DIVA TALK: Betty’s Memories; Jennifer’s New Role And More!

DIVA TALK: Betty’s Memories; Jennifer’s New Role And More! Hello, diva lovers! Happy 2001. . .
Jon Lovitz and Veanne Cox in The Dinner Party.
Jon Lovitz and Veanne Cox in The Dinner Party. (Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus)

Hello, diva lovers! Happy 2001. . .

BETTY BUCKLEY

I had planned to attend Betty Buckley’s concert last Friday night at the Bottom Line; however, an early New Year’s present brought me a bad case of strep throat, so I wasn’t able to attend the Tony winner’s sold-out concert, the first time I’ve missed one of her Bottom Line appearances in over a decade. Since it would be difficult to discuss Buckley’s most recent show there (!), I thought I would reminisce about some of my favorite Buckley performances in the hip East Village club.

Two “wow” vocal moments that quickly come to mind include the time I first heard the former Cats star sing “Tell Me on a Sunday” as well as her medley of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Greatest Love of All.” “Tell Me On a Sunday” was one of her many encores that particular evening, and I was quite excited to finally hear the talented performer sing one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes live. She built the song gradually, almost from a whisper, and as she drew closer to the song’s climax, “Don’t run off in the pouring rain, don’t call me as they call . . .,” I was thinking, “How the hell is she going to sing the ‘take the hurt’ in full voice? She’s going to have to switch to a head tone.” And then, out came the beltiest “taaaaaake the huurrrrrt” I’ve ever heard. It was simply thrilling and also extremely moving.

Buckley possesses what I call a “deceptive stillness” that makes her singing so powerful. There are no overblown Liza theatrics, no frantic movements across the stage, just an embodiment of each and every word that she sings, which seems to emanate from deep within her soul. As phenomenal as her vocals are, it is the actress in her that ultimately moves the audience in song, as she relays one “story” after another. And, as aware as she must be of the power of her belt, she uses it effectively and without ostentation. There are no “listen to how loud I can sing” moments; the belt is used to express feeling and emotion and is done so in as organic a fashion as possible. Buckley also has that rare ability to deliver an eclectic array of material, including works from the worlds of theatre, pop, country and rock. In fact, it is at the Bottom Line where she has debuted her versions of several pop and country works -- “Angel from Montgomery,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “[Take Another] Piece of My Heart,” “The River,” “A Case of You” -- which often better the original recordings. Word has it that Ms. B will thankfully return to the Bottom Line some time in the spring, so if you’ve never seen her there, don’t miss your next chance. I’ll announce dates as soon as I have them.

JENNIFER HOLLIDAY

That Tony-winning force of nature, Jennifer Holliday, will return to the New York stage this month after having worked extensively for the past few years in television and film, most notably as Lisa Knowles in the FOX hit “Ally McBeal.” The Tony-winning Dreamgirl’s newest role will be Bessie Smith, the late singer who garnered the title the “Empress of the Blues.” Holliday will star as Smith in the Illyria Theatre’s production of Downhearted Blues--The Life and Music of Bessie Smith, which was written by Holliday and will also star David Ojalvo as record producer Frank Walker.

Downhearted Blues is being directed by Donna Drake and will feature sets by Jim Boutin, lights by Mahlon Kruse, costumes by Ramona Ponce and musical direction by David Brunetti. This new one-act play with music will premiere at The Chelsea Playhouse on Jan. 14 for ten performances only. The Chelsea Playhouse is located at 125 W. 22nd Street, and $30 tickets are available by calling (212) 561-9553. Don’t miss your chance to see this electric performer portray another legendary artist.

LIZ CALLAWAY

Beginning Jan. 22, fans of Liz Callaway can order her newest recording, “The Beat Goes On,” directly from the Fynsworth Alley website, www.fynsworthalley.com. Callaway’s first solo recital in five years consists of songs from the 1960’s, and the discs ordered from the website will contain a bonus track, “Here, There and Everywhere.” Interestingly, Andrea Marcovicci recently released a disc of songs from this era, and the title of her CD was “Here, There and Everywhere.” I guess divas know a good song when they hear one! . . . What follows is the complete track listing for Callway’s new disc. By the way, the former Miss Saigon and Baby star will appear at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 14 and 15 in the acclaimed evening of William Finn songs, “Infinite Joy.” It’s looking more and more likely that the Finn show will be recorded for CD release.
“And the Beat Goes On”/ “Feelin’ Groovy”
“Half As Big As Life” (from Promises, Promises)
“You Don’t Own Me”
“Frank Mills” (from Hair)
“Didn’t We?”/ “MacArthur Park”
“Up, Up, and Away”
“Monday, Monday”
“Wedding Bell Blues”
“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”
“When I’m 64”
“Moon River”
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
“Downtown”
Bonus Track: “Here, There, and Everywhere”

ELAINE PAIGE

When Elaine Paige concludes her run in The King and I in April, she will focus on the completion of her latest solo album as well as a handful of international concerts. The acclaimed actress and singer will also take part in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where she will sing for the international crowd in attendance . . . I recently received the latest copy of the EP newsletter, which included a Q&A with London’s leading musical theatre actress. I thought you would enjoy reading some of her answers to this round of questions, which dealt with her musings about her day off, Sunday.

