DIVA TALK: Avenue Q and Fiddler Spread Joy at Easter Bonnet, Divas on Disc Plus News of Wicked Stars

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Avenue Q and Fiddler Spread Joy at Easter Bonnet, Divas on Disc Plus News of Wicked Stars News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Kate Monsterwitz at the Easter Bonnet Competition
Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Kate Monsterwitz at the Easter Bonnet Competition Photo by Aubrey Reuben

EASTER BONNET COMPETITION

The most moving moment of this year's Easter Bonnet Competition was provided by 100-year-old former Ziegfeld Follies dancer Doris Eaton Travis, who has been part of the annual fundraising event for the past seven years. After proving that she can still dance up a storm — she took part in the opening number's Conga — Eaton was presented with a large birthday cake celebrating her centenary. The delightful dancer then thanked the crowd for allowing her to be part of the competition for so many years and, "more importantly," she said in a choked-up voice, "for the reception you've given me." Truly touching.

If Eaton was the most moving, then the casts of Avenue Q and Fiddler on the Roof, who joined forces for the afternoon's award winning bonnet presentation, provided the funniest moments. Their brilliant skit, entitled Avenue Jew, employed a mix of tunes from both musicals with revised lyrics by Randy Bobish, Rick Lyon, James Valletti, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Molly Ephraim, Jordan Gelber and Melissa Bohon. I'm not sure what it is about Avenue Q, but whenever I see its talented cast and its wide-eyed puppets, I just feel happy. (I think Q writers Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty are going to have to write sequel upon sequel to the musical to keep D'Abruzzo/Kate Monster, John Tartaglia /Rod/Princeton, Ann Harada, Rick Lyon/Trekkie Monster, et al. on Broadway forever.)

The Avenue Jew sketch began with Trekkie Monster playing the opening strains of Fiddler on the Roof on a fiddle, which he proceeded to eat and destroy after playing a few sour notes. For those who were unable to attend this year's ceremony, I wanted to share the skit with you, and thanks to the gifted and charming D'Abruzzo, who supplied me with a copy of the sketch, here it is!:

(To the tune of Avenue Q opening):
ALL: Dai dai dai (dai dai dai)
Adonoi (nai nai nai nai nai nai)
Oy! The sun is setting on a Friday
A perfect evening for a Jew to pray
But you've got lots of rules to obey
More than a few!
WOMEN: Prepare the candles and the wine and bread
MEN: Observe the Sabbath like the Torah said
ALL: It's nearly time for a brucha, so what should you do?
Go home to Avenue Jew
You live on Avenue Jew
Your lawyer does too
Your colors are white and blue
When you live on Avenue Jew
You schlep on Avenue Jew
You kvetch on Avenue Jew!

Tevye and Family Enter
TEVYE: Uncle Avram's place must be around here somewhere, Golde. Excuse me, miss...oh...
KATE: Shalom. Welcome to Avenue Jew. I'm Kate Monsterwitz.
TEVYE: Oh, hello. I'm Tevye and this is my family. This is mine...this is mine...this is mine...(sees Little Boy) this is not mine. Who the hell is this kid?
BIELKE: I think he was in Nine, Papa.
TEVYE: Stop following us! Get out! (to Kate) So, well, you're a...um...
KATE: A puppet. Yeah. What's the matter, you got a problem with puppets or something?

(To the tune of "Tradition")
PUPPETS: Who steals the scenes with cute and fuzzy features
Legless furry creatures made of fleece and foam?
HUMANS: And who plays the straight man to these hairy things
And wishes they would just go home?
ALL: The puppets/humans...the puppets/humans...
The puppets/humans!
The puppets/humans...the puppets/humans...
The puppets/humans!

CHANUKAH EVE: I sick of all this upstaging. It hard work to make presence known.
BRIAN: Easy, honey. (To Tevye) Shalom. You must be new to the neighborhood. I'm Brian, and this is my wife, Chanukah Eve.
CHANUKAH EVE: Shalom. I convert for green card.

(Music begins)
GOLDE: What's that music?
KATE: It means a new puppet is entering.
CHANUKAH EVE: God forbid we get new human around here.

