I believe I started videotaping the Tony Awards telecasts back in 1980 when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita won the Tony for Best Musical. I can still remember watching — and rewatching — Patti LuPone's sensational performance, with co-stars Mandy Patinkin and Bob Gunton, of Evita's Act I finale, "A New Argentina." A family member (who shall remain nameless) accidentally taped over that telecast, but by 1990(!) all was forgiven. Now, finally, I have that performance back on video, thanks to a new PBS special entitled "Broadway's Lost Treasures." I received a screener of the video this week, and diva fans, you'll be in seventh heaven watching this program, which will air during the August pledge drive on PBS stations across the country. (Those in the metropolitan New York area will be treated to the special Aug. 10 at 8 PM on WNET/Thirteen.)
"Broadway's Lost Treasures" is divided into four segments: "Broadway Divas," "Leading Men," "Dancin'" and "Record Breakers." And, the final category — "Record Breakers" — might as well have been called "Broadway Divas 2" as it features Betty Buckley's moving rendition of "Memory," Jennifer Holliday's riveting "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and Andrea McArdle's Annie anthem, "Tomorrow." The complete list of performers and songs follows:
Vivian Blaine singing Guys and Dolls' "Adelaide's Lament"
Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin and Bob Gunton singing Evita's "A New Argentina"
Angela Lansbury singing Sweeney Todd's "Worst Pies in London"
Carol Channing singing Hello, Dolly!'s "Before the Parade Passes By"
Julie Andrews singing A Little Night Music's "Send in the Clowns"
Zero Mostel singing Fiddler on the Roof's "If I Were A Rich Man"
Yul Brynner and Patricia Morrison singing The King and I's "Shall We Dance"
John Raitt singing The Pajama Game's "Hey There"
Robert Preston singing The Music Man's "Trouble"
Richard Kiley singing Man of La Mancha's "The Impossible Dream"
Joel Grey in Cabaret's "Wilkommen"
Tommy Tune and Twiggy in My One and Only's "Kickin' the Clouds Away"
Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera in Chicago's "All That Jazz" and "Nowadays"
Jerry Orbach in 42nd Street's "Lullaby of Broadway" Record Breakers:
Andrea McArdle singing Annie's "Tomorrow"
Jennifer Holliday singing Dreamgirls' "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
Betty Buckley and the company of Cats singing "Jellicle Songs" and "Memory"
THE DIVAS OF KANDER AND EBB:
I recently received an advanced proof of the upcoming biography of songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb. Entitled "Colored Lights: Forty Years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz," the 234-page tome will be released in November by Faber and Faber, Inc. A wonderful, easy read, the often-dishy and highly informative book is written in dialogue format: It's actually a chat between the writers of Cabaret and Chicago as told to Greg Lawrence and covers all their theatrical works. Liza Minnelli, who starred in Kander and Ebb's first major partnership, Flora, the Red Menace, supplies an introduction and director Hal Prince (who directed the team's Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman) has written the foreword.
The chapter titles include "And Then We Wrote," "Flora, the Red Menace," "Cabaret and The Happy Time," "Zorba and 70, Girls, 70," "Chicago on Broadway," "The Act and Woman of the Year," "The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Steel Pier and And the World Goes 'Round," "Chicago, the Movie" and "Colored Lights." Some of the book is simply fascinating. Here's an especially illuminating section that discusses Liza Minnelli and her legendary mother, the late Judy Garland:
Kander: In writing for [Liza], I don't think we ever thought in terms of her mother. We only thought of Judy as a kind of specter hanging over Liza. She was a controversial figure, and I guess in some ways still is. People would cruelly write that she was only getting work because she was her mother's daughter. That was always there, and I think Liza was terribly aware of it.
Ebb: Judy came to the opening night of Flora. We had written the song "You Are You," and one of the lyrics was "You are not Myrna Loy, Myrna Loy is Myrna Loy. You are you." After the show, Judy came backstage and said to me, "Listen, I have suggestion for that song. 'You are not Judy Garland, Judy Garland is Judy Garland. You are you.' That's what it should be." Then she turned around and walked away. I thought, my God, how amazing that she would say a thing like that. I later told Liza, and she was humiliated.
Kander: She had the curse of being Judy Garland's daughter. She was always afraid that her mother would be in the audience and overshadow her. With the first nightclub act that she did, there was a question whether Judy was going to be there or not, and as I recall, Liza tried to get you to make sure she wasn't there. But her mother did show up, and that night Liza sat in front of her dressing mirror just shaking.
Ebb: She was torn — "Do I introduce her? Do I not introduce her?" There were a couple of incidents. At the Waldorf-Astoria, Liza leaned down to her mother in the audience, and Judy literally grabbed her off the stage, then got up there with her. Liza sat on the side of the stage while Judy did two or three numbers, with the audience going crazy.
The Tony-winning duo also discuss Liza's return to Broadway when she stepped into the cast of Chicago during Gwen Verdon's brief illness:
Kander: When Gwen was sick during Chicago, Liza took over for eight weeks and she came close to making the show a hit.
Ebb: She did all of Gwen's blocking.
Kander: She learned that show in a week.
Ebb: I guess I should confess this. I had been with Liza in California, and when we were on our way back to New York on the plane, when I knew Liza was going to do Chicago, I was egging her on to get little things back into the show that I lost during my collaboration with Fosse. I desperately wanted "My Own Best Friend" to be a song just for Roxie. That was the way it was originally supposed to be done. But Bobby took that song and added Chita as Velma. He had them at the edge of the stage, obviously mocking the high-end cabaret singers with their phony Oh-look-at-me attitude. He hated songs like —
Kander: "I Did It My Way."
