Okay, I know I'm a bit biased, but wasn't Bernadette Peters the classiest presenter on the Tonys this year? All right, Julie Andrews, Dixie Carter and Mary Tyler Moore are class acts too, but there's something about Peters that sets her apart from the rest. Aside from looking great in her brown dress, which was designed by Donna Karan, Peters possesses a warmth that infects all that she does. Combine that with her many talents, an unerring sense of style and her infectious humor, and you can understand why she is such a Broadway favorite. So, let's hope BP "gets her gun" and returns to the theatre next season in the Irving Berlin classic (Annie Get Your Gun), as the Weissler's are planning. It's been too long (1993) since she's brightened up The Great White Way.
Until that happens, though, BP's multitude of fans will have to content themselves with an appearance on the "Tom Snyder Show" on CBS June 18. The show airs in L.A. at 9:30 PM and in New York at 12:30 AM. Peters will also appear in concert at Los Angeles's Universal Amphitheatre on June 20. While in L.A., Peters will sing on KTLA Morning News on June 17, and she will be a guest on the Michael Jackson Radio Show (not the Michael Jackson) on June 17 at 11:15 AM. The show is broadcast on KABC radio. And, lastly, Peters is scheduled to tape a segment on the "RuPaul Show," which will be aired this summer--date to be announced.
Our DLDU (diva lover down under) recently sent some local newspaper reviews of Buckley's cabaret performances in Australia last October. I thought you'd be interested in reading some of Betty B's wonderful reviews:
Jessica Nicholas writes in Herald Sun:
"Halfway through her opening show in Melbourne, Betty Buckley sang a Stephen Sondheim lyric that somehow encapsulated the entire evening: 'Anything you do, let it be you; then it will be new.'
Like Barbara Cook, who visited Melbourne as part of the previous two festivals, Buckley seems to feel music as well as hear it.
For a few minutes she lives the stories she sings, pouring so much into her songs that you cannot help but be moved.
With a voice that projects so effortlessly that she barely needs a microphone, it's no wonder Buckley has had such a successful Broadway career.
But the American singer is equally capable of pulling back to a near whisper, and careful never to let technique obscure the emotional import of a song.
. . .During the evening Buckley shyly told us a story about a forgotten musical she once longed to star in, and how its composer was never really happy with the way it was performed until he heard her sing one of its songs years later.
I'm not surprised. With just two tunes from Sunset Boulevard, Buckley captured so perfectly the vulnerability and doomed aspirations of Norma Desmond."
Bob Crimeen writes:
"Artistic director Leo Schofield. . .this year scored his greatest coup, Broadway's reigning musicals queen, Betty Buckley.
Just finished playing Norma Desmond in New York's Sunset Boulevard, Buckley, though physically petite, artistically is a giant of the genre.
She sings not merely from the heart. Buckley's music, often bringing moisture to her pale blue eyes, comes from the soul.
The music Buckley and pianist Kenny Werner bring gloriously to life is linked by convivial chat, sometimes with audience members, that could hardly be more intimate if the setting was the star's own lounge room.
It was a night to cherish."
Jim Murphy writes:
". . .Most of [Buckley's] repertoire comes from the musical stage, but Buckley is not into jolly Jerry Hermanising. Her sort of songs are the plaintive, the melancholy, those with a lyric touched by heartache or uncertainty--Stephen Sondheim, of course ("Not a Day Goes By," "Move On"), Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Unexpected Song"), Kurt Weill (the beautiful double "September Song" and "My Ship")--and she invests them with an actor's intensity and command of gesture and repose. Even the simple film song "Hi Lili, Hi Lo" is plumbed for its poignancy.
She is at her most theatrically dynamic in Stephen Schwartz's showy "Meadowlark," something of a cult song from the failed musical The Baker's Wife, and in Norma Desmond's two big arias from Sunset Boulevard. . .
This is the big, gutsy singing that fills theatres, all the more effective here because she uses it sparingly. . ."
