Hello, diva lovers! There’s some exciting news on the diva front. It looks like CBS’s Sunday morning news show, “CBS News Sunday Morning” (with Charles Osgood), is in the process of arranging a series -- to be aired around Tony time -- devoted to some of the musical theatre’s greatest ladies. Already in progress is a piece on Betty Buckley, who finishes her acclaimed run at the Cafe Carlyle this evening, March 17. In fact, CBS recently taped parts of Buckley’s latest act, and the production team will soon head to Fort Worth, Betty’s home town, to film a few interviews. Stay tuned for more info, including the names of the other talented women who will be part of this series on “CBS News Sunday Morning.” . . . And, speaking of Buckley, the Tony-winning actress will receive another honor, a Sardi’s caricature. The drawing will be displayed at the famed restaurant the same day her new KO Productions recording, (“Heart to Heart”) is released, March 28. Congratulations, Ms. B. It’s a long-overdue tribute!
BACK TO CHICAGO
Whenever friends are planning a trip to New York and ask me to recommend a show, I always inquire whether or not they’ve seen Chicago. It seems to be the safest choice for both theatre lovers and for those who only go once or twice a year. How can you resist a show that provides one show-stopper after another? So, when I was recently invited back to the Shubert Theatre, I thought it would be a good chance to see whether the production was still worth recommending to friends and relatives. And, I’m happy to report that the Kander and Ebb musical remains an exciting evening of song, dance and, well, just dynamic theatregoing. The night I attended, the two merry murderesses were Bebe Neuwirth, back in the role of Velma Kelly through March 22, and Belle Calaway as Roxie Hart.
I must admit, if I didn’t know the show was a revival, I would assume the role of Velma was tailor-made for Neuwirth. It’s easy to see why the former “Cheers” star has returned so frequently to the production, for it’s hard to imagine a role that could be more suited to her unique talents, one that embraces her unique gifts as a dancer, singer, actress and comedienne. As for Calaway, who has performed the role of Roxie on the road to much acclaim, picking up a Helen Hayes Award nomination along the way, she has, perhaps, the strongest voice of any Roxie I’ve seen live, and she makes you wish she had more solo vocal moments. Interestingly, the actress looks like a cross between the show’s two original stars, Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, and her dancing is wonderful. She acts the role well, too, although she has the misfortune of following Sandy Duncan’s performance, who remains, for this theatregoer, a Roxie of unequaled status.
Like Marcia Lewis, Brent Barrett gets better and better each time I see the show, and his singing is exemplary, one of the finest male voices currently on Broadway. Chicago remains a great place to visit. LINDA EDER
For those of you who were unable to catch Linda Eder’s thrilling solo Carnegie Hall debut last month, the former Jekyll & Hyde star is currently belting her heart out at Feinstein’s at the Regency, New York’s newest cabaret space, through March 25. And, it’s a rare chance to see Eder in such an intimate environment, as she usually plays much larger venues. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 339-4095, and you can expect the new mother to wrap her phenomenal vocal chords around these tunes: “Till You Come Back To Me,” “All the Way,” “Smile,” “It's No Secret Anymore,” “I Don't Know How To Love Him,” “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “What Kind of Fool Am I,” “When I Look in Your Eyes,” “Havana,” “Anything Can Happen,” “Romancin' the Blues,” “You Never Remind Me,” “The Little Things,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Man of La Mancha” and, of course, “Vienna.” Also, several new Eder concert dates will be announced shortly, and it looks like Michael Feinstein will join the statuesque singer for many of these performances. Stay tuned!
JAMIE DEROY and FRIENDS
The Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Cafe (407 W. 42nd Street) will host three special editions of “Jamie DeRoy and Friends” on three consecutive Saturday evenings at 8:30 PM: March 25, April 1 and April 8. The cabaret performances will feature direction by Barry Kleinbort and musical direction by Rod Hausen; former Phantom star, Davis Gaines, will direct the final performance on April 8. There is a $20 music charge for each performance and a one-drink minimum (MAC members receive a $5 discount on the cover), and the March 25 outing will benefit the Nick Springer Fund. The scheduled performers follow:
March 25: The Accidentals, Eddie Brill, Mario Cantone, Peter Cincotti, Tim Draxl, Rita Gardner, Anya Turner and Robert Grusecki
April 1: Mark Nadler, Heather MacRae, Jessica Molasky, Carolyn Montgomery, Joel Plue, Jason Robert Brown and Jane Stroll
April 8: Polly Bergen, Lorna Dallas, Michael Garin, David Robinson, Craig Rubano, Nancy Witter and Sara Zahn
Call (212) 695-6909 for reservations.
Toni Collette discusses Queenie, her character in The Wild Party (in an upcoming Playbill article by Mervyn Rothstein):
“[Queenie] is open-minded and closed-hearted. She’s a party girl, always seeking affection, but nothing ever touches her soul. Then she meets somebody who opens up something in her, and at the end, instead of dancing on the tables, she’s questioning what she’s doing with her life.”
