DIVA TALK: Best of Betty Buckley

DIVA TALK: Best of Betty Buckley BETTY BUCKLEY
Next week, on July 3, the one-and-only Betty Buckley will celebrate her 50th birthday. This multi-talented performer has been dazzling Broadway audiences since her debut on The Great White Way in the 1969 production of 1776, and she will soon be returning to the stage in the new musical Triumph of Love. In honor of BB's 50th birthday, I thought I would comprise a list of my 50 favorite tunes that I've heard Buckley sing over the years. I've also listed where you can hear them; some, unfortunately, Ms. B has yet to record (for those numbers I've included where I heard her sing the tune), but hopefully she will record these plus many more during the next 50 years. Here they are, in no particular order:

BETTY BUCKLEY
Next week, on July 3, the one-and-only Betty Buckley will celebrate her 50th birthday. This multi-talented performer has been dazzling Broadway audiences since her debut on The Great White Way in the 1969 production of 1776, and she will soon be returning to the stage in the new musical Triumph of Love. In honor of BB's 50th birthday, I thought I would comprise a list of my 50 favorite tunes that I've heard Buckley sing over the years. I've also listed where you can hear them; some, unfortunately, Ms. B has yet to record (for those numbers I've included where I heard her sing the tune), but hopefully she will record these plus many more during the next 50 years. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. It's Not Too Late (unrecorded, performed at Rainbow & Stars)
2. Build My House (Live at Carnegie Hall)
3. Pretty Women (unrecorded, performed in Atlantic City)
4. Rose's Turn (The London Concert and Live at Carnegie Hall)
5. Knowing When To Leave (original London cast recording; Promises, Promises)
6. Never Never Land (Children Will Listen)
7. Unchained Melody (The London Concert)
8. A Case of You (With One Look)
9. Bridge Over Troubled Water (The London Concert)
10. Prisoner in Disguise (unrecorded, performed at Bottom Line)
11. September Song (Live at Carnegie Hall)
12. Everything Must Change (Live at Carnegie Hall)
13. And So It Goes (Live at Carnegie Hall)
14. Romantic Notions (unrecorded, performed at Rainbow & Stars)
15. Every Day a Little Death (Live at Carnegie Hall)
16. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (unrecorded, performed at The Russian Tea Room)
17. Train in the Distance (unrecorded; performed at Bottom Line)
18. Perfect Strangers (Broadway cast recording; Mystery of Edwin Drood)
19. The Writing on the Wall (Broadway cast recording; Mystery of Edwin Drood)
20. Finishing the Hat (The London Concert)
21. Since I Fell for You (unrecorded; performed at "Nothing Like a Dame" benefit)
22. Surabaya Johnny (The London Concert)
23. Pirate Jenny (The London Concert and Live at Carnegie Hall)
24. Old Friends (Sondheim) (The London Concert)
25. Old Friend (Cryer & Ford) (With One Look)
26. Dreamin' (With One Look)
27. Just Around the Riverbend/Part of That World (unrecorded; performed at Maxim's concert)
28. Come Rain or Come Shine (unrecorded; performed at Maxim's concert)
29. Autumn Leaves (unrecorded; performed at Bottom Line)
30. Over You (The London Concert)
31. Marry Me a Little (The London Concert)
32. When There's No One (Children Will Listen)
33. Children Will Listen (Children Will Listen and A Sondheim Celebration)
34. Evening Prayers (unrecorded; performed in Carrie)
35. I Remember How Those Boys Would Dance (unrecorded; performed in Carrie)
36. Open Your Heart (unrecorded; performed in Carrie)
37. Come On, Come On (With One Look and Live at Carnegie Hall)
38. Almost Like Being in Love (Live at Carnegie Hall)
39. Angel from Montgomery (unrecorded; performed at Bottom Line concert)
40. Wild, Wild Heart (unrecorded; performed at Atlantic City concert)
41. Ship in a Bottle (Betty Buckley on Rizzoli Records)
42. Wind Beneath My Wings (Betty Buckley on Rizzoli Records)
43. Unexpected Song (Children Will Listen)
44. Tell Me On a Sunday (Children Will Listen; The London Concert)
45. He Plays the Violin (original cast recording 1776)
46. Meadowlark (Children Will Listen; Betty Buckley; The London Concert)
47. Dark Blue-Eyed Blued Blues (Betty Buckley on Rizzoli Records)
48.With One Look (With One Look; Live at Carnegie Hall; The London Concert; New Ways to Dream)
49.Memory (original B'way cast recording of Cats; Children Will Listen; The London Concert)
50.As If We Never Said Goodbye (With One Look; Live at Carnegie Hall; New Ways to Dream)

