DIVA TALK: 'Akers' Of Talent: Karen, Betty, Heather & Faith

DIVA TALK: 'Akers' Of Talent: Karen, Betty, Heather & Faith BETTY BUCKLEY
Some exciting news on the Betty Buckley front. It looks like the Tony winning actress will be part of this summer’s acclaimed “Divas at the Donmar” series at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Buckley is scheduled to sing in the intimate theatre from August 21 through September 3. Stay tuned for more details. Also, I received a call from a loyal BB fan who informed me that Buckley’s sensational version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” can be found on Kenny Werner’s new CD, “Beauty Secrets.” Werner, as you know, is Buckley’s long-time musical director, arranger and pianist, and the disc is now available from RCA Victor. And, of course, Buckley’s newest solo CD, “Heart to Heart” (on the KO Productions label), hit stores last week and is selling extraordinarily well. Be sure to add this heartfelt recording of tunes to your collection.

BETTY BUCKLEY
Some exciting news on the Betty Buckley front. It looks like the Tony winning actress will be part of this summer’s acclaimed “Divas at the Donmar” series at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Buckley is scheduled to sing in the intimate theatre from August 21 through September 3. Stay tuned for more details. Also, I received a call from a loyal BB fan who informed me that Buckley’s sensational version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” can be found on Kenny Werner’s new CD, “Beauty Secrets.” Werner, as you know, is Buckley’s long-time musical director, arranger and pianist, and the disc is now available from RCA Victor. And, of course, Buckley’s newest solo CD, “Heart to Heart” (on the KO Productions label), hit stores last week and is selling extraordinarily well. Be sure to add this heartfelt recording of tunes to your collection.

KAREN AKERS
Wow, what a review Karen Akers received in Thursday’s New York Times! The stunning singer, currently ensconced at the Algonquin’s Oak Room through April 21, is offering an evening of tunes in both French and English, including Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home,” Jason Robert Brown’s “Stars and the Moon,” Jacques Brel’s “Marieke,” Guy Beart’s “Les Couleurs du Temps” and the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz classic, “Haunted Heart,” which is the title and inspiration for Akers’ new show. About her new act Stephen Holden writes, “. . . in making [‘Haunted Heart’] the title song of her brilliant new cabaret show, Karen Akers has given [the song] another significant boost. The song also plays to Ms. Akers’s particular strengths. Her slightly androgynous contralto conveys an air of mystery that matches the lyric. . . Every [song in the act] is a winner.” For reservations to the chanteuse’s current show, call the Algonquin (59 West 44th Street) at (212) 840-6800. The complete song list for “Haunted Heart” follows:
“I’m Not Afraid” (G. Jouannest-J. Brel)
“J’ai deux amours” (G. Koger-H. Varna-V. Scotto)
“Shenandoah” (Traditional)
“Not Exactly Paris” (M. Leonard - R. George)
“Haunted Heart” (H. Dietz - A. Schwartz)
“Paris in the Rain” (Van Parys - Renoir; English lyric by J. Sams)
“Paris Is a Lonely Town” (Y. Harburg - H. Arlen)
“Sampathique” (C. Forbes - T. Lauderdale)
“Les Couleurs du Temps” (Guy Beart)
“Stars and the Moon” (Jason Robert Brown)
“There’s Always One You Can’t Forget” (A. J. Lerner - C. Strouse)
“Feels Like Home” (Randy Newman)
“Marieke” (G. Jouannest - J. Brel)
“Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (M. Vaucier - C. Dumont)

HEATHER HEADLEY
It seems that the toast of the town is 25-year-old Heather Headley, who brings a fiery passion to the title role of Aida in the new Elton John/Tim Rice musical at the Palace Theatre. Headley was last on Broadway as Nala in The Lion King, but with Aida she confirms her status as one of the musical theatre’s newest and most exciting stars. Headley offers a powerful performance as AIDA, her singing especially inspiring, combining a beautiful tone with a strength (and range) that is roof-raising. Her superior vocals also brought down the house earlier this week when she belted Elton John’s “Your Song” at his charity concert, which also featured knock-out turns from Betty Buckley, Linda Eder, B. J. Crosby, Andrea McArdle (on roller skates), Sam Harris, Sherie Rene Scott and others.
About her role in AIDA, however, Headley had this to say in last week’s Jack Kroll/Veronica Chambers interview in Newsweek: “I have to sell this story. I have to believe that I can fall in love with someone who’s enslaved me. And I have to make the audience believe that he’s worth it.” And that she does. In fact, in the same Newsweek article, the authors gush, “Headley has such emotional conviction and integrity that she could sing about the earth’s being flat and you would believe it.” And, in his New York Times review, Ben Brantley exclaimed, “She has fire, self-possession and an uncompromising sense of purpose. And although she may have goddesslike attributes, she also gives off a purely human flesh-and-blood intensity.”

