It’s been an exciting week for Audra McDonald fans. Earlier in the week it was announced that the three-time Tony Award winner will join Tony and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone for the upcoming concert version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Passion this summer at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. McDonald will portray Clara — the role originated on Broadway by Marin Mazzie — in the Aug. 22 and 23 concerts, and LuPone, as previously announced, will portray the ill-fated Fosca. Urban Cowboy’s Lonny Price, who directed both LuPone and McDonald in the Lincoln Center Sweeney Todd concert, will direct here as well. The Ravinia theatre is located in Highland Park, IL; for more information, go to www.ravinia.org.
And, it was also announced this week that the star of Broadway’s Ragtime, Master Class and Carousel will premiere a new work by composer Adam Guettel in June 2004 at Carnegie Hall’s new performance space, the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall. The six evenings of concerts will mark the world premiere of the Guettel composition. Concerts are scheduled for June 2, 4, 8, 10 and 12, 2004 at 8:30 PM and June 6 at 5 PM; Ted Sperling will serve as musical director and conductor. Tickets for the concerts are priced at $48 or $62, and the Zankel Hall entrance and lobby are located on the east side of Seventh Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. Call (212) 247-7800 for subscription information.
FOR THE RECORD: The Maury Yeston Songbook:
I had long been a fan of the score to Nine, but it wasn’t until the 1997 debut of Broadway’s Titanic until I realized Maury Yeston’s true gifts as a composer. With its lush sound and soaring melodies, Titanic was one of the greatest scores of the nineties; the lengthy opening sequence is irresistible as are such tunes as “Barrett’s Song,” “Lady’s Maid,” “The Proposal,” “The Night Was Alive” and “No Moon.” So, as you can imagine, I was quite happy when I heard that PS Classics was planning to release a CD devoted to the songs of Yeston. And, I’m equally happy to report that the CD — “The Maury Yeston Songbook” — is a gem and a must for musical theatre lovers.
Although the 20-track disc contains only one song from Titanic — a beautiful rendition of “No Moon” by current Phantom Howard McGillin — the recording is chock-full of wonderful songs and boasts some of Broadway’s best voices, including Betty Buckley, Alice Ripley, Liz Callaway, Christine Ebersole, Brian d’Arcy James and many others. And, in addition to tunes from Yeston’s Broadway musicals (Nine, Grand Hotel, Titanic), there are tunes from regional works Phantom and In the Beginning; his song cycle written for cabaret’s Andrea Marcovicci, December Songs; and three world premieres.
Alice Ripley, who will soon star in the Broadway mounting of Little Shop of Horrors, begins the recording with “Please Let’s Not Even Say Hello” from December Songs. It’s a masterful rendition full of emotion that Ripley builds with skill. Ripley also scores with a sensual rendition of Nine’s “A Call From the Vatican.” Brent Barrett’s applies his rich tones to Nine’s “Only With You” and Sutton Foster — in Millie mold — belts a terrific “I Want to Go to Hollywood.” Johnny Rogers, who sounds remarkably like singer-songwriter James Taylor, does well with “Danglin’,” and Betty Buckley offers a particularly moving version of “I Had a Dream About You.” Just listen to the vocal colors she brings to this December Songs tune. Buckley is in high gear on Nine’s “Be on Your Own,” and she is thrilling; I particularly like her transition from Broadway belt to gentler tones on the song’s finale—the effect is highly moving.
Other notable tracks include Christine Ebersole’s gorgeous reading of “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” (Ebersole, it seems, can sing in any style); Brian d’Arcy James’ simple, honest version of “Unusual Way”; Liz Callaway’s usual lush tones on “Simple”; “Home,” the Phantom show-stopper, featuring a duet between Laura Benanti — now in the revival of Yeston’s Nine — and Robert Cuccioli; and In the Beginning’s “Is Someone Out There?,” boasting the high belts of Brooklyn star Eden Espinosa.
“The Maury Yeston Songbook” was produced by Tommy Krasker and John McDaniel and will hit stores April 8.
