DIVA TALK Betty at the Bottom Line and More!

News   DIVA TALK Betty at the Bottom Line and More! Hello, diva lovers! Before I start to today’s column, I just wanted to urge anyone who’s a fan of the musical theatre to go see the Manhattan Theatre Club transfer of A Class Act at the Ambassador Theatre. I loved it - it’s witty, funny, touching, has a great score and a wonderful ensemble cast. Plus, Randy Graff delivers a sensational performance, which climaxes in her rendition of Edward Kleban’s beautiful ballad, “The Next Best Thing To Love.” Now, onto more divas. . .

Hello, diva lovers! Before I start to today’s column, I just wanted to urge anyone who’s a fan of the musical theatre to go see the Manhattan Theatre Club transfer of A Class Act at the Ambassador Theatre. I loved it - it’s witty, funny, touching, has a great score and a wonderful ensemble cast. Plus, Randy Graff delivers a sensational performance, which climaxes in her rendition of Edward Kleban’s beautiful ballad, “The Next Best Thing To Love.” Now, onto more divas. . .

 

BETTY BUCKLEY
I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Saturday night than sitting in the relaxed environs of the Bottom Line, having a drink and following Betty Buckley on a kaleidoscopic view of life and love through song. Buckley has become one of the foremost storytellers in the musical theatre/concert world today, and her interpretative magic was applied to an eclectic array of material this past weekend at New York’s famous downtown cabaret. After a spirited “overture” from Buckley’s accomplished musicians, the Tony-winning actress/singer opened her set with gentle renditions of “Just the Way You Look Tonight” and “Not a Day Goes By,” and both were met with enthusiastic response from the sold-out crowd.

Buckley was playful on a new arrangement of West Side Story’s “Something’s Coming,” and she followed that with one of the evening’s highlights, a version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that was filled with a palpable sense of ache and longing. Percussionist Jamey Haddad introduced Jason Robert Brown’s “Stars and the Moon” with a lengthy, dramatic solo, and then Buckley delved into the psyche of a woman who learns too late that choosing yachts and champagne over stars and the moon was a costly decision. Buckley continues to deliver Brown’s multi-layered song with finesse, and her reading of the song’s final lines -- “And I never dreamed, and I woke one day, and I looked around, and I thought, ‘My God, I’ll never have the moon’” -- was riveting. The newest addition to her repertoire followed, a story song by singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb entitled “Falling in Love,” which has an interesting lyric and a pretty but haunting melody. It was a good fit for Buckley, who seemed to relish singing the song’s lyrical refrain, “The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love.”

The “poets” section followed, which included an emotional version of James Taylor’s (“an American poet we all know and love,” said Buckley) “Fire and Rain” and three poems by women writers (Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Milay and Emily Dickinson) set to music by Ricky Ian Gordon. An upbeat styling of “Old Friend” (“Love is rare/life is strange/nothing lasts/people change”) preceded an extremely moving pairing of her own “If I Remember You Right” and Joni Mitchell’s “I Had a King.” A sunnier side of love was then presented with a medley of two theatre standards, “On the Street Where You Live” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” that Buckley sang with a joy that was completely contagious. The former Cats star concluded the evening with a magnetic, poignant rendition of her signature tune, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory.” She returned for two encores: a beautifully hypnotic “Danny Boy” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and a triumphant, full-voiced “Meadowlark.” As always, Buckley’s program was a perfect mixture of singer, songs and stories.  

FAITH PRINCE
The Tony-winning star of Guys and Dolls is currently in previews of Bells Are Ringing at the Plymouth Theatre. Prince, who was last on Broadway in a revival of Little Me, will be featured in an article in the upcoming May issue of Playbill. What follows are some of Prince’s choice quotes from Mervyn Rothstein’s article, “Ring Them Bells.”

about discovering musical theatre and Bells Are Ringing:
“I had never seen a show on Broadway. I knew that I loved musical theatre and that I had a natural talent for it. But except for doing Oklahoma! and South Pacific in high school, I didn’t know a lot of shows. I was studying at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, in my sophomore year, and I found an LP in the library -- that’ll date me, it was an LP, not a CD - of this musical comedy called Bells Are Ringing. And the show and Judy Holliday’s character, Ella Peterson, just spoke to me. I thought, ‘I know this woman.’ And ever since, I’ve wanted to do Bells Are Ringing on Broadway.”