Princeton enters

(To the tune of "B.A. in English")
PRINCETON: What do you do with a B.A. in Yiddish?
Who the hell majors in that?
(To Tevye)
Oh, hi. I'm Jewish American Princeton.
SHPRINTZE: Hi, I'm Shprintze. You're cute.
KATE: Hands off, jailbait! I saw him first!
TEVYE: (To Princeton) Oh, no you don't! Look, Princeton, I like you but —
PRINCETON: I know, I know —
(To the tune of "If I Were a Rich Man")
If I were a human—

(All groan. Rod enters.)
(To the tune of "Matchmaker")
ROD: Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match
Find me a guy, no foreskin attached
Night after night in the dark I'm alone
So find me a top of my own!

(Mrs. Thistletwat enters.)
MRS. T: Roddy! Oh Roddy!
Have I got a guy for you!
He's wealthy! He's gay! And yes he is a Jew
And he's a nice man, a good man, true?

(Lazar Wolf enters.)
LAZAR: —true.
TEVYE: Lazar Wolf! You're a fageleh?
LAZAR: I'm a lonely man, Tevye.
(Rod Rushes to Lazar)

SHPRINTZE: Papa, Princeton and I want to be married.
TEVYE: I'll be brief — On the other hand — on the other hand — Tradition — sure, go ahead.

(Princeton and Shprintze run off)

KATE: (after Shprintze) Slut!
BRIAN: Chanukah Eve, this reminds me of our wedding day. Chanukah Eve, (to the tune of "Do You Love Me") Do you love me?
CHANUKAH EVE (flatly) No.

ROD: Wait! Lazar, we must first ask permission to wed.

("Hail to the Chief Plays" and a Dubya puppet enters, flanked by Secret Service.)
ALL: It's the Tsar!
ROD: Tsar Dubya, we beg you to accept us!
DUBYA: No, no, no!

(To the tune of "Tradition")
DUBYA: Amendment!
Marriages must be reserved
For the heteros!
None of the gays can ever be wed
That's what I said
That's what I said
That's what I said

(Ben Brantley enters)
BEN: And I said Melanie Griffith was the best Roxie Hart ever!
ALL: Oh my God, it's Ben Brantley!
BEN: Yes, I am!

(To the tune of "It Sucks to Be Me")
BEN: My name's Ben Brantley
I write the Times reviews
Who cares about gay marriage?
Where are all the Jews?
KATE: Oh, come off it, Brantley.
HAVILAND: We all eat bagels.
JAMES: We all have overbearing mothers.
RANDY: And thanks to critics like you, we all feel persecuted.
GOLDE: So everyone's a little bit Jewish.

(To the tune of "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist")
TEVYE: We're a little bit Jewish
BEN: No, you're not Jewish at all!
ANN: It doesn't matter who's Jewish
KATE: Suggesting that you have to be sure takes gall
GOLDE: Oh you read the review?
BIELKE: And it's nothing new— that boy from Oz was gay so who do they pick?
ROD/LAZAR: Hugh Jackman's really good, but has he ever sucked d*&!?

ALL: Take some time and think it through
Nathan Lane always plays a Jew
Maybe we should stop this arguing
Jackie Mason did a musical —
BEN: and couldn't sing!

FRANCIS: Antonio Banderas in Nine? Not Italian.
NICKY: Idina Menzel in Wicked? Not green.
BRIAN: Toni Braxton in Aida? Not an actress!!!

ALL: Everyone's a little bit Jewish, you see
MELISSA: Not me!
GOLDE: Not me!
BIELKE: I am!

ALL: In theatre you can be whatever you wish to be
God above has always meant
To include everyone in his covenant
Embrace the Jew in you while there's still time
Raise the Manischevitz — and L'chaim —

CHANUKAH EVE: Everyone's a little bit Jewish!
ALL: Oy!

