, and most recently, the Norma Desmond of the West End.
For a sneak preview of Elaine's talents, you might want to check out her latest recording, Encore, which is available at import record stores and will soon be released in the U.S. on Atlantic Records. Having already seen Elaine in Piaf and as Norma in London, I can assure you she is one of the best performers out there, and deserves to take her place among our U.S. loves, Patti, Betty and Bernadette.
Speaking of Bernadette, she is the only grand diva left out of our summer of diva dreams come true. However, while she isn't scheduled for any New York performances, her long-awaited solo album is scheduled for a release this summer. It will be Bernadette's first solo album in over a decade, but it should be terrific, with songs by composers ranging from Stephen Sondheim to Lyle Lovett. And, as Bernadette prepares for her wedding (she was recently engaged to a New York stock broker), Kander and Ebb are busily at work writing a musical for her based on The Skin of Our Teeth.
So, what more could we hope for? A concert from Betty; Patti back on Broadway; the long-awaited Broadway bow of Elaine; and a new album, plus a possible musical for Bernadette. These are the things that diva dreams are made of. I hope you will be able to catch (or buy) at least one of them.
And a bit of news:
* Tony winners Patti LuPone and Matthew Broderick will announce the 1995-96 Tony Award nominees on May 6 at 8:30 AM at Sardi's Restaurant. LuPone and Broderick will announce the nominees in the 20 categories as well as the selection of the Regional Theatre Award and any special awards. Also, Playbill On-line will post the nominees on that very day.
* For all you Texans out there, here's your chance to see our own Betty Buckley in concert. Ms B. will give a concert at the Casa Manana Theatre in Fort Worth, TX, that will benefit Casa's Children's Playhouse and Theatre School. Buckley, who was raised in Fort Worth, last appeared at Casa in 1991. This year's concert is scheduled for May 5, 1996, at 7:30 PM. For more information and for tickets, call 1-817-332-CASA.
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!