DIVA TALK: Akers in the Stars; Elaine and the Boys

DIVA TALK: Akers in the Stars; Elaine and the Boys KAREN AKERS
One of my favorite song interpreters, Karen Akers, returned this week to what has become her New York home, Rainbow & Stars (30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor). Akers, who possesses one of the more unique and stirring voices around--one that has been described as having the sound of "silver bells wrapped in velvet"--will hold court at R&S through May 10, performing two shows nightly (Tuesday-Saturday evenings) at 8:30 and 11:00 p.m.

KAREN AKERS
One of my favorite song interpreters, Karen Akers, returned this week to what has become her New York home, Rainbow & Stars (30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor). Akers, who possesses one of the more unique and stirring voices around--one that has been described as having the sound of "silver bells wrapped in velvet"--will hold court at R&S through May 10, performing two shows nightly (Tuesday-Saturday evenings) at 8:30 and 11:00 p.m.

Her current show, entitled It's Time for a Love Song, is an eclectic mix of show tunes (many from the Off-Broadway hit When Pigs Fly), standards, pop songs and French ballads. With musical direction by Michael Abene and featuring John Loehrke on bass and Dan Willis on horns and reeds, the program for the evening follows:

  --"Fun To Be Fooled" (Ira Gershwin/Harburg/Harold Arlen)    "How Little We Know" (Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael)    "How Little We Know" (Carolyn Leigh/Philip Springer)  --"Planes" (Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager)  --"How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?" (Mercer/Tony Scibetta)  --"Torch Songs 1" (Dick Gallagher/Mark Waldrop from When Pigs Fly)  --"There's a Lull in My Life" (Mack Gordon/Harry Revel)    "I Don't Want to Walk Without You Baby" (Frank Loesser/Jule Styne)    "My Melancholy Baby" (George A. Norton/Ernie Burnett)  --"Whatever Happened to Melody" (Ray Jessel/Cynthia Thompson)  --"Torch Song 2" from When Pigs Fly  --"Ricorda"    "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"     (Pino Donaggio/Italian Lyric: V. Pallavacini;      English lyric: Vicki Wickham and Simon Napier-Bell)  --"Torch Song 3" from When Pigs Fly  --"Laughing Matters" from When Pigs Fly  --"Chanson" (Stephen Schwartz from The Baker's Wife)  --"It's Time for a Love Song" (Lerner/Lane from Carmelina)    "E L'amore Che Fa Amare?" (Piaf/Monnot; Italian lyric: C. da Vinci)  --"Non Je Ne Regrette Rien" (Michel Vaucaire/Charles Dumont)  

I will catch Akers' performance on April 28 and report on it in that week's column. For those of you in the New York area, be sure to catch Akers' yearly stand at Rainbow & Stars ($40 music charge; no minimum; call 212-632-5000). And for those of you who have never heard this statuesque diva, you might want to pick up one of her many recordings: Presenting Karen Akers, Unchained Melodies, In a Very Unusual Way, Under Paris Skies and Just Imagine. You can also get a taste of Akers this Monday, April 21, when she is a guest on the "Stan Martin Cabaret Show," which airs 3-7 PM on WQEW (1560 AM). Akers is scheduled to sing live at 5 PM.
DONNA MURPHY
It was a great pleasure to speak with two-time Tony winner (Passion, The King and I) Donna Murphy earlier this week. Fresh from her triumphant run in the hit revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, Murphy has just completed a few television projects, so get your VCRs ready. The first program casts Murphy as Abigail Adams in a multi-episode production entitled "Liberty" that will air on PBS this fall. The other work is the pilot episode for David ("NYPD Blue") Caruso's upcoming CBS series, tentatively titled "Michael Hayes." Murphy was a guest star in the pilot; however, should the series be picked up, the role may become a recurring one.

Murphy, who is enjoying a well-deserved rest from the stage, is currently considering a few non-musical productions that may bring her back to Broadway as soon as this summer. I will keep you posted as I hear more . . .