In other Buckley news, Betty recently spoke with Daily Variety's Army Archerd about her work on Robert Redford's new film The Horse Whisperer, which also stars Kristin Scott Thomas. In the film Buckley portrays Redford's former girlfriend and told Archerd that he is "so lovely, sweet, with a great sense of humor, laughs at himself--and he's gorgeous!" Redford picked Buckley for the part after viewing both her emotional performance in the award-winning Horton Foote movie Tender Mercies and a tape she had made "recounting anecdotes about herself and horses!" Buckley is also considering a part in another feature film, Of Love and Fantasies, before she begins her upcoming Broadway musical. And, as if this isn't enough to keep the Tony-winning talent busy, Buckley will be singing in concert in San Francisco on July 18.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Exciting news on the Bernadette Peters front this week. BP is currently filming a new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Cinderella . See separate story "Bernadette, Whoopi, Whitney in New TV Cinderella" in U.S. Theatre News. The lavish production comes right on the heels of Peters' sold-out concert to an audience of 6,000 at Los Angeles's Universal Amphitheatre last week. The evening was based on BP's acclaimed Carnegie Hall performance this past December, and I thought you'd be interested in some excerpts from the rave reviews Peters garnered for her latest concert gig.

Charles Isherwood in Daily Variety:
"Taking the stage in a sequined, strapless Bob Mackie gown, her impossible pile of golden curls ringing a pale moon face that seems permanently beyond the reach of passing time, Bernadette Peters opened her solo show at Universal Amphitheatre with a Sondheim classic, "Broadway Baby," that might have been written for her, so perfectly does it suit her inimitable voice, a potent mixture of kittenish squeak and belting brass. In a 2-hour concert rich with highlights, Peters rolled with unaffected enthusiasm through the West Coast debut of a show she bowed at Carnegie Hall in December (and which is now available on a live CD).
. . . She's the rare singer who can pull herself up to full diva emotionalism with utter conviction, and turn around and poke fun at the pose a few tunes later. The plaintive power of "Time Heals Everything," from Jerry Herman's "Mack and Mabel," was among the non-Sondheim highlights of the theater music. . .and J.D. Souther's "Faithless Love," delivered with quiet simplicity, was the lone inclusion from Peters' absolutely first-rate new country-rock CD.
. . .Peters was at her comically charming best in a medley from "Into the Woods" ("Hello Little Girl/Any Moment"), playing the wolf with gusto. She brought the requisite elegance to the haunting "Johanna" from "Sweeney Todd," and the quiet ache of "Not a Day Goes By" was rendered with almost palpable emotion. From "Company" came the snazzier "You
Could Drive a Person Crazy" and the de rigueur "Being Alive." Show closed
appropriately with "Move On," a tune from "Sunday in the Park With George," in which Peters starred. . . Tony Gieske in The Hollywood Reporter:
" . . .it's what this magical lady does to a word that gets 'em. Stephen Sondheim's sophisticated soliloquy "Happiness," for instance, a characteristic litany of graduate angst concerning love, was played to the hilt for the words, and Peters made every one count double. She nailed the message, but what's even more amazing, she nailed the complex music, threading her way inside, in front of, behind and over the top of the first rate orchestra, which had a lean and accurate string section.
Not too many out there can pop those Bartok changes without blinking an eye, make 'em into a love song, and take it on up to the rafters like Ethel Merman. "Not a Day Goes By" and "There Won't Be Trumpets," with their overtones of art song, became vivid and personal under the Peters musicianship, with just the right touch of Audenesque neurosis.
We lonely voyagers were overcome with cool delight as Peters served up
Sondheim for the entire second half of the program, as she had in its prototype in Carnegie Hall. . ."

