There was an interview with Betty Buckley in last Sunday's New York Times by theatre critic Randy Gener. Buckley had this to say about her current non-singing role in Nicky Silver's The Eros Trilogy:
"For people to separate acting and singing, and think they're so different, shows their inability to understand the craft of theatre. . .There's a musicality and rhythm to [Nicky Silver's] writing. I showed him that as a writer, he breaks everything down in three's. Almost everything is one two-three, ba-bum-pum, one-two-three. He said, 'Really?' I said, 'That's good.' A triangle is the strongest structure architecturally. It's like a waltz."
The Eros Trilogy is currently in previews at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre, and the play will officially open this Monday, Feb. 8. Call (212) 353-3366, extension 12 for tickets.
The most exciting news of the week has to be Bernadette Peters' return to The Great White Way in the much-anticipated revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. In honor of this occasion, I thought I would devote the rest of this week's column to some of the many shows and concerts in which I have had the pleasure of watching Peters perform.
Song and Dance: Of her many wonderful stage roles, this is perhaps the performance I recall most fondly, and it was the show that won Peters her long-deserved Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. I was a junior in high school at the time, and it was the height of my Bernadette mania, having just "discovered" her many talents a year earlier on the cast recording of Sunday in the Park with George. (Peters' understudy was unfortunately on the day I had tickets for Sunday, but thankfully her beautiful performance in that show was captured on video and later aired on PBS.) It was with great expectation that I went to New York with my mom to catch one of the first preview performances of this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. I knew nothing about the show, except that the first act was pure Peters, so how could one go wrong? Indeed, the first act was Peters alone onstage for a one-hour song cycle. From the moment she stepped onstage through to the reprise of "Take That Look Off Your Face" at the end of the first act, Peters was perfection personified, her singing flawless and her acting dynamic. She brought Emma, the English hat designer, to full life, and it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions as the audience watched Peters, as Emma, move from one relationship to another. Her voice was at full throttle, belting the show's opener, "Take That Look Off Your Face," as she explained, "I am gonna work hard/Get my card/Have a brilliant career/Stay in love/And outshine any New York girl you'd see/If you think that I won't/You don't know me." Peters was seductively charming in "English Girls"; she mixed anger with pain in "You Made Me Think You Were in Love"; she brought perfect comic timing to the three "Letter[s] Home"; and the emotional peak of the first act was the succession of four beautiful songs: "Unexpected Song," "Come Back with the Same Look in Your Eyes," "Take That Look Off Your Face (reprise)" and "Tell Me on a Sunday." Just to hear her beautiful tones on "Unexpected Song" was reason enough to see the show, and it brought me back to the musical three more times.
Into the Woods: I was in college when Peters opened in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's ingenious take on the fairytales of the Brother Grimm, Into the Woods; however, I made sure I had my tickets for the musical when I was home on break. Peters was almost unrecognizable during her first appearance in the show, dressed as an old, crooked-fingered witch, and she drew roars of laughter from the audience when she delivered her first number, the "Witch's Rap." "Greens, greens and nothing but greens," Peters spit out in a fury, as she told the childless Baker and his wife what they must do to break the spell that has left them childless. Throughout the first act, Peters appeared many times, always finding the most comical way to deliver a line. She was also extremely moving when she sang "Stay with Me" to her long-haired daughter, Rapunzel. Her voice soared as she implored, "Stay with me/I am home/ Who out there could love you more than I/What out there?/That I cannot supply." And, her transformation from the grotesque witch to her beautiful former self toward the end of the first act remains one of the great tricks of theatrical wizardry.
During Into the Woods's second act, the Witch served as a moral conscience, questioning the motives and the necessity to place blame on a specific individual for the catastrophes of the community. In her 11 o'clock number, "Last Midnight," Peters pulled out all the stops, vocally and dramatically, only to disappear with a "boom...crunch" at the end of the song. She returned to offer a final bit of advice in the show's finale, gently singing, 'Careful the things you say/Children will listen. . ." Her performance brought me back to that show two more times.
The Goodbye Girl: If The Goodbye Girl didn't quite live up to the expectations of a creative team consisting of Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch and David Zippel, Graciela Daniele and Michael Kidd (who replaced Gene Saks during its out-of-town tryout in Chicago), the show was nonetheless an enjoyable outing, which brought Peters back to the stage after nearly a six-year break from musicals and paired her with the talented comedian Martin Short. Peters was divine as always, displaying her infectious charm and comedy, while singing a host of pleasant tunes- I think the Hamlisch/Zippel score is quite a good one and often underrated. In fact, the score gave BP the chance to be forceful with "No More," a riot with "A Beat Behind," maternally sweet with "Don't Follow in My Footsteps," moving with "How Can I Win?," delightfully flirtatious in her rooftop duet with Martin Short, "Paula," and joyous with "What a Guy." I was able to catch her performance in this show two more times as well.
