DIVA TALK: Betty's Benefit; Karen Back on Boulevard

DIVA TALK: Betty's Benefit; Karen Back on Boulevard BETTY BUCKLEY

BETTY BUCKLEY

Betty Buckley continues to knock out audiences all across the country, making stops recently at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and at Duke University in North Carolina. Buckley will also lend her voice to a benefit concert for The Whole Foods Project on Sunday, October 20, 1996. Titled From Blues to Broadway: An Evening of Song and hosted by Barbara ("Get Smart") Feldon, BB will headline the event that also includes performances by Tom Anderson, Rita Ashdale, Baby Jane Dexter, Forever Plaid, Lina Koutrakos, Angela La Greca, Norm Lewis, Marta Sanders, Rohn Seykell, John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross.

The benefit concert is scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM and will be held at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, located at 236 West 73rd Street in New York City. For ticket information, check out Betty B's website, now in its new home on Playbill On-line.

KAREN MASON

Karen Mason, who has been the standby for Norma Desmond ever since the Los Angeles opening, will again don ND's turban in Sunset Boulevard from October 28-November 6, replacing the vacationing English dynamo Elaine Paige. Mason will again sub for Paige from January 6-16. Mason, who has been a longtime favorite cabaret performer, will make an appearance this coming Wednesday, October 16 at Donald Smith's annual Cabaret Convention at Town Hall. Mason will spin her magic around two Yip Harburg tunes, "Old Devil Moon" and "If This Isn't Love," both of which can be found on her first recording for Zevely Records, Not So Simply Broadway.

Speaking of Zevely Records, Mason's second recording for that label is due out in November. Entitled Better Days, the recording spotlights the work of Brian Lasser, who was Mason's accompanist and arranger before his death a few years back.

One busy lady, Karen Mason is also in the process of recording Wonderful Town for That's Entertainment Records. The recording of this Comden and Green/Bernstein classic also stars Ron Raines and Rebecca Luker (The Secret Garden, Show Boat).

If you've seen Patti, Betty, Elaine,.... now's your chance to catch another diva giving her all to the role of Norma Desmond.

ELAINE PAIGE

And still more raves keep pouring in for EP's turn as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. One of our favorite writers and theatre critics, Ken Mandelbaum (Theatre Week) had this to say about Elaine's performance:

". . .Hearing Paige sing 'With One Look' shortly after her entrance at the Minskoff in SB, I once again couldn't quite believe the voice. Of all the major show divas, Paige is probably the best and most reliable vocalist, remarkable for her power, diction, phrasing and elegant style. But Paige's Norma Desmond is far more than just a vocal display. In fact, it's a lulu, a not-to-be-missed riot, and nothing like those of her Broadway predecessors. . .Paige is crazy as a fox and the most fleshly, down-to-earth of the three [Broadway Normas]. . .Paige's Norma is a vulgar peasant, a startling reminder that many of the 20's film goddesses were lowborn and could easily have been shopgirls, were it not for a lucky break. She of course looks far more like Gloria Swanson than any of the other musical Normas, and borrows (wisely, I believe) from Swanson's line readings here and there. Like Swanson (and Close to a degree), Paige is full of grotesque looks and poses that make it clear why she was unable to maintain a career once sound arrived. What's most impressive about Paige here is that, while she really goes for it and is not afraid of playing the camp elements to the hilt, she never falls into caricature, managing to create a very real character who's also a hoot. . .Paige is by far the funniest of the Normas, garnering huge laughs throughout the first scene and elsewhere.

. . .she is the one thing this role must have: a genuine star. I've always felt Paige performances were worth crossing an ocean to see; what a treat to have her here, available to us night after night."

Thanks to those of you who have been able to catch my cabaret act at Don't Tell Mama. I'll be there two more nights--October 17 and 24 at 9pm--and would love to meet more of you.

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

-- By Andrew Gans
(My e-mail address is andrew_gans@playbill.com.)