Last week's column featured an interview I had with Paige, just as she was getting ready to return to London after her triumphant 10-month stay in New York. During the interview, EP also spoke briefly about her recent U.S. concert debut with the Boston Pops. Said Paige: "It was nice to be in Boston because I hadn't been there before, and it's so different from New York, and again, very English. It started to make me pine for home. To be invited to sing with the Boston Pops is such an honor, and they were such a great bunch of people to work with, very efficient. It all sort of worked pretty smoothly, and it was a real pleasure. It was quite fun again because it's been awhile since I'd sung in concert with an orchestra behind me, so that was exciting. I'd forgotten what it felt like to hear that huge sound sweetly come over you, waft over you from behind. It's just beautiful. I enjoyed that very much."
And, Paige fans, don't fret. I'll be keeping you informed of all of Paige's plans, both in the U.S. and in England.
Who better to co-host a television program saluting great movie musicals than Maureen McGovern, who shot to stardom from her recordings of two movie theme songs, "Can You Read My Mind?" and "There's Got to Be a Morning After." McGovern, who never fails to impress with her beautiful vocals, will co-host this PBS fund-raiser that will air on Los Angeles's KCET on June 28 from 12-2:30 PM.
Other summer plans for McGovern include a tribute to Doc Severinsen on July 8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she will be backed by the Minneapolis Orchestra. MM will also be part of the Bel Air Jazz Festival on July 15 in the Catskills, and she will finish the summer with her annual stint co-hosting the New York portion of Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy Telethon on Labor Day.
It's a daunting task to choose a favorite performance from May 31's late show of David Friedman and Friends at Maxim's cabaret room. It was an evening full of show-stopping tunes written by Friedman, one of New York's finest composers, but I could possibly narrow it down to three standouts: Anne Runolfsson's "Trust the Wind," a song Friedman was inspired to write by the death of his long-time muse Nancy LaMott; Alix Korey's comic masterpiece, "My Simple Christmas Wish," where all she asks for is fame, money and power; and Norm Lewis's beautifully sung "We Live on Borrowed Time." There were powerful moments as well from Annie Sutton, Bobby Belfry, Naomi Kukoff and others. If you've never heard any of Friedman's songs, you might want to purchase a copy of I'll Be Here With You: The Songs of David Friedman--A Benefit Recording for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (Midder Music), which features performances by a plethora of great talents, including the late Nancy LaMott, Alix Korey, Kathie Lee Gifford, Billy Porter and Anne Runolfsson.
And speaking of Runolfsson (who possesses one of the more beautiful voices around, one that can be simple and sweet as well as powerful and extremely moving), she will be appearing at Eighty's Eights, a cabaret room located in Greenwich Village for the next few weeks. Runolfsson is set to perform tonight, Friday, June 6 at 8:30pm; Friday, June 13 at 8:30pm; and Saturday, June 21 at 8:30 and 11:00 pm. I will catch Runolfsson's performance tonight, and will report on her show in next week's column. If you've yet to hear this woman with the tremendous voice sing live, be sure to catch one of her shows and/or pick up her new CD, At Sea, which is one of my current favorite recordings. Listen to her delivery of Maury Yeston's "New Words" and hear how great a song interpreter she is.
Betty Buckley continues her triumphant concert tour, with a stop at the Power Center in Ann Arbor on June 25; call 313-747-3327. Be sure to stop by the Betty Buckley website, located at Playbill On-line. New scrapbook photos and other treats were recently added.
If you're in London, LuPone's critically-acclaimed portrayal of Maria Callas in the West End production of Master Class at the Queens Theatre (Shaftesbury Avenue) is a must-see; call the box office at 0171-494 5040 for further information.
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
Gravitte will return to Rainbow & Stars for a two-week engagement beginning June 17. Show times are Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8:30pm and 11pm, and there is a $40 cover charge, with dinner required at the early shows. For information/reservations, call 212-632-5000.
Coming soon: an interview with Debbie Gravitte, the Tony-winning star of Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org