Peters in Concert: I first saw Peters in concert in Atlantic City soon after her Tony Award-winning run in Song and Dance. I somehow convinced my entire family to make the trek to the famed boardwalk to catch her critically-acclaimed night-club act. I'll always remember how excited I was when we were able to sit at one of the front tables, and the anticipation of awaiting BP's entrance during the opening act of comedian/juggler Michael Davis. Soon enough, though, the announcer's voice boomed, "Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Bernadette Peters." Peters began her hour-long show with her now-standard opening "We're in the Money" and had the audience in the palm of her hand for a set that included "Dedicated To the One I Love," "Gee Whiz," "Broadway Baby," Sunday in the Park with George's "Move On," "Other Lady," a riveting "Pearl's a Singer," a medley of Leonard Bernstein songs, the Peter Allen tune "If You Were Wonderin'" and "Unexpected Song," which was prefaced by the "Second Letter Home" from Song and Dance. I have since seen Peters perform in concert a few other times, but nothing will ever match her Carnegie Hall concert a few years back, which showcased the many talents of one of the musical theatre's most incandescent stars. It was a magnificent program that included not only magical steps back in time to her roles in Dames at Sea and Mack and Mabel, but a second act of all Sondheim that boasted one show-stopper after the next. How can you top the beautiful vocal tones of Peters' "Johanna"? Maybe with a solo version of "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." Or, perhaps, an intense, belted-to-the rafters "There Won't Be Trumpets." Or, better yet, a totally new interpretation of the classic Company anthem "Being Alive" or . . .
Upcoming Peters TV schedule. . .Peters and Tom Wopat will make an appearance on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" on Wednesday, Feb. 17 (10 a.m. on ABC). Peters will also join Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" on Tuesday, March 9 (9 a.m. on ABC), and on Tuesday, March 23 Peters will sit down with the ladies of "The View" (11 a.m. on ABC). So, set those VCRS!
IN OTHER NEWS Our favorite British diva, Elaine Paige, is currently scheduling a host of U.S. concerts. The first will take place in Salt Lake City in January 2000 with The Boston Pop's Keith Lockhart conducting. Other cities to come . . . Donna McKechnie, Dee Hoty, Phyllis Newman and Tony Roberts will participate in a panel discussion and CD signing of the recent Paper Mill Playhouse Follies recording this Monday, Feb. 8 at 7 PM at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at Broadway and 66th Street . . . Keep your eye on 16-year-old Angela Covington, whose rendition of "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" is the highlight of the current national tour of Evita . . . Rumor has it that Claire (Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera) Moore will star in the upcoming new production of Chicago in Manchester in the UK . . . Side Show fans may want to check out the Boston Conservatory webpage devoted to its upcoming production of this Henry Krieger musical. Go to: http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/sideshow.htm.
REMINDERS: BETTY BUCKLEY
BB concert line-up:
Feb. 6 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, Ill.
On March 5, 6, and 7 Patti LuPone will bring her new concert act-- Matters of the Heart -- to Baltimore, where she will appear with the Baltimore Symphony; call (410) 783-8000 for tickets. (Also, La LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.)
Tonight, Feb. 5, the talented chanteuse will perform at the National Arts Club dinner honoring Skitch Henderson. March 12 brings Mason to the Tilles Hall at Long Island University. Her 8pm concert is sold out that evening, but tickets are available for the 10 pm show; call (516) 299-3100. And, Karen will return to the Davenports Cabaret in Chicago for a three-week run beginning March 17. Call (773) 278-1830 for reservations.
NOTHING LIKE A DAME
This annual concert to benefit the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative of The Actors' Fund of America will be held on Monday, March 1 at 7 PM at the Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street). At this point, the remarkable one-night-only event will feature these "dames": Loni Ackerman, Joy Behar, Kate Burton, Ayodele Casel, Lea DeLaria, Dorothy Delay, Patricia Elliott, Melissa Errico, Amanda Green, Uta Hagen, Joan Hamburg, Dee Hoty, Anne Jackson, Marcia Lewis, Tisidii Le Loka, Nancy Lemanger, Anna Manahan, Saeka Matsuyama, Sally Mayes, Anne Meara, Donna Murphy, Bebe Neuwirth, Phyllis Newman, Christiane Noll, Nancy Opel, Christine Pedi, Daisy Prince, Faith Prince, Denise Roberts, Mary Testa, Marisa Tomei, Rachel York and female cast members from virtually every show. For tickets, call the DAME LINE at 1-888-DAME-TIX (1-888-326-3849); tickets range from $40 to $1,000.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.