DIVA TALK: Buckley on Video, Petula on CD, Divas Onstage

DIVA TALK: Buckley on Video, Petula on CD, Divas Onstage BETTY BUCKLEY
I had the pleasure of attending the screening of "Betty Buckley: In Performance & In Person" this past Tuesday evening at the The Players Club in Gramercy Park. The documentary, which includes footage from Buckley's most recent Bottom Line gig, will delight BB's fans, both new and old. The 84-minute film -- to be aired some time next year on American television -- also features interviews with Buckley and many of her strongest advocates: writer Peter Stone; actor F. Murray Abraham; producers Roger Hess and Kevin Duncan; actress Ellen Burstyn, who became a fan and friend of Buckley's after seeing her in Sunset Boulevard (she subsequently returned to catch her performance in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical three more times); composer Stephen Schwartz (who changed the sheet music to "Meadowlark" after hearing Buckley's wonderful interpretation of that Baker's Wife tune); pianist/musical conductor Kenny Werner; as well as her mom, Betty Bob Buckley, and brother Norman.

BETTY BUCKLEY
I had the pleasure of attending the screening of "Betty Buckley: In Performance & In Person" this past Tuesday evening at the The Players Club in Gramercy Park. The documentary, which includes footage from Buckley's most recent Bottom Line gig, will delight BB's fans, both new and old. The 84-minute film -- to be aired some time next year on American television -- also features interviews with Buckley and many of her strongest advocates: writer Peter Stone; actor F. Murray Abraham; producers Roger Hess and Kevin Duncan; actress Ellen Burstyn, who became a fan and friend of Buckley's after seeing her in Sunset Boulevard (she subsequently returned to catch her performance in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical three more times); composer Stephen Schwartz (who changed the sheet music to "Meadowlark" after hearing Buckley's wonderful interpretation of that Baker's Wife tune); pianist/musical conductor Kenny Werner; as well as her mom, Betty Bob Buckley, and brother Norman.

The beautifully-edited program includes complete performances of several Buckley standards (thrilling renditions of "Memory," "Meadowlark," "With One Look," "Boulder to Birmingham," "Angel from Montgomery") as well as some new additions to her repertoire (a heartbreaking "Serenity"). Some of the more exciting moments of the Gene Feldman produced-and directed program were hearing an early demo tape of "One Boy" that Buckley recorded during college and watching Buckley's final mad scene as Norma Desmond in Sunset. (After the viewing of the documentary, Buckley was joined onstage at The Players Club by Gene Feldman, the documentarian; actors Ellen Burstyn and F. Murray Abraham; composer Stephen Schwartz; and Buckley's vocal coach, Joan Lader. The onstage group answered questions from the enthusiastic audience.) Stay tuned for broadcast dates and times.

Buckley also received rave reviews from the New Jersey critics for her work in the current Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy. The New York critics will attend the Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne/Arthur Laurents musical this weekend, and reviews should hit the N.Y. papers early next week. What follows are some excerpts from the New Jersey reviews:

Peter Filichia in the New Jersey Star-Ledger:
". . .I've seen Gypsy from sea (Cambridge, Mass.) to shining sea (Seattle, Wash.), but I've never heard anyone sing it as well as Betty Buckley did Friday night at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Of course, she has the material. Composer Jule Styne and lyricist Stephen Sondheim not only gave their musical's central character a powerhouse first-act ending ("Everything's Coming Up Roses"), but also a knockout finale called "Rose's Turn," in which she asks, `Why did I do it? What did it get me?' On Friday, it sure got Buckley a wild, minute-long (and well-deserved) roar of approval that ever-so-slightly eclipsed the thunderclap of applause she received for her earlier song. That Buckley deftly handled both tours-de-force will not surprise her many fans. Bookwriter Arthur Laurents called for Rose to almost suffer a nervous breakdown at each point. So who has more experience playing this than Buckley, the emotionally ravaged Grizabella of Cats, and the crazed Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard? Though most of the songs demand that Buckley be as tough as a Kenneth Starr report, she shows she can be charming in "Together, Wherever We Go" and tender in "Small World," in which she seduces Herbie, a candy salesman, into becoming the agent for her daughters. . ."