about the character of Ella Peterson in Bells:
“Ella has a lot of comedy in her, but there’s a lot of pathos too. She has a big heart, but she doesn’t really know her own worth, which I relate to. It’s a basic story about the journey of a woman finding out that she is enough, that she doesn’t have to hide and put up a barrier. . . . She’s always there for everybody else, but she doesn’t really trust that she has what it takes to get what she herself needs. There’s a lot of me in her. I feel that in a way I’m Everywoman. I’m not something you aspire to be -- I’m not a perfect five foot nine, 36-24-36, with exactly the right breeding. I am who I am. But who I am is enough. And it’s a great message, which I think a lot of people in the audience will relate to.”

about performing a role written for the late Judy Holliday:
“Judy Holliday was exceptionally bright. I think she had an IQ of 185. People say about Ella Peterson, ‘Oh, that ditzy telephone operator,’ but it was anything but. If you watched Holliday work, it was so smart and so quick and so witty. Everything she did, including Born Yesterday, was so complex. I know that I try to approach roles, especially women’s roles of that era like Adelaide and Ella, with a dignity and a brain, and I think she did too.”

 

QUOTABLE QUOTES:
Betty Buckley discusses the Bottom Line in Celia McGee’s recent article in Daily News:
“When I was growing up in Texas, every kid had heard of [clubs like] the Bottom Line. After I graduated college, more than anything, I wanted to be a music artist. Everyone played the Bottom Line . . . After Cats, lots of people started to ask me to do concerts, but when [Bottom Line owner] Alan Pepper called, it validated me as a serious musician.”

Karen Akers discusses her feelings about New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where she will be performing beginning April 24 (from an upcoming Playbill article by David Drake):
“When I was about 15, my grandfather would bring me there. We would sit out in the lobby and talk about everything under the sun, while he taught me to drink scotch. [Laughs.] I felt such a grown-up, so sophisticated. I adored my grandfather . . . I think of the Algonquin as sort of the heart of New York.”

An excerpt from The Voice, “Your Official Linda Eder Fanclub Newsletter,” which was recently sent to me; below is a portion of a letter Eder wrote to her fans:
“The year 2000 was in every way a great year for me. God, fate, someone was smiling on me. I’m not sure if I deserved the extra attention and I often went out of my way to avoid it, but it just kept finding me. I seem to be growing into my title of ‘reluctant diva.’ There truly is a part of me that could give up my career tomorrow. I have so many interests that tug on me, and a son that steals the whole show. Days go by like one long minute in between getting out of bed and getting back in it. Time is a joke, a tail that I’m chasing and can never catch. Remember when summer vacation seemed to last a lifetime? What happened to that? . . .”

IN OTHER NEWS Two of my very favorite ladies, Florence Lacey and Karen Mason, are currently performing in a production of Side By Side By Sondheim at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida. Joining the two superb vocalists are two other Broadway favorites, Kevin Gray and Cris Groenendaal, and tickets are available by calling the Coconut Grove box office at (305) 442-4000 . . . In her current cabaret program at the Café Carlyle, Christine Andreas salutes the women of the musical theatre. Her program includes these gems: “Some People,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “My Ship,” “The Physician,” “Show Me,” “Will He Like Me?,” “My Best Beau,” “If He Walked Into My Life,” “Moonshine Lullaby,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “Bill,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” Andreas, who was last on Broadway in The Scarlet Pimpernel continues at New York’s Carlyle through April 7 . . . Thirty vocalists will gather on Saturday, March 31 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Cabaret Amendment, which reclassified singers as musicians and allowed them to perform in countless New York clubs. Those scheduled to perform at the Blue Note (131 West 3rd Street, NYC) include Toby Altman, Fredrick Bush, Linda Ciofalo, Mary Foster Conklin, Deborah Davis, Peter Eldridge, Dena DeRose, Giacomo Gates, Miles Griffith, Leslie Gwin, Melissa Hamilton, Val Hawk, Diane Hubka, Pucci Amanda Jones, Sheila Jordan, Laurie Krauz, Marya Lawrence, Amy London, Trudi Mann, Sue Maskaleris, Kate McGarry, Mary Pearson, Cynthia Scott, Nanette Scott-Jones, Rich Siegel, Barbara Sfraga, Kendra Shank, Joan Stiles, String Of Pearls, Sue Halloran, Jeanne O'Conno, Holli Ross, Gabrielle Tranchina, Roseanna Vitro, Carla White, Andrea Wolper and guest of honor Phyllis Lynd, the woman who fought City Hall and won. Call (212) 475-8592 for reservations; there is a $15 cover and no minimum. Show times are 12:30 PM, 2:15 PM and 4:00 PM . . . Jazz fans will be happy to learn that the three women who have been a part of the Manhattan Transfer, Cheryl Bentyne, Laurel Masse and Janis Siegel, will reunite on April 6, 7 and 8 for a series of concerts at Boston’s Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro (129 South Street). Reservations may be made by calling (617) 542-5108; dinner plus the show is $75, and the show alone is $25 . . . This weekend former Miss Saigon star Liz Callaway is performing in Anchorage, Alaska, with The Wild Party’s Andrew Lippa and Julia Murney. From April 5 - 7, Callaway will belt out some songs in Iceland backed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and in May she will perform songs from her new CD, “The Beat Goes On,” at Joe’s Pub in New York City. There is also word that Callaway will take part in a concert version of Baby to benefit the Hudson Stage Company. Stay tuned for details . . . The legendary Debbie Reynolds, star of stage and screen, will open New Jersey’s TheatreFest 2001 season with concerts on June 8, 9 and 10. Located in Upper Montclair, N.J., TheatreFest is the professional equity theatre-in-residence at Montclair State University, and Reynolds will perform in the University’s Memorial Auditorium. Tickets range from $45 to $55 and may be purchased by calling (973) 655-5112 or (212) 239 6200 . . . The Music Man’s Rebecca Luker was recently honored in her home state of Alabama. She was inducted into the Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame along with the late Truman Capote and the film classic, To Kill a Mockingbird . . . And, finally, the stars will be out in full force on Sunday, April 1 at the 2001 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards at Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street) at 7:30 PM. You can expect to see 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Rosemary Clooney, 2001 Board of Directors Award winner John McDaniel, Mistress of Ceremonies Julie Halston, plus Cy Coleman, Michele Lee, Margaret Whiting, Julie Wilson, Michael Feinstein, Julie Budd, Mario Cantone, Sam Harris, Carol Woods, Susannah McCorkle, Angela LaGreca, Mary Cleere Haran, Richard Rodney Bennett, Eileen Fulton, Eric Comstock, Lorna Dallas, Baby Jane Dexter, David Friedman, Julie Gold and many others. Tickets, ranging from $25 to $125, can be purchased through TicketMaster at (212) 307 4100 or at the Town Hall box office.