Other highlights of this year's Easter Bonnet to-do: Cast members from Thoroughly Modern Millie delivered a new song by Kevin Early, "Letters From Home," while reading heartfelt notes from those who have benefited from the funds raised by BC/EFA; The Producers cast spoofed the gay marriage controversy with a witty rewrite of Stephen Sondheim's Company gem, "Getting Married Today"; Phantom of the Opera provided a humorous and surprisingly poignant film tribute to the musicals that have opened and closing during Phantom's lengthy run; and four belty Mimis from RentKarmine Alers, Caren Lyn Manuel, Dominique Roy and Krystal Washington — offered a jazzy take on Jonathan Larson's "Out Tonight" that concluded with a guest appearance by original Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega.

The most successful Easter Bonnet Competition ever, the 18th annual event raised a whopping $3,420,537 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For more information about the worthy organization, visit www.broadwaycares.org.

FOR THE RECORD

"The Broadway Musicals of 1953": The latest entry in the acclaimed Broadway Musicals series was recently released by Bayview Records. Created, written and hosted by cabaret critic Scott Siegel, the Town Hall series regularly presents concerts devoted to a specific year in Broadway history. The new recording,"The Broadway Musicals of 1953," spotlights, of course, the 1953 Broadway season, which produced such musicals as Wonderful Town, Me and Juliet, Can-Can and Kismet.

The 21-track disc features a mix of classic and rarely-heard gems from the 1953 season interpreted by a host of current stars from the theatre and cabaret worlds, including Davis Gaines, Andrea Burns, Julia Murney, Ed Staudenmayer, Scott Coulter and Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte. The recording also includes snippets of Siegel’s informative and often-humorous narration.

Featuring musical director Ross Patterson on piano, Don Falzone on bass, Eric Halvorson on drums and Aaron Heick on woodwinds, "The Broadway Musicals of 1953" was recorded live at Manhattan’s Town Hall May 12, 2003. Some of the disc’s many highlights: Davis Gaines offers a gentle version of “A Quiet Girl” from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town; Julia Murney lets her tremendous belt soar on Can-Can’s “I Love Paris”; Debbie Gravitte does well with the little-heard Carnival in Flanders ditty, “How Far Can a Lady Go?”; and Gaines and Andrea Burns present an unmiked version of Kismet’s “Stranger in Paradise,” which allows present-day audiences to hear how the beautiful song would have sounded to 1953 theatregoers.

"Thank You for the Music" (LML Music) is the title of the new solo recording by Houston-based actress-singer Deborah Boily, who has made the cabaret stage her home since the late eighties. Boily possesses a rich, vibrato-filled alto that she uses with great dexterity; she is also a skilled interpreter, imbuing her singing with much emotion and vocal color. Recorded live at the Houston nightclub Ovations, the 13-track CD spotlights “standards” both old and new, including works by the Gershwins (a pairing of “The Man I Love” and “The Man That Got Away”) and tunes by modern-day songwriters Jason Robert Brown and John Bucchino. Highlights include a terrific reading of Brown’s story-song “Stars and the Moon”; a version of Bucchino’s “Unexpressed” that illuminates the song’s longing and hope; and Michael Leonard and Russell George’s bittersweet ballad “Not Exactly Paris.” Boily also scores with two extended medleys: a “French medley” that combines three French tunes (“Mon Homme,” “Ne Me Quittes Pas” and “Comme D’Habitude”) and a mix of “Silly Standards” that features “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” “Flying Purple People Eater” and “Feelin’ Groovy.” She concludes her recital with a passionate joining of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and the Jacques Brel anthem “If We Only Have Love.”

