This past Saturday evening (Nov. 15) I was able to catch Betty Buckley's solo concert at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. Buckley presented two generous acts of songs culled from her many recordings and her various stage roles. It's always a treat to hear Buckley sing, and she was in superb voice this evening, delivering thrilling renditions of her two Sunset Boulevard arias: a fierce "With One Look" that brought the first half of the show to a dramatic close and a highly charged, emotional reading of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" that drew cheers from the audience.
It was also a delight to hear two songs from Buckley's current musical, Triumph of Love, both "Serenity," with which she stops the show nightly, and "If I Cannot Love," a song that was unfortunately dropped from the musical during previews. Buckley also shone on some of the more intimate, mellow material including a wonderful pairing of Paul Simon's "Train in the Distance" (which one hopes Buckley will someday record) and the Hank Williams tearjerker "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Other highlights of the evening included her upbeat opening medley of "Hello Young Lovers" and "Almost Like Being In Love"; a dazzling portrait of searching for love and remembering a lost love in "Come On, Come On"; a soaring version of "Meadowlark"; and two songs from her most recent album, "Come Rain or Come Shine" and the album's title song, "Much More." Buckley concluded the show with a phenomenally intense, teary eyed version of "Memory" that drew a spontaneous standing ovation from the audience; she then returned to the stage for an encore with a non miked version of "Amazing Grace."
Not only a great interpreter, Buckley is also the perfect performer to spend an evening in the theatre with, one who is very down-to-earth onstage and makes the audience feel as though it's been invited to a big party. My favorite non-singing moment of the evening was Buckley's entreaty to her fans--right after her opening number--to fill three empty seats in the front row. Three die-hard followers quickly ran down the aisles, a la "The Price is Right," happily filling the seats. It was a joyous evening for all.
The complete song list for Buckley's concert follows:
Hello Young Lovers/Almost Like Being in Love
Some Enchanted Evening
Come On, Come On
As Time Goes By/Where or When/Just in Time
Train in the Distance/I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
With One Look
Never Never Land
As If We Never Said Goodbye
Come Rain or Come Shine
If I Cannot Love
And So It Goes
Encore: Amazing Grace
*Also, Betty B will be a guest on NBC's "Today Show" on Friday, Dec. 5, where she is scheduled to perform "Serenity," the standout ballad from Triumph of Love. And, of course, you can catch Buckley nightly at the Royale Theatre in Triumph or on her latest CD from Sterling Records, Much More. For those of you unable to find Buckley's CD in your local record store, you can contact Sterling at 1-800-784-7554.
Patti LuPone is thankfully back on Broadway, having officially opened in the new David Mamet play, The Old Neighborhood, Nov. 19 at the Booth Theatre. Mamet's new play is divided into three intermissionless acts; in the first two portions of the evening, the central character, Bobby (portrayed by Peter Riegert), revisits a different person in his old neighborhood, and in the final segment he and his girlfriend have one final confrontation. LuPone stars in the middle act as Bobby's sister Jolly and delivers an incredibly powerful performance as a woman struggling with the love she never received from her mother or her stepfather. Of the three acts, it is by far the most heart-wrenching, and if you've only ever seen LuPone in concert or in a musical, you will be amazed by her outstanding performance in this non-singing role. When she questions why neither her mother nor her stepfather approved of the man she would marry, she answers her own question in one of many heartbreaking realizations: "Because he loved me. How could they accept someone who liked me?" LuPone is completely riveting as this long-suffering woman; read on to see what some of the critics have to say about La LuPone in The Old Neighborhood:
Ben Brantley in The New York Times:
"Patti LuPone, in a knockout performance. . .All of this is couched in the studied cadences and echoes that are Mr. Mamet's signature and that, in the wrong hands, can seem as hokey as a "Who's on First?" routine. But all of the performers, seen against Kevin Rigdon's simple but dead-on sets that seem to float in darkness, find the human heartbeat in fractured syntax. Listen, for example, to how Ms. LuPone stumbles pathetically over the word "because," in describing Jolly's stepfather's refusal to give her money.
Those who know Ms. LuPone only as a musical comedy star will be stunned by the naturalistic fire she delivers here. As Jolly, a part inspired by Mr. Mamet's real-life sister and his realized female character, Ms. LuPone finds conflicting layers of past and present selves in practically every line. She emerges as both loving matriarch and wounded adolescent, sentimental and devastatingly clear-eyed."
