DIVA TALK: A Mid-Season Diva Preview

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: A Mid-Season Diva Preview News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Hello, diva lovers! Hope you all enjoyed wonderful holidays. I was in bed with the flu for two weeks, but at least it gave me the chance to reflect on the first and second halves of the current theatrical season.

Although there's yet to be a breakaway musical hit, the season has been rife with performances from a mix of new and established Broadway "divas." In fact, with five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury back onstage — in a Sondheim musical! — it would be hard to complain about anything. And, when you add to the mix a star turn from Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who joins Lansbury in the acclaimed revival of A Little Night Music at the Walter Kerr, it is almost embarrassing to want even more for the second half of the 2009-2010 season.

Before we get to what's coming, however, let's not forget what has already arrived: Tony winner Lillias White is currently stealing the show in the new musical Fela! over at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Although her stage time is brief, the former The Life star makes every moment count, and her vocal work is as thrilling as ever. Also offering some roof-shattering vocals is Montego Glover in the emotion-packed, soul-stirring new musical Memphis at the Shubert Theatre. And, although their stays were brief, both the revivals of Finian's Rainbow, which ends its run at the St. James Theatre Jan. 17, and Ragtime, which closes Jan. 10, both offered stellar performances from its leading ladies: a glorious Kate Baldwin in the former and Christiane Noll and Stephanie Umoh, two fabulous belters, in the latter.

Bebe Neuwirth

The remainder of the season promises even more treats for diva fans. Just check out the cast of the eagerly awaited new musical The Addams Family, which arrives at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre March 8. A trio of magnificent actresses heads that company: two-time Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth, who portrays Morticia Addams; sublime singing actress Carolee Carmello, who stars as Alice Beineke; and comedic tour de force Jackie Hoffman, who plays Grandma. Not to be outdone, the Roundabout Theatre Company's mounting of Sondheim on Sondheim boasts four women who will surely delve into the lyrics of arguably the greatest theatrical composer of our time. Heading that list is the divine Barbara Cook, the Tony-winning actress who is making a rare Broadway return. She will be joined by "Ugly Betty" star Vanessa Williams, who also knows her way around a Sondheim lyric, having played the Witch in the revival of Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods. Broadway belter Leslie Kritzer and Erin Mackey (Wicked) are also featured in the small cast. Previews begin March 19 at Studio 54 under the direction of Lapine.

Kristin Chenoweth

The starry revival of Promises, Promises also promises some true musical theatre excitement. The production, which begins previews March 27 at the Broadway Theatre, is led by stage and screen star Kristin Chenoweth, who will get the chance to wrap her rangy soprano around the Burt Bacharach-Hal David classics "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Knowing When to Leave." The ever-busy Chenoweth, recently seen on screen in "Glee" and "Pushing Daisies," will be joined onstage by "Will and Grace" Emmy winner Sean Hayes, Tony winner Katie Finneran, Brooks Ashmanskas and Tony Goldwyn. The international gigastar spot will be filled by the one-and-only Dame Edna Everage, who will return to Broadway in All About Me Feb. 19 at the Henry Miller's. The new show, helmed by Tony-nominated director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, will be a Main Stem first for the multi-talented Dame: The Australian native has agreed to share the stage with cabaret veteran Michael Feinstein. One can only imagine the barbs that will fly forth from the Dame's mouth.

Also on the Broadway musical horizon: the dance-driven, Frank Sinatra-inspired and Twyla Tharp-helmed Come Fly Away, which begins performances at the Marquis Theatre March 1; the Chicago hit Million Dollar Quartet, which starts its run March 13 at the Nederlander Theatre; the new Green Day musical American Idiot, which begins rocking Broadway March 24 at the St. James Theatre; and the revival of La Cage aux Folles, which begins previews April 6 at the Longacre Theatre.

Betty Buckley

On the cabaret front, the most exciting prospect is the return of Tony Award winner Betty Buckley to Feinstein's at Loews Regency. The inimitable singing actress, who draws from a bottomless emotional well, will begin a month-long engagement at the posh nightspot Feb. 2. Expect an evening of Broadway tunes new to Buckley's repertoire, including songs from Avenue Q, South Pacific and Nine. Following Buckley at the Park Avenue venue will be Ashley Brown (Feb. 14), Linda Eder (April 6-17) and Tony winner Jane Krakowski (May 4-15). The Cafe Carlyle will also feature a host of Tony-winning gals: Elaine Stritch (now through Jan. 30), Christine Ebersole (Feb. 2-20), Lea Salonga (March 9-27) and Sutton Foster (June 15-26). Whether you get to a Broadway theatre or one of the city's many clubs, be sure to get out there and enjoy a live performance. There is nothing like it. Happy New Year.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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