Fans of Betty Buckley can rejoice this week, for the original cast recording of Triumph of Love has been completed. Not too long ago it seemed that Buckley's recent Broadway outing might go unrecorded, but John Yap of JAY Records recently stepped in and happily agreed to record the Jeffrey Stock/Susan Birkenhead/James Magruder musical. The recording took place this past weekend at the Clinton Studios on 10th Avenue and 46th Street, and I was quite excited to attend the four weekend sessions. On Saturday, four members of the cast were present: Buckley, F. Murray Abraham, Roger Bart and Kevin Chamberlin. Those four also returned on Sunday with the addition of Christopher Sieber and Nancy Opel. Due to a Los Angeles commitment, Susan Egan was unable to attend the weekend recordings, but she dubbed her vocals on Tuesday to the pre recorded orchestral tracks.
The recording was a "live" recording; that is, the orchestra and the singers recorded simultaneously, rather than the performers (with the exception of Egan) singing to pre-recorded tracks. I am currently writing a more-detailed account of the recording for Betty Buckley's website, and that version will also include many photos of the two-day event. But, here are a few BB highlights: Buckley was in terrific voice on both days, and her recording of "Serenity" will be the highlight of the CD. Buckley did four takes of the moving song, each one better than the previous: It was very interesting to watch (and listen) to the way she modified each take. For example, after listening to a playback of the first two versions, Buckley and lyricist Susan Birkenhead agreed that although Buckley's speaking of the word "cruel" (in the lyric "cannot beguile that cruel, untenable tyranny of that oh so artless face") was effective in the theatre, it made more sense to sing the word on the recording. Buckley was also able to preserve her second-act tune, "If I Cannot Love," which was cut from the show during previews . . . Be sure to watch for the Triumph of Love recording some time this fall.
I must admit that the more I see Donna McKechnie perform the higher and higher she rises on my own list of great stage performers. I was recently thrilled by her beautifully sung and acted performance in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Follies, and this past Monday night, she moved me more than any of the other women portraying Charity in the one-night-only benefit performance of Sweet Charity. There is something so warm and heartfelt in McKechnie's work that one cannot help being touched by her performances. That said, however, each of the women who took part in the Charity concert got a chance to strut her stuff. In fact, Chita Rivera remains a theatrical wonder after decades of superb work onstage, and she managed to shine every time she appeared. Other Charitys on the stage of Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall included Bebe Neuwirth, Debbie Allen and, of course, the original Charity, Gwen Verdon, who assisted director John Bowab with the musical staging. Although Verdon didn't get to sing or dance, she did provide one of the more comic moments of the evening as she hid in the closet of Vittorio Vidal--the self-obsessed Italian movie star--while he and his girlfriend indulge in some passion in the next room.
What was so enjoyable about the concert was seeing so many different interpretations of the role, often at the same time. In some scenes, there was only one Charity onstage, while in others two or three of the ladies would appear to sing or dance simultaneously. There were cameo appearances by a host of other theatre stars including The Life's Pamela Isaacs and Lillias White, who offered a wonderful, belty version of "Baby Dream Your Dream." Hinton Battle led the worshippers at the Rhythm of Life Church in song and dance, and Robert Goulet lent his powerful voice to "Too Many Tomorrows" as the aforementioned Vittorio Vidal. Marla Maples, looking remarkably like film actress Sharon Stone, had a go at the part of Vidal's girlfriend, and Jim Dale, Brian Stokes Mitchell and John McMartin alternated the role of Oscar, the accountant who falls in love with Charity, only to reject her at the end of the show because of her profession. Of the three men, Brian Stokes Mitchell was the most thrilling, letting his voice soar in the title song, and McMartin added some poignancy to a role he played in both the original Broadway company and in the film version opposite the Charity of Shirley MacLaine.
Other stars who took part in the benefit for the American Foundation for AIDS Research and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS included Marissa Tomei, Charles Nelson Reilly, Whoopi Goldberg--who provided some humor in the show's prologue and in the final scene as the Good Fairy--and Betty Buckley, who belted up a storm in "I Always Cry at Weddings," showing once again that she possesses one of the best voices in musical theatre as she sang the tenor's high notes, those that Dom Deluise's Herman couldn't tackle.
It was truly a thrilling evening as some of the most magical performers in musical theatre history showed why they have become such theatrical legends. PETULA CLARK
Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City from Sept. 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:
Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)
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