DIVA TALK: Bonnets, CDs and News

DIVA TALK: Bonnets, CDs and News There were several exciting and poignant moments during Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ 14th Annual “Easter Bonnet Competition” held this past Monday and Tuesday at the New Amsterdam Theatre: the baton twirling magic of Chicago’s Jeff Shade; a pint-sized, three-minute version of Les Miserables; the hilarious Footloose skit, which thumbed its nose -- and other body parts -- at the theatre reviewers who damned the show, now two years on Broadway; Beauty and the Beast’s Barb Folts’ humorous antics in “Don’t Cry for Me Still in Beauty”; plus a cameo from Eartha Kitt and songs from two other legendary entertainers, Petula Clark (“Seize the Day”) and Johnny Mathis (“On Broadway” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries”). However, the vocal highlight of the performance was, without a doubt, delivered by Aida star Heather Headley. Headley offered a passionate, belty version of David Friedman’s “Help Is On the Way” that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet. As Headley’s voice soared in the anthem’s final verse, all of the Easter bonnets surrounded her, and the moment was both exhilarating and moving. . . And, Bernadette Peters and Kelsey Grammer announced that a whopping two million dollars ($2,129,168) was raised for this very worthy organization!

There were several exciting and poignant moments during Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ 14th Annual “Easter Bonnet Competition” held this past Monday and Tuesday at the New Amsterdam Theatre: the baton twirling magic of Chicago’s Jeff Shade; a pint-sized, three-minute version of Les Miserables; the hilarious Footloose skit, which thumbed its nose -- and other body parts -- at the theatre reviewers who damned the show, now two years on Broadway; Beauty and the Beast’s Barb Folts’ humorous antics in “Don’t Cry for Me Still in Beauty”; plus a cameo from Eartha Kitt and songs from two other legendary entertainers, Petula Clark (“Seize the Day”) and Johnny Mathis (“On Broadway” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries”). However, the vocal highlight of the performance was, without a doubt, delivered by Aida star Heather Headley. Headley offered a passionate, belty version of David Friedman’s “Help Is On the Way” that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet. As Headley’s voice soared in the anthem’s final verse, all of the Easter bonnets surrounded her, and the moment was both exhilarating and moving. . . And, Bernadette Peters and Kelsey Grammer announced that a whopping two million dollars ($2,129,168) was raised for this very worthy organization!

ALISON FRASER
On Alison Fraser’s new solo CD, “Men in My Life,” the Tony-nominated actress performs over a dozen songs that pay tribute to the various men who have influenced her life thus far. The former star of March of the Falsettos; Romance, Romance; and The Secret Garden delivers a wide array of tunes, many from new or lesser-known composers, including the album’s producer, Christopher McGovern. About this new CD, McGovern has this to say: “From the first minute Alison came to me with the concept for ‘Men in My Life’ I was intrigued. We were deep in rehearsals for Lizzie Borden,” McGovern explains, “and she told me she was starting to think about a follow-up album to her wonderful ‘New York Romance.’ This new project would be something of a musical diary -- a very personal collection of music, photos and memories. As we began to sift through songs, and to work on the arrangements, we folded in our graphics designer, Bob Weston, who would painstakingly restore, colorize and arrange the archival photos from her personal collection. Purposefully uncaptioned, the idea was to have these images work hand in hand with the music to evoke the memory of some of the most important and influential men in Alison’s life and career, and by extension to do the same for the listener.”


Fraser possesses one of the more unique voices in the business, a sweet, pure tone that is as ideally suited for soothing lullabies as it is for big Broadway ballads. Though her pronunciation can, at times, be a bit mannered, she is at her best when she’s delivering theatre tunes, which enable her, as an actress, to carefully explore the character and meaning of the songs. What’s especially exciting for Broadway fans on this recording are several previously unrecorded musical theatre tunes: “The Pill Song” from William Finn’s America Kicks Up Its Heels; In Trousers’ “The Passion of Rhoda,” which also features vocals from composer Finn; Charles Leipart and Eric Schorr’s “Smoke” from espresso trasho; and two tunes from David and Joseph Zellnik’s City of Dreams.


Highlights of the recording include McGovern’s lilting opener, “Storyteller”; a lovely medley of Zellnick and Zellnick’s “City of Dreams” and “The End Comes Softly”; Todd Rundgren’s “Parallel Lines,” a song from the musical Up Against It, in which Fraser appeared at the Public Theater; Keith Hermann and Barry Harman’s beautiful ode to romance, “Romantic Notions”; Finn’s “The Pill Song,” a dark, humorous tune that Fraser brings to vivid life; and the CD’s title track, “Men in My Life,” a composition by Fraser and McGovern. The very enjoyable disc is available from Original Cast Records. ELAINE PAIGE
I’ve been hearing wonderful reports about Elaine Paige’s performance in the London revival of The King and I. Many friends have seen the new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, which is currently in previews prior to a May 3 opening at the London Palladium. Paige has also been the subject of several interviews in the London papers, and I thought you would enjoy reading excerpts from a recent piece by writer Louise Gannon:


about her post Sunset Boulevard feelings:
“I was emotionally and physically shattered. My voice was shot to pieces. I was tired beyond belief, but most of all I had just lost the will to do this any more . . . I had spent the past few years doing back-to-back performances that were seriously exhausting: Piaf, followed by Sunset Boulevard over here, followed by Sunset Boulevard on Broadway. When the show finished, I came home and I felt broken down. I was at my lowest ebb . . . I couldn't see anything being that wonderful again. I could not see myself going back to what I'd done before. So I didn't, I couldn't. I just stopped right there and then."


about her reception in the Broadway production of Sunset:
“The reaction out there took me totally by surprise. The first night, when I walked out on stage, the whole audience was up on its feet, cheering and cheering. I didn't even imagine they would know who I was. Every night there were queues at the stage door, with people wanting to talk to me about my performance. My performance, can you believe it! That's all they wanted to know.”


about her research into the life of The King and I’s Anna:
"I wanted to understand what sort of a woman of that time could travel to a different culture and do that job. The more I found out about her, the more I admired her. She was a true feminist. A strong woman who lived her life as she wanted to, paying no dues and receiving none from any man."


about her (Paige’s) work and finding personal happiness:
"I was totally comfortable when I was on stage, but when it wasn't working I was fraught with insecurities. I realised I wasn't very good at just being myself, because I've never spent much time as myself . . . [After a two-year period of traveling, socializing] I feel completely confident and comfortable about myself. I don't care what anyone else thinks, I'm over that. I think I've finally grown up."

IN OTHER NEWS May 7 should be a dream evening for belter fans when Idina Menzel, Orfeh, Alice Ripley, Daphne Rubin-Vega, SpRing and Kay Story take part in She Rocks Broadway, a one-night only benefit concert for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The evening, which begins at 8 PM at the Westbeth Theatre (151 Bank Street), will feature some of Broadway’s most formidable young female performers singing their own original tunes. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door; call (212) 840-0770 x239 for more information . . . Lea Salonga fans in her native Philippines will finally be able to see the actress in the role that won her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. It was reported earlier this week that Salonga will indeed star as Kim in the upcoming Manila production of Miss Saigon. Salonga announced the news by video-phone from New York during a press conference this past Wednesday at the Cultural Center for the Philippines. Stay tuned for performance dates . . . Tickets for Audra McDonald’s upcoming concert to benefit GMHC on Monday, June 12 are now available. Call (212) 367-1514 for more information . . . Legendary star of stage and screen, Kaye Ballard, will return to the New York nightclub scene on May 9. Ballard will perform “Another Final Farewell Appearance” at Arci’s Place (450 Park Avenue South) through June 3. The program will include tributes to show-biz legends like Mabel Mercer and Alice Faye with songs by Irving Berlin, Harry Warren, Carolyn Leigh, Portia Nelson and others. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 9 PM, Fridays at 8:30 PM and Saturdays at 8:30 and 11 PM. There is a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 532-4370 for reservations . . . Congratulations to this year’s Drama Desk nominees for Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Toni Collette (The Wild Party -- Broadway), Heather Headley (Aida), Rebecca Luker (The Music Man), Audra McDonald (Marie Christine), Marin Mazzie (Kiss Me, Kate) and Julia Murney (The Wild Party -- MTC). Those in the Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical category include Nancy Anderson (Jolson and Co.), Sally Anne Howes (The Dead), Eartha Kitt (The Wild Party -- Broadway), Alix Korey (The Wild Party -- MTC), Idina Menzel (The Wild Party -- MTC) and Karen Ziemba (Contact).

REMINDERS
BETTY BUCKLEY
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
May 13 Benefit for the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 266-0800
June 30 & July 1 John Drew Theatre (Guild Hall) in East Hampton, NY
July 24 Martin Theatre (Ravinia Festival) in Highland Park, IL
August 21-September 3 Donmar Warehouse in London, UK
September 16 Stranahan Theatre in Toledo, OH
October 6-7 Scottsdale Center for the Arts Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ
October 28 Univ. of Texas Cowan Fine & Perf. Arts Center in Tyler, TX

BARBARA COOK
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
Now through April 29 at the Cafe Carlyle, NYC (212) 744-1600
June 13 at the Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656-4401
September 14 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
September 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
September 28-October 1 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
May 6 at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Benefit in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX (713) 334-4400
May 20 at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL (312) 977-1700
July 8 with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14 with Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15 with Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274-6564
July 16 with Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
August 6 with Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
August 8 with Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
August 9 with Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
August 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050

August 25 with Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org

August 26 Boys & Girls Club Fundraiser at The River Center w/ Michael Feinstein in Minneapolis, MN
September 26 at the Jones Hall w/Houston Symphony in Houston, TX; call (713) 224-7575
November 4 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
November 17 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ; call (732) 246 SHOW
November 18 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA; call (610) 252-3132 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:
May 4-6 in Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632 ARTS
June 8-11 at Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112

KAREN MASON
April 29 Benefit for Community Health in Chicago; call (773) 395 9901
May 3-14 Davenport’s Cabaret in Chicago; call 773-278-1830
May 26-27 Mason opens the Cabaret series at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
June 1-4 Theatre concert at the new Metropolis Theatre in Arlington Heights, IL; call (847) 577-2121
June 5 Opening night of the San Francisco Cabaret Convention
June 7 The Plush Room in San Francisco; call 415-885-2800
Sept. 5 - Oct. 14 Arci’s Place, 450 Park Avenue, New York, NY; call (212) 532-4370.

AUDRA McDONALD

Scheduled concert dates for McDonald follow:
Now through April 29 with the Atlanta Symphony (Kurt Weill/ “Seven Deadly Sins”)
May 4-6 in Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Boston, MA
May 14 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

LIZA MINNELLI
Tour dates for Minnelli on Minnelli follow:
May 3-7 at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL
June 7 & 8 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Stage College, PA
June 10 & 11 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH
September 13-17 at the Wharton Ctr. for the Perf. Arts in East Lansing, MI
October 6-22 at Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI
November 1-5 at the Wang Center in Boston, MA
November 12 at the Performing Arts Center in Naples, Florida
November 14 & 15 at the Maxwell King Center in Melbourne, Florida
November 17 & 18 at the Moran Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida
December 6-10 at the Lyric Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland
December 13-17 at the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
December 27-31 at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida
March 7-11 at the Civic Theatre in San Diego, CA

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

By Andrew Gans