Q: On Sundays, do you like to see people . . . do you have big brunches?
EP: It’s one of the only opportunities during the week that I get to see people, so I really enjoy meeting up either for a late lunch or for dinner in the evening. Ideally I get together with a small group of friends I know well, so it’s nice and relaxing . . . After a lazy morning, the perfect time to start lunch is between 2 and 3 o’clock, and I look forward to a delicious meal, not to heave and nice and unhurried. Sometimes this is at home, but usually I’ll go to a restaurant in London. Alternatively if I go out for dinner I would make it quite early and have a really lazy day before. It’s a question of saving the voice and energy for the performances of the show during the week, so I know I shouldn’t do too much on a Sunday.

Q: Do you like to go away for the day on a Sunday . . . how about shopping, cultural events?
EP: I don’t have time to go far but I do sometimes drive into the country with friends to a restaurant or pub for lunch and take a much enjoyed walk. However, I’m very much a Londoner and enjoy the London parks, especially Kensington Gardens and Battersea Park if I get the chance . . . If there’s an event on in London that I can get to easily, I might be able to attend -- I love tennis and was invited to the finals at Queens and the Davis Cup at Wimbledon which was great. If I’m not in a show my Sundays are more active and I might go away for the weekend or spend time going to an exhibition or a show.

Q: What is your ideal Sunday?
EP: Right now, a perfect Sunday would be a quiet morning reading the Sunday papers and taking a little breakfast and then leisurely walking to a local restaurant with some of my really good friends for a late unhurried traditional lunch. A short walk and then relaxation again in the early evening prior to a calming massage. Then I’m ready for the week ahead back at the Palladium in my crinolines.

IN OTHER NEWS Tony Award winner Melba Moore shares her soulful journey of life through story and song in her one-woman show, Sweet Songs, which she will bring to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, April 21. Tickets range from $30 to $35 and may be purchased by calling (718) 951-4500 . . . Claiborne Cary performs at Arci’s Place this weekend with two shows tonight and tomorrow evening. There is a $30 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. Arci’s is located at 450 Park Avenue South, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 532-4370 . . . MAC and Bistro Award winner Natalie Douglas is currently performing her brand-new act, Bewitched, at the FireBird Cafe on West 46th Street. Douglas will perform at the New York hotspot through January 20; there is a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 586-0244 . . .

REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY

Jan. 5, 2001: Koger Center for the Arts (Univ. of SC) in Columbia, SC
Jan. 6: Georgia Institute of Technology Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 19-29: Florida Condo Tour in Florida
March 3: Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
May 12: College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
June 17: Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA

BARBARA COOK

Cook’s concert itinerary follows:

Jan. 12, 2001: at Alice Tully Hall in New York, NY (“The Music of Arthur Schwartz” with Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli and more)
Feb. 2: at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Feb. 23 and 24: with Michael Feinstein at the Cerritos Center for the Perf. Arts in Cerritos, CA LINDA EDER

Eder in concert:
Jan. 12 & 13, 2001: in Charlotte, NC at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; (704) 372-1000
Jan. 20, 2001: with the Boca Pops at Florida Atlantic Univ in Boca Raton, FL; go to: www.bocapops.org
Jan. 21: in Naples, FL at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts; (941) 597 1900
Feb. 1 & 2: in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
Feb. 3: at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO; (888) 920 2787
Feb. 15-17: in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; (202) 467-4600
Feb. 23: at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
Feb. 24: at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ; (973) 539-8008
March 8: in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd Hall; (727) 791-7400
March 9: in Sarasota, FL at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; www.vanwezel.org
March 10: in Melbourne, FL at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts; (407) 242-2219
March 17: at the Thomasville Cultural Center in Thomasville, GA (912 226-0588)
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

Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
April 8: ("Matters Of The Heart") at Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina; (919) 684-4444
Jan. 5-7, 2001: at the Morton J. Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX (214) 871-4000

KAREN MASON

What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
March 17: Appearance at 92nd Street Y with Craig Carnelia in New York, 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:
Jan. 5 and 6, 2001: at PAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with symphony)
Jan. 11: at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee
Jan. 13: at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
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