Hello diva lovers! Many exciting items this week . . . enjoy! BETTY BUCKLEY
For an early Christmas present catch Betty Buckley's guest spot on the Christmas episode of AMC's "Remember Wenn," which will premiere this Saturday, December 21. The episode will be a one-hour special, rather than its usual 1/2-hour length. So, be sure to set your VCRS accordingly!
Buckley will debut two Christmas songs that The Mystery of Edwin Drood composer, Rupert Holmes, wrote specifically for Buckley's appearance. The titles of the songs are "Christmas Is Waiting" and "You Make It Christmas."
In the program, which is set in a Pittsburgh radio station (WENN) in 1939, Buckley portrays one of the station's biggest stockholders, a Scroogelike woman who demands all on-air references to the upcoming holiday be removed. Eventually, however, Buckley's character reverses her order, and joins in on the festivities.
"I like the idea of being in people's homes," Buckley recently told New York Daily News' Bill Bell. "I like the possibilities of television." About her role in "Remember WENN," BB said, "This is not just interesting. It's fun and friendly, and the great thing is, I get to sing. . .I may even turn into a recurring character."
Meanwhile, however, Betty can be found starring in the tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night. I will be catching her performance in this revue of ALW tunes Friday night, and will write about the show next week.
Also, be sure to check Betty Buckley's website (at home on Playbill On-Line). This week, production shots from the cult-hit Carrie, in which Buckley portrayed Margaret White, were added to the site.
It's always great fun to speak with director Richard Jay-Alexander, who informed me this week that he will be the executive producer of BP's Carnegie Hall CD, scheduled for release on Angel Records some time in February. Jay-Alexander, who directed Bernadette's triumphant concert, will be joined by Jay Landers, who will act as producer of the live recording. Jay Landers, you may recall, produced Barbra Streisand's recent concert recording.
Peters' recording will be a one-CD release, featuring highlights from the wonderful evening at Carnegie Hall. Arthur Laurents (Gypsy), who was in attendance at the famed hall, will write the liner notes, and the CD will include photos from rehearsals and from the performance itself--i.e., BP in her two wonderful gowns (the first-act creation by Bob Mackie and the second act outfit by Donna Karan).
A portion of all the proceeds from the recording will benefit GMHC.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with BP's press agent, Judy Katz, who related that Bernadette will be flying to London after the first of the year to film The Odyssey, which will air on NBC in May. BP plays an enchantress in the adaptation of Homer's work...more details as they become available. . .And keep your eye out for Peters' delightfully "sultry" Ocean Spray commercials.
And, lastly, hope some of you caught Bernadette's surprise appearance on the "Today Show" Wednesday morning, singing "The Little Drummer Boy."
Fans, new and old, of Maureen McGovern will be happy to hear that the statuesque singer with the thrilling pipes will release a new album in February. Tentatively titled The Music Never Ends, the album is a tribute to the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who are probably best known for the lyric to "The Way We Were." Other classic Bergman songs include "Where Do You Start," "It Might Be You," "The Windmills of Your Mind," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" and others. . . McGovern's CD will be released on Sterling Records.
Next week, the long-awaited film version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita opens in New York, starring Madonna as Eva Peron. Patti LuPone, who, of course, originated the role in the Broadway stage production, winning a Tony for her work, recently had this to say about the show and the role. LuPone spoke with Newsday's Patrick Pacheco and relates that performing the demanding role eight times a week was "a brutal experience. I remember when I first sang the Lloyd Webber score, I thought, 'This is a man who hates women,' because it hurt so much. It wasn't difficult to play the part because there is no part there--the actors have to connect the dots. But the role is hell to sing. And that made the show really difficult--and the hype surrounding it."
LuPone went on to say that "the expectations were overwhelming, but I was determined not to let it beat me. [Audiences] resented paying $37.50, so we had to lasso them in each night. It was exhausting."
About playing the role on film, LuPone admits, "Sure, I would have loved to play the role on film, but I knew I'd never get it. I think Madonna will be fine, but the ultimate Evita would be Judy Davis. She couldn't sing the role, but she could play that desperation and drive that is key to playing the role. You want the character to chew up the scenery."
LAURIE BEECHMAN and ANDREA McARDLE
While discussing Bernadette's recording, Richard Jay-Alexander also informed me that the audiences have been going wild at the Philadelphia production of Les Miserables, which currently stars Laurie Beechman and Andrea McArdle. The limited, five-week engagement features Beechman as Fantine ("I Dreamed a Dream") and McArdle as Eponine ("On My Own"). And, keeping it all in the family, McArdle's daughter, Alexis, has been brought in from the Broadway production to portray young Cosette ("Castle on a Cloud"). Beechman and McArdle, both Philadelphia natives, have long histories with this epic musical. In fact, both have played Fantine on Broadway at various times. If you're in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check our their wonderful performances. It seems there is a very large diva contingent in Philadelphia these days, with Betty Buckley performing there as well.
As reported last week, Bette Midler will perform in concert at the MGM Grand in a show titled "Diva Las Vegas"! The concert will air exclusively on HBO on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 9 PM. Chris Albrecht, president of HBO Original Programming, recently remarked, "This concert marks Bette's fourth appearance on HBO, the first coming 20 years ago. She has an amazing act with a magical mix of music, comedy and spectacle. She's one of a kind."
Midler recently performed her new act in Seattle, and she received a rave review from Patrick MacDonald in the Seattle Times. The following are some excerpts from his glowing review:
". . .More than fabulous, more than divine, Bette Midler has reached some kind of stratospheric plane far above even the heavens. . .The centerpiece of the show, which will be filmed in Las Vegas next month for an HBO special, is a burlesque number so finely realized it knocks you back in your seat. . .Then she turns the laughs around and ends the piece dramatically with a medley from Gypsy.
. . .For all the wackiness, there were also moments of tenderness. "From a Distance" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" were done straightforwardly and movingly. Among the most charming moments of the night were an impromptu "Little Town of Bethlehem" and a singalong to "The Glory of Love."
. . .First half highlights included a lively, gospelly "Miss Otis Regrets," a moving "Bed of Roses" and a dramatic, goose bump-raising performance of "The Rose."
. . .We're talking perfection here. This is one show more than worth the ticket price. What an experience!"
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at email@example.com