Laurie Winer in the Los Angeles Times:
"Va-va-va-voom. Bernadette Peters sang at the Universal Amphitheatre on Friday night, and she brought her perfect hourglass figure with her. She is that rare, sexy diva who never seems secretly insane or about to involve you in some kind of emotional blackmail if you don't love her forever.
. . .To paraphrase a lyric from her favorite composer-lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, there's something about "the way she catches light" when she's on a stage. She knows it too--she throws back her head and stretches out her arms and lets the audience drink her in. This is not precious or conceited; she's just sharing the wealth.
. . . Though still kittenish, she brought a mature emotional range to the Sondheim songs, and for the most part avoided his overdone numbers. She sang "Hello, Little Girl," the leering wolf's song from "Into the Woods," and "Johanna," the sailor's love song from "Sweeney Todd." She made a wistful dirge out of the lovely "With So Little to Be Sure Of" from "Anyone Can Whistle". . .
Comedic highlights included "Raining in My Heart," from "Dames at Sea." Four chorus men in Burberry raincoats and umbrellas joined the star in a gentle parody of standard production numbers. The large onstage orchestra, conducted by Marvin Laird, sounded smart. It put a new twist on "Move On" from Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park With George," which was outfitted with a poppy orchestration, half Burt Bacharach, half standard Broadway.
As always, Peters shone in her ballads. Jerry Herman's "Time Heals
Everything," which she sang on Broadway in the 1974 "Mack and Mabel," has become her signature song, and for good reason. She prowls down deep into its stubborn heartache, and the passage of time has brought a new wisdom to it as well. Peters wasn't going to include the song in the show, she said, but felt she had to because "it haunts people." And she certainly showed why. . ."

*And, a reminder that Bernadette's appearance on VH1's "RuPaul Show" will first air on Monday, July 14 at 11pm, with repeat broadcasts on Tuesday, July 15 at 7pm, Saturday, July 19 at 11pm and Monday, July 21 at noon.



DEBBIE GRAVITTE
In May Debbie Gravitte returned to the New York stage in the "Encores!" production of The Boys from Syracuse, part of City Center's acclaimed series that presents great American musicals in concert over the course of three weekends each year. And now Gravitte can be found on the smaller cabaret stage of Rainbow & Stars, bringing her lush voice and her comedic and dramatic talents to a host of songs ranging from Rodgers and Hart's "Little Girl Blue" to the song that won her a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Irving Berlin's "Mr. Monotony."

Gravitte, dressed to the nines in a slinky black dress, began her act with two tunes that can be found on The MGM Album, her latest recording for Varese Sarbande: The first was a slowed-down, jazzy interpretation of Harold Arlen's "Get Happy" and the second was the Gershwins' "Treat Me Rough." After peeling off her black silk gloves, Gravitte then greeted the audience and poked fun at her many name changes in the past few years (Debbie Shapiro, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Debbie Gravitte), joking that this show featured "the long-running debut of my latest name change." An elegant rendition of Johnny Mercer's "Dream" followed that found Gravitte harmonizing with recorded tracks of her own voice. Following this high tech arrangement was one of the highlights of the evening, Alan Menken and Tom Eyen's spirited "I Want to Be a Rockette." Actually, both Menken tunes (she closed with his "Take Care of My Heart") of the evening were particularly effective. Gravitte has a nineties sensibility, and the more current Menken material suits her extremely well. This is not to say, however, that her take on the Gershwins' "Samson & Delilah" wasn't equally dazzling because it was. A tune introduced by the one-and-only Ethel Merman in Girl Crazy, "Samson & Delilah" was a perfect match for Gravitte's somewhat bawdy personality. Gravitte then treated the audience to a medley of songs from The Boys from Syracuse, including the "politically incorrect" "Sing For Your Supper" and "Oh, Diogenes!"