Linda Winer in Newsday:
". . .Surely one of the luckiest recent things to have happened to the theater world was the firing of Patti LuPone from "Sunset Boulevard" a few years ago. Now she is back where she belongs, in serious drama, and she is wonderful."
Fintan O'Toole in Daily News:
". . .What we have, in essence, are three dialogues. And Mamet is, of course, a virtuoso of dialogue. All of his favorite devices are deployed with immense skill by a superb cast in which LuPone is outstanding."
Steven Winn in The San Francisco Chronicle:
". . . LuPone's performance as the ironically named Jolly, Bobby's unhappy married sister, is beautifully shaped.
Drawing on his own family history of emotional terror that he has written about elsewhere, Mamet-as-Bobby remains the sympathetic listener to a familiar litany. Jolly spills out the tale of a mother and stepfather who have withheld love and denied the money and gifts she and her family needed.
The part is a tricky and demanding one, since Jolly's complaints about an armoire that got away or the skis she didn't get for Christmas as a child flirt with self-indulgence. But LuPone's drained face and stolid devotion to a husband who can't fathom her captures a woman treading deep, dark waters."
Our Evita gal was also the subject of an article in Wednesday's Newsday in which writer Patrick Pacheco spoke with the cast members of The Old Neighborhood about their current and past relationships with playwright David Mamet. LuPone, who has performed in Mamet's The Woods, The Water Engine, Edmond and All Men Are Whores, had this to say about him:
"David's a wonderful man--warm and generous, and thoroughly intimidating because he's so knowledgeable. What strikes me about his plays, besides the language, is the atmosphere. You can smell the danger. David carries that around to an extent. We had an experience together in Palm Beach. I was doing The Lion in Winter and he came down to hang out and we got hassled in a restaurant. And David took this dollar bill and dashed it to the ground--and did it with such force that it actually made a noise. We were being badly treated--my mother was with us at the time- and he was protecting us. I was shocked and thrilled at the same time. Then another time, again in Palm Beach, we were asked to leave the Breakers. We were very young, just checking it out, not doing anything wrong--and we were asked to leave. So we found this machine that smoothes out the turf and ripped up the golf course. . . . As a writer he exposes areas that are difficult, challenging and dangerous. He writes beautiful women's roles: They're very deep, intense, emotional and rich. When David gave me The Woods, I shook in bed it was so frightening. It broke up my relationship of seven years. It was about a relationship, and I learned within the rehearsal period how much I lied about my life. I set about to stop lying, and one of the lies was with the man I was involved with [Kevin Kline], and it destroyed the relationship. He writes that kind of bold, risky truth."
The original, Tony-winning Annie returns to the stage next month at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, where she will perform in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Choreographed by Scott Wise with direction by Gordon Greenberg, McArdle will portray the Narrator when performances commence on December 12. The production runs through December 28, and others in the cast include John Sawyer as Joseph, Darryl Winslow as Judah, Rodney Hicks as Reuben, Michael Seelbach as Levi, Michael Beech as Naptholi and more. Tickets, which range from $20-$32.50, are available by calling the Helen Hayes box office at 914-358-6333 or through Telecharge at 1-800-233-3123. IN OTHER NEWS
Barbra Streisand spends the entire hour on the Nov. 21 "Rosie O'Donnell Show" to promote her latest album, Higher Ground. Speaking of Babs, Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg is back at Don't Tell Mama's cabaret room on Saturday nights through December 27 at 11pm. Call 212 757-0788 for more information . . . Jekyll & Hyde's Linda Eder can be heard on a Christmas single of "O Holy Night" that will be available in major record stores in December. The single will not be for sale, however, but distributed when purchasing the CD of a female artist. There will be a limited printing of 35,000 copies . . . A few record companies are currently in negotiations to record Triumph of Love, the new musical at the Royale Theatre . . . Ellen Foley, Linda Hart and Jessica Molaskey are the three divas who perform in Loungeville, Volume 1: Music to Watch Girls By, the revue of songs at Rainbow & Stars that pays homage to the music of Henry Mancini and Burt Bacharach. Richard Muenz joins the trio of women, and all are backed by a six-piece band . . . Dorothy Loudon does a gun-toting turn in the new film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
DIVA OF THE WEEK: Well, I won't even try to choose between the two wonderful performances I caught this week, Patti LuPone in The Old Neighborhood and Betty Buckley in concert. Let's just say they were both superb and crown them both divas of the week!
And, don't forget to catch Bernadette Peters this Sunday (Nov. 23) evening on CBS in the TV movie What the Deaf Man Heard. That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
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