The March 30 edition of the New Jersey Star Ledger featured a wonderful interview with Nine’s Antonio Banderas. Banderas spoke about his various co-stars in the piece by Michael Sommers. Some of his thoughts follow:
Banderas on Chita Rivera (Liliane La Fleur):
"She's a Broadway myth. The fact that Chita is playing the part is just like a dream to me. She has such extraordinary energy. I know that when Chita steps out on the stage, she is going to tear the theater up and down. And I'm going to love watching her do it."
Banderas on Mary Stuart Masterson (Luisa Contini):
"Mary Stuart is a very grounded woman. She can be very sexy, too. She's got a spark that I cannot define — something sparkling — that I saw when she did 'Fried Green Tomatoes.' As an actress, Mary Stuart is very giving. She's experimental, too. She doesn't hold back."
Banderas on Jane Krakowski (Carla Albanese):
"From the beginning of rehearsals, Jane has been Carla. Very playful and easy to play with. For this part, you need an actress who isn't afraid of herself. Of her body. Of touching. And she's like that."
Banderas on Laura Benanti (Claudia Nardi):
"Laura's got such a beautiful voice. That voice can convince you of anything. At the same time, she is very sweet, very shy. There's almost a Brechtian distance about her — in a very kind way."
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Among those catching the invited dress rehearsal of Gypsy — starring two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters — were Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin, Joel Grey, Michele Pawk, Cherry Jones, John Benjamin Hickey, George Furth and John Caird. . . . It’s a busy time for Leslie Kritzer, who recently stoodby for Alice Ripley in the Kennedy Center’s mounting of Tell Me On a Sunday. Kritzer, who also starred as Fanny Brice in the Paper Mill production of Funny Girl, will go it solo April 7 at the Ars Nova Theatre. Kritzer is the latest offering in the Broadway Spotlight Series, which presents concert evenings with stars of the Broadway stage. Pianist-musical director Vadim Fleitcher, of Lincoln Center’s Elegies, will accompany Kritzer, who will offer a “lighthearted look at her life in song.” Concertgoers can expect to hear songs from the worlds of Broadway, pop and rock. Show time is 8 PM, and the Ars Nova Theater is located at 511 West 54th Street in New York City. Tickets are priced at $12 and may be purchased through SmartTix (www.smarttix.com) and by phone at (212) 206-1515. Kritzer will also star as Rizzo in the Paper Mill mounting of Grease!, which plays the New Jersey theatre June 4-July 20. Others in the cast include Andy Karl as Danny Zuko and Jennifer Hope Wills as Sandy with Justin Bohon (Doody), John Jeffrey Martin (Kenickie), Heather Jane Rolff (Jan), Jordan Ballard (Marty), Sarah Stiles (Frenchie), Brenda Cummings (Miss Lynch), Stacey Harris (Cha Cha), Noah Weissberg (Eugene), Clyde Alves (Sonny), Benjie Randall (Roger), Becky Gulsvig (Patty) and Enrique Acevedo (Johnny Casino). Tickets for the Paper Mill Grease! — priced between $30 and $62 — are now on sale by calling (973) 376-4343. . . . Recent Mamma Mia! star Karen Mason will bring her acclaimed cabaret act to Chicago's Davenport's next month. From May 7 to May 12, Mason will perform one show a night at the Chicago nightspot. Davenport's is located in Chicago, Ill., at 1383 N. Milwaukee Road. Call (773) 278-1830 for reservations. . . . Deborah Gibson will go from drugged-out cabaret singer Sally Bowles to merry murderess Velma Kelly when she opens the Lyric Theatre’s 2003 summer season in July. Gibson, who is currently starring opposite Neil Patrick Harris in the Roundabout’s Tony-winning revival of Cabaret, will portray Velma Kelly in the Lyric’s production of Chicago, which is set to play Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall July 8-12. It will be the second time Gibson has starred in the Kander and Ebb musical; she portrayed Velma in the North Shore Music Theatre’s mounting of the musical last year. At the Lyric Theatre — Oklahoma’s only professional musical theatre — Gibson will be joined by Sean McDermott as Billy Flynn and Stacey Logan as Roxie Hart. For more information about Chicago and other Lyric productions, visit www.lyrictheatreokc.com. . . . The Wild Party’s Julia Murney and Rent’s Daphne Rubin-Vega will offer solo concerts at Joe’s Pub this month. On April 13 (9:30 PM), Murney will take to the intimate stage of Joe’s Pub, located within the Public Theater, and Rubin-Vega will perform her rock-oriented concert April 25 (9:30 PM). Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place. Tickets are available at the Public Theater's box office, on-line at www.telecharge.com or by phone at (212) 239-6200. . . . Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie will bring her acclaimed concert, Inside the Music, to Arizona’s Orpheum Theatre April 11. Inside the Music traces McKechnie’s theatrical career, which includes roles in such Broadway musicals as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Promises, Promises; Company; and A Chorus Line. The one-woman evening was written by playwright Christopher Durang and features direction by Thommie Walsh. Prior to the concert, McKechnie will offer a master class at Arizona State University West on April 10, from 3 to 5 PM. Those interested in attending the master class should call (602) 543-ARTS. ASU West is located in Phoenix, AZ at 4701 West Thunderbird Road. Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre is located at 2nd Avenue and Adams. Tickets for the April 11 concert can be purchased by calling the theatre’s box office at (602) 262-7272 or by visiting www.tickets.com. Show time is 8 PM. . . . A 13-part series celebrating “Women in Theatre” begins airing on CUNY-TV April 4. Hosted by Newsday critic and columnist Linda Winer, “Women in Theatre: Dialogues with Notable Women in American Theatre” will feature interviews with female directors, designers, performers, playwrights and producers. The premiere episode features a chat with Tony Award-winning actress Rosemary Harris and will air at 8:30 PM April 4. Upcoming broadcasts include discussions with Manhattan Theatre Club Artistic Director Lynne Meadow (April 11), playwright and actress Dael Orlandersmith (April 18), actress Cherry Jones (April 25), producer Elizabeth McCann (May 2), playwright Paula Vogel (May 9), Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith (May 16), Alliance of Resident Theatres’ Virginia Louloudes (May 23), set designer Heidi Ettinger (May 30), playwright Diana Son (June 6), producer Daryl Roth (June 13), costume designer Willa Kim (June 20) and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (June 27). Produced by The League of Professional Theatre Women, “Women in Theatre” will air on CUNY-TV — Channel 75 on Time Warner Cable and Cablevision; also available on RCN. The entire series will also become part of Lincoln Center’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. . . . And, finally, it may just be worth joining the Friar’s Club to attend their April 7 event in the Club’s Milton Berle Room. Jamie deRoy will host the evening, which is being dubbed “The More the Merrier! (Duets and More).” The evening is scheduled to include a duet between Hairspray’s Linda Hart and Joel Vig; the famous Garland/Streisand duet, here rendered by “Simply Barbra” star Steven Brinberg and Sunset Boulevard’s Karen Mason; as well as performances by Scott Coulter, Tom Andersen, The Accidentals and the Swingirls Trio. Barry Kleinbort will direct with musical direction by Christopher Denny. Tickets are priced at $10 and $20; call Gianfranco Frank Capitelli at (212) 751 7272 for reservations.
Betty Buckley in Concert:
April 14-19 in Elegies at the Newhouse Theatre in New York, NY
April 25 at the South Dakota State University PAC in Brookings, SD
May 31 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Now in The Look of Love at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre
April 7 at the Playwrights Horizons Annual Gala in New York, NY
April 28 in Richard Rodgers: Giving Back at the Kaufman Center in New York, NY
May 16 Broadway Showstoppers in Philadelphia, PA
Barbara Cook in Concert:
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert:
April 5 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Aug. 5 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Oct. 25 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Maureen McGovern in Concert
April 12-13 at Center Stage—Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, CA
April 14-19 at Founder's Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
May 30 - 31 at the Palmer Events Center with the Austin Symphony Orchestra in Austin, TX
June 7 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN
Christiane Noll in Concert
April 5 Springfield, MA with Springfield Symphony
April 9 Florida Philharmonic with Peter Nero
April 21 Florida Philharmonic with Peter Nero
May 24 Williamsburg, VA with the Virginia Arts Festival
Aug. 28 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 29 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 30 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Oct. 11 Chattanooga, TN with Don Pippin
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!