FAITH PRINCE: A LEAP OF FAITH
Although I’ve always enjoyed Faith Prince’s work, I’ve never been a huge fan, but I must admit that her new CD, “A Leap of Faith,” is one of the most enjoyable recordings I’ve heard in a long time. Recorded live at Joe’s Pub, the disc perfectly captures Prince’s recent cabaret act, which had the feel of a career retrospective. Aside from the singing, what is so enjoyable about her debut solo album are several hilarious anecdotes she relates between songs. You’ll laugh aloud when she recalls Jack Jones’s performance of “Come Back To Me” during a regional performance of On a Clear Day You Can Say Forever in which Prince co-starred. (Prince then delivers a belty version of “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have” that rivals and perhaps bests the two other versions I’ve heard within the past six months, Liza Minnelli’s in Minnelli on Minnelli and Kristin Chenoweth’s in the City Center Encores! presentation of On a Clear Day). Prince also impersonates a loud-mouthed, territorial Elaine Stritch (who shared her dressing room at a Carnegie Hall event) and relates how she met her husband, musician Larry Lunetta, who solos on trumpet on the CD’s eighth track, “The Man with a Horn.”


Prince has an expressive voice that is best suited to comic material, and she salutes three of her musical idols throughout the show: Betty Hutton (with a full-voiced take of “The Hard Way”), Barbara Harris (with the aforementioned “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have”) and Judy Holliday (with a sensational delivery of Bells Are Ringing’s “Is It a Crime?”). Other highlights include her upbeat opening medley of “Some People” and “On the Other Side of the Tracks”; the Sondheim tongue twister “The Boy from. . .”; and the Rodgers and Hammerstein gem, “Something Wonderful,” which Prince offers as an encore in the guise of her Tony-winning Adelaide (from Guys and Dolls). “A Leap of Faith” is available from DRG.

JAMIE DeROY and FRIENDS
The popular cabaret series “Jamie DeRoy and Friends” continues this month with three new shows on Saturdays, April 15, 22 and 29 (all at 8:30 PM). The series will be held at the Laurie Beechman Theater inside the West Bank Cafe (407 W. 42nd Street). There is a $20 music charge for each performance and a one-drink minimum (MAC members receive a $5 discount on the cover). The scheduled performers follow:


April 15: Kane Alexander, Sherry Davey, Jack Donahue, Debbie Gravitte, Peter Howard, Annie Hughes and Sydney Myer

April 22: John Bucchino, Julie Halston, Shaun Hicks, Jeff Harnar, Teri Lynn Paul, Professor Putter and Steven Scott

April 29: Jody Eisenstein, Julie Gold, Maree Johnson, Angela LaGreca, Phillip Officer and Mary Testa


Call (212) 695-6909 for reservations.

IN OTHER NEWS Linda Eder was in the recording studio this week, remixing Frank Wildhorn’s “Vienna” for the dance clubs. With the success of “Never Dance,” which was a Top 5 hit in Billboard, “Vienna” will be rushed to clubs as soon as possible to meet demand . . . Speaking of Eder, the former Jekyll & Hyde star is scheduled to tape an appearance for the “CBS Early Show” this Tuesday, April 11 at noon. Eder will perform “Vienna” on the plaza outside the studio on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. At this time the air date is undetermined, but all are welcomed to watch the taping if weather permits (if there is inclement weather, the taping will be done inside without a studio audience) . . . According to an item in Monday’s Liz Smith column in the New York Post: “Patti LuPone, soon to be seen as an assistant district attorney in CBS’ new series ‘Falcone,’ is one busy lady. After finishing her series work last month in Toronto, LuPone flew to Miami to film a role in NBC’s pilot ‘Good Guys/Bad Guys.’ In between she found time to record a new song for David Mamet’s upcoming feature, ‘State and Maine.’ The song has lyrics written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Mamet himself.” . . . Audra McDonald’s first appearance on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” will be next Friday, April 14. Set those VCRs! The three-time Tony winner will also perform a special concert to benefit Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) on June 12 at Town Hall. For ticket information, contact Morgan Rice at (212) 367-1514. More concert dates to come soon! . . . Maureen McGovern will perform with the Bartlesville Symphony in Oklahoma on May 13 at the Bartlesville Community Center . . . Cabaret Hotline named Amy Schmidt the Best Female Debut performer in 1999, and you can catch the talented singer on April 13 and April 16 (both at 8:30 PM) at Judy’s Chelsea (169 8th Avenue, between 18th and 19th Streets) in a new show with singer Mitch Ellis. Entitled “Together Again for the First Time,” the show is an eclectic set of standards and songs that should be standards. Call (212) 929-5410 for reservations; there is a $15 cover and a $10 food/drink minimum. . . The 14th annual MAC Awards will be held this Sunday, April 9 at Town Hall (123 W. 43rd St.). A special opening number featuring Julie Wilson, Tom Andersen, Bobby Belfry, Charles Cermele, Scott Coulter, Tommy Femia, Eric Michael Gillett, Jeff Harnar and Phillip Officer will kick off the event. And, as previously announced, Barry Manilow and Bobby Short will be honored, and there will also be performances from Karen Mason, Alix Korey and Robert Cuccioli. Presenters will include such cabaret and/or theatre favorites as Karen Akers, Tom Andersen, Lucie Arnaz, Mary Foster Conklin, Jamie deRoy, Michael Feinstein, Heather MacRae, Tom Postilio, Chita Rivera and Annie Ross plus gossip columnist Liz Smith. Tickets, which range from $25 to $125, are available through TicketMaster at (212) 307-4100 . . . Through the end of this weekend, Liz Callaway will be playing the title role in the Kurt Weill-Ogden Nash musical, One Touch of Venus, in her hometown of Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre. The staged concert reading is the second installment of that theatre’s “Ovations!” series. For tickets, call (312) 902-1500. And, Callaway will join her sister, Swing!’s Ann Hampton Callaway on Sunday, May 21 for a reprise of their critically acclaimed cabaret act, Sibling Revelry. The two will perform their concert at a benefit for the Hudson Stage Company at the Irvington Town Hall Theater in Irvington, New York. Call (914) 591-6602 for reservations; tickets range from $50-$75 . . . From July 18 to July 23, Karen Mason will play the leading role in the world premiere of a new stage musical based on the classic film White Christmas. Others in the cast will include Karen Morrow, Lara Teeter and Lauren Kennedy. Paul Blake will direct with choreography by Thommie Walsh.