Liza Minnelli discusses her parents and her new show, Minnelli on Minnelli, which is currently touring the country (in an upcoming Playbill article by Patrick Pacheco)
“"I wanted them [Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland] to live on through this work; that's exactly part of the reason I wanted to do this show . . . It's so wonderful because I don't think either my dad or my mom ever thought that there would be video and DVD and that their work would continue in such an immediate way. What I think I love most is the way my dad captured my mom in his movies. You can see his love for her in every frame of Meet Me in St. Louis. They are certainly the most memorable and most loving images that I have of her.”
an excerpt from Frank Rich’s interview with Stephen Sondheim in the magazine section of Sunday’s New York Times:
“Sondheim thinks ‘stars are great’ for the theater, but doesn’t believe the theater has any stars now except itinerant visitors from movies and TV. Bernadette Peters comes closest, he says, but when ‘she does a show that’s a hit like Annie Get Your Gun, she has to stay with it for two years. In the old days, Bernadette would have done at least as many shows as Merman, a couple of dozen. She’s done maybe 10 shows.’ Sondheim’s own favorite star performances in musicals, his or others? Among male performances, he cites two: Alfred Drake in Kismet and John McMartin in Follies. The list of women is longer, including Peters in Sunday in the Park, Lansbury in Sweeney Todd, and ‘obviously, Ethel was thrilling in Gypsy.’”
IN OTHER NEWS Nell Carter fans in the metropolitan area can catch the Tony winner at the Morristown Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, on March 31 at 8 PM. For tickets to “An Evening with Nell Carter,” call (973) 539-8008 . . . Donna McKechnie and Merle Louise will star in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music for the North Shore Music Theatre in September. The NSMT season will also include the New England premiere of Honk! (June 13-July 2), Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan (July 18-August 6), Roxane Barlow in Sweet Charity (October 3-22) and more. Call (978) 232-7200 for the latest information or visit www.nsmt.org . . . I also had the chance to return to Dame Edna: The Royal Tour last weekend, and the unique show remains a laugh riot. Don’t miss the Dame while she’s on Broadway. Bring your friends, and be prepared for a two-hour laughathon! . . . Liz Callaway will take part in this weekend’s “A Sondheim Afternoon: Stephen Sondheim and Guests” to be held Sunday, March 19 at 3 PM at the 92nd Street Y. The award-winning lyricist/composer will be interviewed by Ned Rorem, and there is word that the program will be broadcast on a local PBS station sometime soon. For more information call (212) 996-1100 . . . Shauna Hicks and Jeff Harnar salute the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland songbook in their new cabaret act, “Shauna & Jeff Sing Mickey & Judy,” which they will perform at the FireBird Cafe (363 W. 46th Street) beginning March 22. Show times are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at 9 PM and Fridays at 11 PM through April 8. There is a $30 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 586-0244 for reservations . . . And, finally, Audra McDonald received rave reviews for her recent Southern California concert debut before a sold-out audience. Daryl H. Miller, in The Los Angeles Times, had this to say about McDonald’s electrifying performance: “The selections proved illuminating and, at times, heartbreaking, as in a three-song set that grouped ‘Dream Variations’ and ‘Song for a Dark Girl’ (recent Ricky Ian Gordon compositions based on Langston Hughes poems) with ‘Supper Time’ (a Berlin song for Ethel Waters in the 1933 Broadway show As Thousands Cheer). The first, filled with black pride and suffused with hope (‘To fling my arms wide/In the face of the sun,/Dance! Whirl! Whirl!’) stands poignantly beside the other two, in which women cry to a seemingly unhearing heaven (‘I asked the white Lord Jesus/What was the use of prayer,’ in ‘Dark Girl’) after the lynching of their lovers. . .In addition to the aching mother's apology ‘Your Daddy's Son’ (from Ragtime, the program's one sample of her Broadway work), she put tears in her own and others' eyes with such songs as the doting aunt's lullaby ‘I Won't Mind,’ the regret for loves that might have been in ‘Stars and the Moon,’ and a quiet, satin-smooth tribute to Judy Garland in ‘The Man That Got Away.’”
Karen Akers, will make her Algonquin debut on Tuesday, April 4. The chanteuse will premiere her latest cabaret 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.
A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
March 18 Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19 Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
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
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
March 21 - 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:
March 14-25 at Feinstein’s at the Regency in NY, NY (212) 339-4095
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
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
August 8 (with Michael Feinstein) at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
August 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050
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
McDonald will also begin her first concert tour next month. Scheduled dates include the following:
March 18 at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ
March 19 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
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.
Already announced McGovern concert dates:
March 17 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern featuring pianist Lee Musiker" at Purchase College-SUNY in Purchase, NY
March 19 & 20 with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA
March 24 & 25 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern" with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK
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
March 7-11 at the Civic Theatre in San Diego, CA
Exciting news for Lillias White fans. The phenomenal, Tony winning singer/actress began a three-week run at Arci’s Place (450 Park Avenue South) on Tuesday, March 14. Entitled “Lillias White and Friends,” the show will be performed Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:30 and 11 PM. There is a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 532-4370 for reservations.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!
By Andrew Gans