Other highlights of the performance included her award-winning rendition of "Mr. Monotony" that built slowly to a soaring, full-voiced climax; Lerner and Lane's "What Did I Have"; a heartfelt version of Alan Menken's "Take Care of My Heart," which Gravitte dedicated to her young son Charlie; and an encore of John Kroner and Faye Greenberg's "Where's the Beat," a song that showed what great comic timing this performer--who at times reminds me of a cross between Melissa Manchester and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss--has. Gravitte will perform in the plush cabaret room atop Rockefeller Center through this Saturday night. 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.

By the way, Gravitte will be a guest on the radio program, The Marta Sanders Show, this Saturday, June 28, 1997, on WLIR 1300 AM from 11am to noon.

ELAINE PAIGE
As a true Evita fan--it was the musical that got me hooked on the theatre and on the divas--I was thrilled to receive a package of clippings about Elaine Paige and the London production of Evita. I thought this would be a good chance for a "backwards glance" at some of the wonderful reviews and press Elaine received for her star-making performance in 1978. . .hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. . .

Margaret Forwood in The Sun, June 1978:
"A pint-sized girl from Bognor Regis stepped over the brink of stardom last night and ran away with a show called Evita at the Prince Edward Theatre, London.
Thirty-year-old Elaine Paige--the unknown actress who landed the part after a dozen top names were tipped for it--turned the much ballyhooed new musical into a Cinderella story of her own.
The girl is a star. She is going to grab every award going for her portrayal of Eva Peron, wife of the former Argentinian dictator.
Forget Julie Covington, and her record of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." Forget all the others who were better known and more beautiful.
Elaine Paige is a little girl with a big voice and a bigger personality--and she deserved every second of the great applause she got at the end of the show.
When she makes her entrance in the second act in a white-sequined gown glittering with jewels, she IS Evita. . ." Jack Tinker in The Daily Mail; June 22, 1978
" . . .What one does need, of course, is an Evita who can live up to the legend. And though Mr. Prince hands Elaine Paige no star entrance (she wanders on in grey following her own coffin) and no applause-winning exit (she succumbs to cancer in a plain hospital bed) everything that happens in between establishes Miss Paige as the perfect Evita. A private hell-cat and a public princess.
She approaches the microphones to sing the show's best-known song "Argentina" in a shimmering Dior mountain of tulle like a royal bride.
And even when she is competing with the fascinating blow-up newsreel shots of the real Evita, it is Miss Paige's Evita who holds the stage--a diminutive look-alike star who grabs her rainbow's end only to find stardust has as little substance as sawdust.
The standing ovation from the audience at the end and Miss Paige's own streaming tears heralded the birth, not only of a new star, but the success of a considerable actress."

Rex Reed in a special report to the Daily News on July 21, 1978:
". . .This transgression is more than made up for in the exhilarating voice and presence of Elaine Paige, a five-foot barrel of nitro-glycerine who rises from a chorus girl career in British musicals to a full-fledged star in the demanding role of Evita. In much the same way that the real Evita rose to power by hypnotizing the masses, Elaine Paige has completely captured London audiences. A tiny girl with a big talent, she gives us a multi-faceted portrait of a flea who scratched her way to stardom. We share her arrogance, her vanity, her desperation, even her failures.
Starting as a hick, acquiring the sumptuous look of a courtesan, and ending up with the simplicity and piety of a religious icon, Miss Paige handles the changes from public to private agony with great style, and her voice fills the theatre with the throbbing vitality of a trumpet. The scene where Evita and Peron face the banner-waving mob that has just elected them to power contains more irony than I thought imaginable in a musical context: the ball-gowned Eva parades along the balcony above the stage like a puppet, singing her big song, then the crowd surges to the back of the stage as the dais holding the Perons swivels around, revealing their backs to the audience. What we are seeing in Harold Prince's wonderful staging is two views of tin gods. We get Evita's emotional impact on her audience and the gloating triumph with which she smiles at Peron: views of the public and private Evita. . ."