REMINDERS
KAREN AKERS
Karen Akers is currently performing her latest act, “Haunted Heart,” at the famed hotel’s Oak Room. Show times for “Haunted Heart,” which runs through April 21, are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday nights at 9 and 11:30 PM. There is a $50 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 West 44th Street; call (212) 840-6800 for reservations.

BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

August 29 Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL

BARBARA COOK
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
Now through April 29 at the Cafe Carlyle, NYC (212) 744-1600
June 13 at the Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656-4401
September 14 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
September 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
September 28-October 1 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
April 13 at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, MA (617) 562-4111
April 14 at the Copley Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 536-8800 April 15 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT (203) 562-5666
April 25 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (973) 376-4343
May 6 at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Benefit in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX (713) 334-4400
July 8 with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14 with Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15 with Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274-6564
July 16 with Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
August 6 with Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
August 8 with Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
August 9 with Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
August 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050
August 25 with Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org

PATTI LUPONE
Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
May 4-6 in Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632 ARTS
June 8-11 at Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112

KAREN MASON
April 22 Appearance with Tommy Femia at Don't Tell Mama in NYC
April 29 Benefit for Community Health in Chicago; call (773) 395 9901
May 3-14 Davenport’s Cabaret in Chicago; call 773-278-1830
May 26-27 Mason opens the Cabaret series at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
June 1-4 Theatre concert at the new Metropolis Theatre in Arlington Heights, IL; call (847) 577-2121
June 5 Opening night of the San Francisco Cabaret Convention
June 7 The Plush Room in San Francisco; call 415-885-2800
Sept. 5 - Oct. 14 Arci’s Place, 450 Park Avenue, New York, NY; call (212) 532-4370.

AUDRA McDONALD

Scheduled concert dates for McDonald follow:
April 25-29 with the Atlanta Symphony (Kurt Weill/ “Seven Deadly Sins”)
May 12 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Boston, MA
May 14 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

LIZA MINNELLI
Tour dates for Minnelli on Minnelli follow:
April 12-16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
May 3-7 at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL
June 7 & 8 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Stage College, PA
June 10 & 11 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH
September 13-17 at the Wharton Ctr. for the Perf. Arts in East Lansing, MI
October 6-22 at Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI
November 1-5 at the Wang Center in Boston, MA
November 12 at the Performing Arts Center in Naples, Florida
November 14 & 15 at the Maxwell King Center in Melbourne, Florida
November 17 & 18 at the Moran Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida
December 6-10 at the Lyric Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland
December 13-17 at the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
December 27-31 at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida
March 7-11 at the Civic Theatre in San Diego, CA

SETH’S BROADWAY CHATTERBOX
Some of the most enjoyable cabaret/theatre experiences of the season are happening at Don’t Tell Mama, where writer/comedian/musician Seth Rudetsky hosts his weekly program, “Seth’s Broadway Chatterbox.” Here is a list of upcoming theatre guests: Judy Kuhn and Barry Moss on April 13 and Sam Harris on April 20. There is a $10 cover change, which goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and a two-drink minimum. Call (212) 757-0788 for reservations. Don’t Tell Mama is located on Restaurant Row (West 46th Street) in N.Y.C.

Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!

By Andrew Gans