Ebb: And "I Gotta Be Me." He hated them. And this was his take on how you would sing "My Own Best Friend" if you were that kind of performer. I thought what he did belittled the song. But Liza knew she had power coming into the show, and on the plane she told me, "I'll get it back." During a rehearsal, she said, "Bobby, I would like to sing this number by myself." That meant having Chita not come out, which was fine with Chita. The first night that Liza sang it, she got a tremendous hand, and she whispered into the microphone, "How about that Bobby!" I don't know who heard her. To me it was like she had yelled it out.
Kander: I never heard that.
Ebb: I was frightened that she said it. "How about that, Bobby." But she idolized him. I remember when we did Liza with a Z, Bobby made "Ring Them Bells" a production number. . . "
Ebb: I had a fantastic time with that lady. We had established early on a funny thing between us, when she called the house one day. I answered the phone and she said, "Hello." I said, "Hello Jimmy." I was absolutely convinced that she was Jimmy Coco, with whom I had been playing poker regularly. "This is not Jimmy," said the voice. I said, "Oh, come on, Jimmy, I have to be somewhere. Don't hold me up. What do you want?" She said, "I don't want anything." She would not let me off the hook, and I kept calling her Jimmy.
Kander: She is Jimmy to this day.
"Colored Lights" is a must for musical theatre fans and, of course, diva lovers.
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, who recently starred in the Williamstown Theatre Festival's production of The Threepenny Opera, will be part of the fall season at Feinstein's at the Regency. Buckley will play the intimate cabaret Oct. 28-Nov. 8. The season at the plush cabaret, helmed by cabaret veteran Michael Feinstein, kicks off Sept. 23-27 with Ronan Tynan. "Who's the Boss?" star Tony Danza plays Sept. 30-Oct. 11, and Jimmy Webb will be joined by Feinstein himself for shows Oct 13 18. Country singer Crystal Gayle is scheduled to play Oct. 21-25, and husband and wife music makers Cleo Laine and John Dankworth will offer shows Nov. 11-15. Composer-lyricist Carole Bayer Sager is set to perform Nov. 18-22, and Feinstein returns with "The Great American Holiday Songbook" Nov. 24-Dec. 27. Feinstein will also offer a special New Year's eve program Dec. 31. Feinstein's at the Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 339-4095. Shows at Feinstein's play Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with late shows Friday and Saturday nights at 11 PM. . . . Veteran actress Elaine Stritch — currently wowing San Francisco audiences at the Curran Theatre with her acclaimed Elaine Stritch at Liberty — has joined the company of celebrities who will take part in Help Is On the Way IX. Presented by The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, the star-studded performance is scheduled for July 28 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco, CA. The evening begins with a 5:30 PM silent auction followed by the 8 PM concert and a post-show champagne and dessert party with the cast. The concert will include performances from a host of celebrities from the worlds of theatre, cabaret, TV and film. Among those scheduled to take part in the fundraiser are Stritch, Stefanie Powers, Michele Lee, Lucie Arnaz, Rod McKuen, Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker, Lisa Vroman, Brian Boitano, Carole Cook, Mary Jo Catlett, Penny Fuller, Lisa Viggiano, Meg MacKay, Spencer Day, Sean McDermott, Leslie Jordan, Kenny Washington and the cast of the Phantom of the Opera national tour. Tickets for the show only are priced at $50 and $75; tickets for the show plus the champagne and dessert party begin at $150. Call (415) 273-1620 for reservations; visit www.helpisontheway.org for more information. . . . Randy Graff will replace the previously announced Joan Rivers in the Aug. 4 reading of A. R. Gurney's much-performed two-hander, Love Letters. Due to another commitment, comedienne-actress Rivers has bowed out of the Aug. 4 evening, which will now feature Tony Award winner Graff and director-actor Lonny Price. This is the first of several Monday evenings of the acclaimed Gurney work being presented at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre in New York's West Village. Graff and Price will be followed by pairings of Charles Busch and Jim Dale (Aug. 11), Alison Fraser and Stephen Bogardus (Aug. 18), Daisy Eagan and Matt Bogart (Aug. 25), Phil Geoffrey Bond and Kristy Cates (Sept. 1), Seth Rudetsky and Leslie Kritzer (Sept. 8), Tonya Pinkins and Jerry Dixon (Sept. 15) and Andrew Lippa (Sept. 22). Tickets for Love Letters are priced at $18 plus a two-drink minimum; call (212) 255-5438 for reservations. The Duplex Cabaret Theatre is located at 61 Christopher Street.
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Aug. 29-30 at the Stockbridge Cabaret in Stockbridge, MA
Jan. 31, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
May 8, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY
Barbara Cook in Concert:
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert:
Aug. 5 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Aug. 22-23 in Passion at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
Oct. 25 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Jan. 24, 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Karen Mason in Concert:
July 25-26 at the Desisto School Cabaret in Stockbridge, MA
July 27 at the Bradstan Country Inn in Whitelake, NY
Aug. 8 at the Gala Opening of the Chicago Theater Festival in Chicago, IL
Aug. 15-16 at Odette's in New Hope, PA
Aug. 18 at the King Kong Room in New York, NY
Oct. 4 with the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, IL
Oct. 18 at the Emelin Theater in NY
Nov. 15 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
Christiane Noll in Concert
Aug. 28 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 29 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 30 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Oct. 11 Chattanooga, TN with Don Pippin
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!