 

REMINDERS:

 

BETTY BUCKLEY
Following is Buckley’s most recent, ever-growing concert schedule:
April 1 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA
April 16 The Betty Lynn Buckley Awards at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
April 18 “Spirit of Imagination” Awards in Fort Worth, TX
May 12 College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
May 24 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, MA
June 17 at the Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA
August 25 at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH
October 6 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
November 24 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
December 6 at Abravenal Hall with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, UT (Xmas program)

 

BARBARA COOK
April 21 in Palm Desert, CA
July 9 at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL

 

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
April 29 at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA (978-232 7200)

May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392 4900

 

PATTI LuPONE
The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:

April 8 at Duke University (“Matters of the Heart”)
May 11 at the Fox Theatre in Stockton, CA  (“Matters of the Heart”)
May 26 with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra at Brown University  (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
May 31 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. With the National Symphony (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
July 7 at the Performing Arts Center in Westhampton Beach, NY (“Matters of the Heart”)
August 3-4 at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles, CA (Gershwin salute)
September 15 at the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia (“Matters of the Heart”) 
September 20-23 at Bass Hall with the Ft. Worth Symphony in Ft. Worth, Texas (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
          November 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts (“Matters of the Heart”)
                           February 9, 2002 at the Tilles Center with the Long Island Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 22-23, 2002 at the Kleinhaus Hall in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)

 

KAREN MASON
What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
May 9-20 at Davenports cabaret in Chicago, IL

 

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Supreme vocalist Maureen McGovern is currently on a 36-city tour with singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli. The remaining dates of their tour follow: March 23 - 24 at Kuss Auditorium -- Clark State College in Springfield, OH
March 25 at the Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown, OH
March 26 at the Orr Auditorium -- Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA
March 27 at the Bradford Performing Arts Center in Bradford, PA
March 29 at the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, VT
March 30 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
March 31 at the Stallar Center -- SUNY in Stony Brook, NY
April 1 at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in Bronx, NY
April 3 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA
April 4 at Community Theater in Morristown, NJ
April 5 at the Eisenhower Auditorium -- Penn State in University Park, PA
April 6 at the Tilles Center in Brookville, NY
April 7 at the Union county Arts Center in Rathway, NJ
April 8 at Eisenhower Hall Theatre -- West Point Military Academy in West Point, NY

 

BERNADETTE PETERS
The two-time Tony winner, who recently concluded her run in Annie Get Your Gun, is now on a U.S. concert tour:
March 29 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY
April 6 at the Bass Perf. Hall in Fort Worth, TX (with symphony)
April 7-8 at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX
April 19 at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (with symphony)
April 28 at the Pasquerilla PAC in Johnstown, PA
May 11-12 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN (with symphony)
May 18-20 at the Myerson Hall in Dallas, TX (with symphony)

 

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

 

By Andrew Gans