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Maureen McGovern will be a guest on Stan Martin's cabaret show this Monday afternoon, June 30 at 5 PM. McGovern, possessor of that glorious voice, will sing three songs live on Martin's program. Get your tape recorders ready! . . . And, as reported earlier, McGovern is set to co-host a PBS fundraiser saluting great movie musicals on June 28 on Los Angeles's KCET 12-2:30 PM. Other summer plans for McGovern include a tribute to Doc Severinsen on July 8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. MM will also be part of the Bel Air Jazz Festival on July 5 in the Catskills.

CHITA AND CAROL
Who would have thought that Carol Channing and Chita Rivera would ever be on the same bill, but that's exactly the premise of Broadway Legends: Together at Last, which runs at Boston's North Shore Music Theatre from June 30 through July 19. The show will open with a duet between the two Tony-winning legends, and then each will present her individual set, featuring many of the songs that have made these two women famous. Rivera, who has starred on Broadway in The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, West Side Story, Chicago and other musicals, explains that her set will include "song and dance from the shows that I've done, me and my [dancing] guys." Channing, who scored in such musicals as Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is thrilled to be performing again at NSMT, having starred in that theatre's 1961 production of Show Girl. Channing enjoys performing in the theatre-in-the-round, and recently commented, "I love that theater because people in the round are so much closer." Broadway Legends promises to be a great chance to catch two of the theatre's most enduring stars.

For those of you who will be in the Boston area, performances are Monday through Saturday evenings at 8pm with 2 pm matinees on July 2, 5, 9, 12, 16 and 17. Tickets range from $27-$42, and may be purchased by calling 508-922-8500. The NSMT is located at 62 Dunham Road in Beverly, Massachusetts.

LINDA EDER
Fans of the Jekyll and Hyde star are in for a treat this summer when Linda Eder performs her concert act at New York City's Supper Club. On Thursday, July 17 Eder will sing, backed by her usual combo plus a horns section, and tickets go on sale today through Ticketmaster or by calling the Roseland box office at 212-307-7171. For those of you who have never heard this Streisandesque voice, you might want to pick up a copy of one of the two J & H concept recordings or Eder's newest solo album, It's Time on the Atlantic Records label.

LINZI HATELEY
When Linzi Hateley made her Broadway debut in the now-infamous musical production of Carrie, New York audiences got their first chance to hear this young woman's marvelous singing. Since that time Hateley has gone on to record two solo albums and recently starred in the short-lived West End production of Romance, Romance. This September, Linzi will perform in concert at the annual Chichester Festival in the "Stars on Sunday" series at the Minerva Studio Theatre. Hateley will most likely perform songs from the many musicals she has appeared in on the London stage: Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Grease, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. . . The concert is scheduled for Sunday, September 14, and tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 01243-781312.

Others who will be appearing in this series of Sunday evenings include Liliane Montevecchi (August 24), Charlton Heston and Lydia Clarke Heston in Love Letters (August 10) and Maureen Lipman (July 27).

REMINDERS:

PATTI LuPONE
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. The London theatre listing now states "must close June 28," so go!
FLORENCE LACEY
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
KAREN MASON
Mason will also star in the second part of Maryann Lopinto's Cabaret-On the Record Volume IV, which will take place on Thursday, July 24 at 8pm at the Triad to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. There is a $15 cover and a $10 food-drink minimum. Call the Triad at (212) 799-4599 for more information.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com