DAVID'S DIVAS
Composer/lyricist David Friedman, who has written some of the most beautiful songs for singers like Laurie Beechman and the late Nancy LaMott, will be joined by 16 talented singers in a one-evening-only performance that celebrates his work. David Friedman and Friends will be performed on Sunday, April 20 at Rainbow and Stars in N.Y.C. (30 Rockefeller Plaza; 65th Floor) at 7:30 PM and again at 10pm, and some of the performers who will perform include that belter-of-belters Alix Korey, Victor/Victoria's Anne Runolffson, cabaret chanteuse Naomi Kukoff and many more. In addition to singing well-known Friedman works like "Listen To My Heart," "We Can Be Kind" and "Help Is on the Way," a few new songs will be introduced as well, including "Trust the Wind"; a collaboration with Portia Nelson called "Let Me Be the Music"; and Friedman's newest anthem, "As Long As I Can Sing." There is a $20 music cover and a $15 minimum for both shows. Call (212) 632-5000 for reservations.


BETTY BUCKLEY
There are a host of Betty Buckley events in the tri-state area coming up in the next few weeks. Next Saturday, April 26, Ms. B brings her acclaimed concert act to New Jersey's State Theatre in New Brunswick. For those of you in the Connecticut area, be on the lookout for a few articles/interviews with Betty B to coincide with her upcoming concert on May 17 at the Palace Theatre in Stamford (203-325-4466). Buckley is scheduled for interviews with the Stamford Advocate/Greenwich Times and the Connecticut Post as well as a radio interview for WGCH Radio, CT.

Buckley will also be a guest on Stan Martin's radio program on April 28 (WQEW 1560 AM), and she is scheduled to sing live at 5 PM. Kudos to Martin for giving air time to many of our favorite ladies in the worlds of cabaret and theatre--Bernadette Peters was a guest a few weeks back.

Other upcoming concert dates include two evenings, May 30 and May 31, in Santa Ana California, where Buckley will perform backed by a full orchestra. Tickets for these two evenings may be purchased by calling the box office at (714) 556-2787, ext. 260.


ELAINE PAIGE
This past Wednesday evening, Elaine Paige co-chaired a celebrity auction of The Scaasi Couture Collection at Sotheby's in N.Y.C. The auction benefited The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a cause that Paige has devoted much of her time to in the U.S. and in London (on behalf of The Breast Cancer Campaign). The event began with a speech from the foundation's founder, Evelyn Lauder, who thanked Paige and the other co-chairs of the event, and explained that the proceeds from the event would be distributed among ten different hospitals in the U.S. who are involved in cutting-edge research for the cure of breast cancer. Many of the Scaasi outfits were donated by celebrities and other high-profile people-- including Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Diahann Carroll and Barbara Bush--and Scaasi asked the crowd to "bid high and bid a lot! Every dollar you bid goes directly to breast cancer research."

The evening, which also included an appearance by Grand Hotel's Liliane Montevecchi, raised $100,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I had the chance to speak briefly with the always-charming Paige, who admitted that she would be singing "the big three" at her upcoming Boston Pops concert-- "Memory," "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"--as well as songs from Piaf and a surprise or two. Paige's U.S. concert debut with the Boston Pops will occur on May 7 (and May 12, which will be aired on PBS this summer). For those of you who would like to see what promises to be a thrilling event, call Symphony Charge at (617) 226-1200.

And, even more Paige news: On Sunday, April 27 EP will take part in a fundraiser for another worthy organization, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The event will be held at Boy's Life (158 Bleecker Street at Thompson), and Paige will raffle off two Sunset Boulevard-related items that she has donated to benefit BC/EFA: her gold brocade "With One Look" turban and an autographed, poster-sized version of a photo that was taken by Patrick McMullan and recently published in the April 7 issue ofNew York Magazine. Also, autographed copies of Paige's Encore CD will be available for sale. Proceeds from the two drawings, the CD sales and a portion of the $10 cover charge will go to BC/EFA. The evening begins at 11pm; call 212-420-1939 for more information. It's a great chance to meet the dazzling Elaine Paige in person and perhaps go home with a bit of Sunset history (the turban, that is).