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Wicked co-star Kristin Chenoweth seems to be quite "Popular" indeed. Not only is the Tony Award-winning actress-singer scheduled to make her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut (Sept. 10) and her silver-screen musical debut ("Asphalt Beach"), but she is close to a deal for her first studio acting gig. It was reported earlier this week that the actress, who will leave her role in Wicked July 18, looks likely to co-star in the upcoming "Pink Panther" film for MGM. Shooting for the film — starring Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno — will begin in New York next month. The Hollywood Reporter says that Chenoweth will be doing double-duty during the filming: shooting her film scenes by day and appearing in the hit Stephen Schwartz musical at the Gershwin by night. Chenoweth will portray a "sexy French public relations executive for [a] soccer team." . . . Speaking of Wicked, those wishing to catch Idina Menzel and Joel Grey in the hit new musical have a bit more time to do so. Menzel, who stars as Elphaba, and Grey, who portrays the Wizard, have signed on to stay with the show through Jan. 2, 2005. Wicked producer David Stone told me, "We're thrilled that both Idina and Joel will be staying with us until the New Year. It's a testament to the show and these two great roles that two such immensely talented people are willing to put off other opportunities to stay with us a while longer." . . . Tony Award winner Chita Rivera, most recently on Broadway in the hit revival of Nine, will be feted next month at the Essex House. Rivera will be honored by the National Corporate Theatre Fund May 10 in a gala evening that will feature Never Gonna Dance's Jerry Mitchell as Master of Ceremonies. Tony winner Frank Langella will present Rivera with the Theatre Artist Award, and the evening will include a performance from Kander and Ebb's The Visit as well as entertainment from Annie Get Your Gun's Brent Barrett and other Broadway talents. The evening begins with cocktails at 6:30 PM followed by dinner, performance and a silent auction. The Essex House is located in Manhattan at 160 Central Park South. Tickets for the gala begin at $1,000 and can be ordered by calling Christopher Wynn at (212) 750 6895 or by e-mailing him at cwynn@nctf.org. . . . The Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Urinetown opened April 17 to a standing ovation that included Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush. The Mark Hollmann-Greg Kotis musical is currently playing a limited engagement at the Arts Centre Playhouse through May 15. Directed by Simon Phillips, the premiere Australian company features Kane Alexander, Shane Bourne, Rhonda Burchmore, Mitchell Butel, Sophie Carter, Gerry Connolly, Irene Dios, Gary Down, Garry Ginivan, Francis Greenslade, Damian Humbley, Andrew Koblar, Colette Mann, Lisa McCune, Adam Murphy and Christen O’Leary. Although an extension isn’t possible due to theatre availability, there is a talk of an Australian national tour. . . . Three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie will make a second guest appearance on the CBS comedy "Still Standing" May 3. Mazzie will again play the role of Kathy Halverson on an episode entitled "Still Believing." The new comedy features Mark Addy and Jami Gertz as the blue-collar Chicago Bill and Judy. "Still Standing" airs Mondays on CBS at 8:30 PM/ET; check local listings. . . And, finally, Michele Lee, who received a Tony nomination for her performance in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, will star in the title role of Mame Aug. 1 at the Hollywood Bowl. Lee will be joined by Grand Hotel's John Schneider for the concert version of the famed Jerry Herman musical about the free-spirited Mame Dennis, her boozy friend Vera Charles and her young nephew, Patrick. Gordon Hunt will direct the one-night-only event featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri. Show time is 7:30 PM. The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 Highland Avenue in Hollywood, CA. Tickets for Mame are available by calling (323) 850-2000. Go to www.hollywoodbowl.org for more information.

REMINDERS

Liz Callaway in Concert:

April 23 with Jason Graae in Sutter Creek, CA
April 24-25 with Jason Graae in San Rafael, CA
May 1 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert:

Now through April 24 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
May 5-8 in Candide with the NY Philharmonic in New York, NY
May 18-30 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA

Louise Pitre in Concert:

November 4 at the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catherines, ON
November 5 at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts in Oakville, ON
November 6 at the Dr. J.M. Ennis Auditorium in Welland, ON
November 11 at the Heritage Theatre in Brampton, ON
November 12 at the Imperial Oil Centre in Sarnia, ON
November 17 at the Markham Theatre in Markham, ON
November 20 at the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound, ON
November 21 at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, ON


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

The companies of <i>Avenue Q</i> and <i>Fiddler on the Roof</i> in the award-winning <i>Avenue Jew</i> sketch at the Easter Bonnet Competition
The companies of Avenue Q and Fiddler on the Roof in the award-winning Avenue Jew sketch at the Easter Bonnet Competition Photo by Aubrey Reuben
Today’s Most Popular News: