Hello, diva lovers! Nominations for this year's Drama Desk Awards were announced earlier this week, and congratulations are in order for Bernadette Peters, Carolee Carmello and Sian Phillips, who were all nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for their work in, respectively, Annie Get Your Gun, Parade and Marlene. Those women who scored Best Featured Actress in a Musical nominations include Gretha Boston (It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues), Kristen Chenoweth (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Cheryl Freeman (The Civil War), Penny Fuller (A New Brain), Jane Lanier (Fosse) and Eloise Laws (It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues). The Drama Desk Awards will be held on Sunday, May 9 in the concert hall of the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. The awards will be hosted by one of this year's nominees, Bernadette Peters, and New York 1 News will broadcast the event live, beginning at 9 PM.
EASTER BONNET COMPETITION
Divas were out in full force at this week's 13th annual Easter Bonnet Competition to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As usual, the event was an inspiring and often moving collection of songs and skits presented by most of the shows currently running on Broadway. Bernadette Peters was in fine vocal form for a sing-and-act-off with Ethel Merman (impersonated by AGYG's Ronn Carroll). You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown's Kristen Chenoweth poked fun at her new-found celebrity and also offered an operatic rendition of David Friedman's "Help Is on the Way" at the end of the evening. Miss Saigon's Lea Salonga modeled her show's Easter Bonnet to rapturous applause, and the legendary multi-Tony Award winner Gwen Verdon offered a few dance steps during Fosse's production number. A whopping two million dollars ($2,096,862) was raised for this very worthy organization.
Listening to the breathtaking cast recording of Parade, I was even more convinced how wonderful a score this highly underrated musical possesses. Easily the most moving musical of the season to date, Parade lasted just a few months at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater; however, thanks to RCA Victor and Lincoln Center, the score for the Jason Robert Brown production now lives on, and those who were not able to see the production can revel in the joys of another must have show recording.
Like the show, the single CD begins with the haunting ballad, "The Old Red Hills of Home," forcefully sung by Jeff Edgerton and then delivered by the company to a stirring effect. Other highlights include the bright and bouncy "The Picture Show," sung by Kirk McDonald (as Frankie Epps) and Christy Carlson Romano (Mary Phagan); Carolee Carmello's (who portrays Lucille Frank) melodic self-doubts in "What Am I Waiting For?"; the chilling "It Don't Make Sense," sung by Mary Phagan's friends after death; Carmello's passionate, full-voiced "You Don't Know This Man"; the lies of Phagan's young co-workers in "The Factory Girls"; Rufus Bonds' (who plays Jim Conley) show-stopping "That's What He Said," the final nail in Leo Frank's coffin; and Carmello and Carver's soaring second-act duet, "All the Wasted Time."
Let's hope the unfortunately quick demise of Parade doesn't discourage Jason Robert Brown from writing for the musical theatre. Of the up-and-coming new generation of composers -- those that Audra McDonald saluted on her solo debut album -- Mr. Brown has the greatest gift for melody and is a wonderful lyricist to boot.
ETHEL MERMAN'S GYPSY and MORE
Who would have thought that the best recorded version of Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne's "Little Lamb" would be made by Ethel Merman? Certainly not those who think of the late, legendary star as simply a belter. Though she is, perhaps, synonymous with that term, Merman -- whose wonderful gifts I have come to appreciate more fully in the past few years -- was capable of much more than powerhouse singing, and evidence of that is included in the re-released CD of Gypsy available from Columbia/Broadway Masterworks beginning May 18. The fourth series of re-releases from Columbia includes five titles: Cinderella; Flower Drum Song; Mame; Sweet Charity; No, No, Nanette; and, of course, Gypsy.
All the recordings -- except Flower Drum Song -- boast bonus tracks, but the previously unreleased material on the Gypsy recording are the tracks I found most fascinating. The first of these additions features Merman singing "Some People," accompanied only by a piano and offering some lyrics I had never before heard. In this rendition - one assumes an earlier version of the song -- Merman's Rose bargains with her father, and he eventually agrees to lend her not "88 bucks" but "50 bucks at two percent interest"! Rose then sings: "Thanks for the dream/ I needed that dream Papa/ Some people say 'Rose sit tight/Sweep all morning and sleep all night.'/ That's what you get from people who got nothing to give. Some people can sit around/ under glass till their underground/ That's peachy for some people who don't know how to live. Goodbye to blueberry pie. . ." That track is followed by Merman's medley of "Mr. Goldstone" and her aforementioned tender reading of "Little Lamb." The Gypsy recording also includes two songs that didn't make it to the final score: "Mama's Talkin' Soft," here sung by Laura Leslie, and "Nice She Ain't," a song about Rose that is sung on this recording by Bernie Knee.
The previously unreleased bonus tracks for the other five recordings are listed below:
CINDERELLA (Original TV cast recording, March 19, 1957)
"Mother and Daughter March" (Richard Rodgers, piano)
"In My Own Little Corner" (Julie Andrews)
"Waltz for a Ball" (Richard Rodgers, piano)
"A Lovely Night" (Julie Andrews)
MAME (Original B'way cast recording, May 29, 1966)
"St. Bridget" (Jerry Herman, piano, singer)
"It's Today" (Jerry Herman, piano, singer and Alice Borden, singer)
"Camouflage" (Jerry Herman, piano, singer and Alice Borden, singer)
"Open a New Window" (Jerry Herman, piano, singer and Alice Borden, singer)
"Mame" (Jerry Herman, piano, singer and Alice Borden, singer)
NO, NO, NANETTE (Broadway revival cast recording, Jan. 24, 1971)
"Only a Moment Ago" (Ruby Keeler, Jack Gilford)
Six promotional interview segments conducted backstage by Lee Jordan: interviewer Lee Jordan intro, Ruby Keeler, Bobby Van, Patsy Kelly, Helen Gallagher, Irving Caesar
SWEET CHARITY (Original Broadway cast recording, Feb. 6, 1996)
"I Love to Cry at Weddings" (Company)
"You Wanna Bet," "Where Am I Going," "If My Friends Could See Me Now" (all from "If My Friends Could See Me Now -- Cy Coleman Sings His Own Big Hits with Orchestra)
Four promotional interviews from opening night party at the Skylight Roof, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: Ethel Merman, Helen Gallagher, Neil Simon, Gwen Verdon.
I'm happy to report that the long-awaited cast recording of High Society, which had a brief run last season at the St. James Theater, is much more appealing on disc than it was onstage, thanks largely to the vocal prowess of its two female stars, Melissa Errico and Randy Graff. Although the arrangements make many of the songs more playful than moving -- and, let's face it, there's just no denying that many of Cole Porter's lyrics are no longer as witty as they surely once were ("Well, Did You Evah?" particularly) -- it is still an easy, delightful listen. And, any chance to listen to that diva-in-the-making Melissa Errico is reason enough to add the CD to your show collection. Highlights include Errico's opening tune, "Ridin' High"; her wonderful tones on "It's All Right With Me"; and Randy Graff's superior version of "He's a Right Guy." High Society is now available in record stores on the DRG label. (By the way, you may notice that the tracks are inaccurately listed on both the back cover and the inside foldout. For example, "It's All Right With Me" is listed as track 19, but it's actually track 16... also, there are 18 tracks rather than the 22 listed.)
IN OTHER NEWS It looks like Bette Midler will also perform at the upcoming Breast Cancer Research Foundation Spring Gala on May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House. As reported a few weeks ago, Elaine Paige -- who will be accompanied on the piano by Marvin Hamlisch -- is scheduled to delight the crowd with a handful of her biggest hits (see Reminders section for details) . . . Now through May 14, the golden-voiced Maureen McGovern can be seen at the Civic Theatre in Orlando, Florida, in a children's musical entitled The Bengal Tiger's Ball. McGovern has written the music for this production with lyrics by Mary Grace Dembeck and Judy Barron. New York audiences will be able to see McGovern next month when she begins a month-long stint at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room on May 18 . . . Singer/actress Klea Blackhurst, best known for her Off-Broadway performances in Radio Gals and Oil City Symphony, will star in Klea Blackhurst: A Concert, which will be held at the Westbeth Theater Center (151 Bank Street) on April 26 and May 3 at 8 PM. Her repertoire for the evening will include such songs as "Mountain Greenery," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," "Cockeyed Optimist," "That's Life," "I Can See Clearly Now" and many others. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling (212) 307 4100 . . . The current issue (April 26) of In Theater Magazine features Liza Minnelli as a guest editor. Included in the issue are several rare and heretofore unseen pictures of Minnelli with her mom, dad and such celebrities as Chita Rivera, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Peter Allen and many others . . . "That next afternoon we went to visit Noël [Coward], who had this enormous suite at the Savoy. He wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I was learning to tap-dance for The Boy Friend. Noël Coward got up and danced with me! Ð a mad afternoon." So says Twiggy (in an upcoming Playbill article by Jerry Tallmer) about one of her encounters with the late Noël Coward. Twiggy will star as Gertrude Lawrence opposite Harry (Crazy for You) Groener's Coward in Sheridan Morley's tribute to the two stars. Entitled If Love Were All, the musical evening begins performances at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on May 18.
On June 22 and 23, admirers of The Phantom of the Opera star will get a chance to see the singer in concert at City Center in New York City.
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.
April 23 College of New Jersey, Kendall Hall in Ewing, NJ
April 24 Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale, AZ
May 3 Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, IL
June 5 Myerson Symphony Center -- Obelisk Awards in Dallas, TX
June 7 PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
June 10-13 Theatrefest in Montclair, NJ
June 29 Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
Oct. 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
Oct. 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
Nov. 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
Nov. 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
Dec. 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
Dec. 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
Dec. 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
Dec. 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.
The songstress will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on Sept. 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
Following are a a handful of upcoming Paige concert dates in Sweden, which are listed below:
June 10 Ulriksdal (as part of the Royal Ulriksdal Palace Festival) in Stockholm, Sweden
June 12 Finspang Palace in Finspang (outside of Norrkoping), Sweden
June 17 Sofiero Palce in Helsingborg, Sweden
June 19 Tradgardsforeningen Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg, Sweden
Paige will also appear as the special guest of Cliff Richards at his concerts in Hyde Park, London, on July 16, 17 and 18. Tickets are available from First Call: 0171 420 1000. And, don't forget, EP will make a special appearance in New York City in May when she will perform at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's spring gala on Wednesday, May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House in the city. The event is being hosted by Barbara Walters, and Paige--who is expected to sing a handful of her biggest hits -will be accompanied on the piano by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch. For more information about this worthy event, contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at (212) 572-4249.
Bernadette Peters currently starring on Broadway as Annie Oakley in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The show's cast recording was recently released from Broadway Angel.
THE DIVA SERIES
The Public Theater's Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) celebrates the best of Broadway and cabaret in a new series devoted to the women who scat, swing, belt and croon. Lea DeLaria is currently up at bat at the new cabaret space (April 19, 26 and May 3), and she will be followed by Mary Cleere Haran (May 10 and 11), Ann Hampton Callaway (May 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22) and -- most exciting of all -- Ute Lemper (May 26, 27, 28, June 3, 4, 5 and 7). All shows are at 8:30 PM . Call (212) 239-6200 or (212) 539-8777.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.