DEBRA BYRNE
Last week I mentioned that Debra Byrne, who stars as Norma Desmond in the acclaimed Australian production of Sunset Boulevard, had just released her latest solo album. This week comes word of the songs that are included on this new CD. It is an interesting collection of show tunes, ranging from standards like "Long Ago and Far Away" to current musical theatre songs. The song list follows:

"Easy Terms" from Blood Brothers
"Surrender" from Sunset Boulevard
"With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard
"Another Suitcase in Another Hall" from Evita
"Nothing Like You've Ever Known" from Song and Dance
"No One Is Alone"/"Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods (duet with Hugh Jackman who plays Joe Gillis in the Australian SB)
"The Millworker" from Working
"If I Loved You" from Carousel
"On The Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady
"Long Ago and Far Away" from Hot Shoe Shuffle
"Being Alive" from Company
"Always" from Always
"As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard
"As Long As He Needs Me" from Oliver!

For those of you who can't wait until the recording is available in the U.S. (at import stores like Footlight Records and Colony), you might try calling the Readings Music Store in Australia to order a copy. Their number is 011-61-3-9867-1885, and they have a website at www.readings.com.au. I will report on the new recording and Byrne's interpretation of the two Sunset anthems in next week's column.


PETULA CLARK
Another Norma Desmond, Petula Clark, who recently closed the London production of Sunset Boulevard, makes a guest appearance on a CD entitled The Broadway Kids' Sing Broadway, one of two discs that features a host of talented young Broadway performers. This recording boasts such child actors as Eden Riegel, Kathryn Zaremba, Sivan Cotel and Buddy Smith singing tunes from Annie, Gypsy, The Secret Garden and Peter Pan. Clark lends her voice to the Rodgers and Hammerstein medley, singing "Getting To Know You" from The King and I. Both this album and its new sequel,The Broadway Kids at the Movies (with special guest Richard Jay Alexander singing "High Hopes"), are available in record stores on the Lightyear label or by calling Lightyear Entertainment directly at 212 563-4610.

MELBA MOORE
Melba Moore, who first appeared on Broadway in the 1969 Broadway production of Hair and most recently as Fantine in the New York company of Les Miserables, will appear in concert on May 8 at Stamford's Palace Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut. Billed as "An Evening with Melba Moore," the star of stage, TV and recordings will sing one show only at 8pm. Tickets are $28 and $22 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 203-325-4466. Moore is also currently developing her own one-woman show that captures the bond she shared with her mother. Before Songs My Mother Taught Me reaches fruition, however, Moore can be seen in Momma I'm Sorry, a gospel musical that will tour over 70 cities in the United States.


Reminders:
FLORENCE LACEY
will take part in a six-week tour of the music of Jerry Herman this summer. The tour dates follow (tickets can be booked beginning in June for most summer playhouses):
July 21-August 2 at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT
August 4-16 at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME
August 18-30 at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone begins previews as Maria Callas in London today(!), Friday, April 18, with an official opening at the Queens Theatre (Shaftesbury Avenue) on May 6. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets range from £7.50 - £30.00, and the box office telephone number is 0171-494-5040.

MAUREEN McGOVERN

She's returning--by popular demand--to the posh L.A. cabaret, the Cinegrill from April 16-19. BERNADETTE PETERS
She will make an appearance on "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" on May 5.

Next week:

More Aussie divas: a spotlight on Rhonda Burchmore, soon to make her Broadway debut.

Coming soon:
A review of Karen Akers at Rainbow & Stars.
A report on Elaine Paige's U.S. concert debut with the Boston Pops.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com