Charles Paolino in the Home News Tribune:
"If you leave the house just once in the next six weeks, go see Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse. That way you can be sure your one trip will be worthwhile. What you'll find is a fool-proof combination: a classic American musical, an outstanding creative team, and one of the best stage performers of our time -- Betty Buckley . . . It's a property that requires a dominating figure in the principal role -- Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly have played Mama Rose on Broadway -- and the Paper Mill has one in Betty Buckley. The two-time Tony winner has all of the tools needed for this demanding role. She can belt out the soaring tunes, but she also can caress each word of the witty and literate lyrics. She can play with equal effect scenes that range from broad comedy to wrenching drama. Her cultivation of the woman's desperate need to be noticed, even if it's only through her daughters, is skillful, at times almost frightening. Her delivery of `Rose's Turn,' the tense and emotional song in which Mama finally confronts the reasons for her driving ambition, nearly stops the show before it's over." Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen in The Asbury Park Press:
"Some people say Gypsy is America's greatest musical. Maybe. It's certainly one of the best. With Betty Buckley as Mama Rose in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy, there is definitely greatness in the performance as well as the show, which is filled with memorable songs featuring the music of Jule Styne, the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents. From the moment the overture begins and rolls across the audience like thunder across the prairie until nearly three hours later as the final notes of ‘Rose's Turn' fade away, you know why the American musical is an art form and not just another entertainment. There are actors today who can sing. And there are singers who can act. Rare is the performer who does both well. Buckley does both superbly well. You hear every syllable of every word of every song. And you see Buckley making choices about characterization that gives new depth to the near maniacal Rose, whose goal in life is to have a daughter become a headliner on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.

During `Rose's Turn,' she conveys the pain and torment of a woman who was abandoned by her mother, three husbands, one daughter and an agent who also was her lover. Now she is on the verge of losing her other daughter, the only other person she has any emotional attachment to. During the song, she calls out for her own mother as much as she does for her daughters.

It is an unbelievable acting job wrapped up in a well-sung song and worth the price of admission. Buckley does neurotic well. She played Norma Desmond both in London and on Broadway in Sunset Boulevard. Last season she garnered a Tony Award nomination for the uptight Hesione in Triumph of Love. But there is more to it than that. There is depth, conviction, craftsmanship, new insight and a consuming love for the art. Buckley is a former Texas cheerleader (just watch her twirl that baton in ‘Together, Wherever We Go') who has dabbled in TV and movies, neither of which showcase her talent like a stage. This Broadway diva gives one hell of a performance as Mama Rose and the opening night audience on Friday night gave her a standing ovation. . ."

BERNADETTE PETERS

How exciting it was to open up the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section and see the full-page color ad for the upcoming revival of Annie Get Your Gun starring the one-and-only Bernadette Peters. The Irving Berlin musical will also feature Tom Wopat, best known for his work on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. Annie Get Your Gun will make its home at the Marquis Theatre, which housed Peters' last Broadway outing, The Goodbye Girl, and I can't wait to hear the Tony winner wrap her voice around such classic Berlin tunes as "They Say It's Wonderful," "I Got Lost in His Arms," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and more. Previews will begin on Feb. 2, 1999, and tickets are available by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100.

DIVAS UNITE

The final list of divas was announced earlier this week for My Favorite Broadway -- The Leading Ladies, the one-night musical extravaganza that will be hosted by Julie Andrews at Carnegie Hall on September 28. Those scheduled to perform the songs that have made them Broadway favorites include Liza Minnelli, Rosie O'Donnell, Chita Rivera, Nell Carter, Barbara Cook, Jennifer Holliday, Dorothy Loudon, Marin Mazzie, Anna Kendrick, Madeline Kahn, Faith Prince, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy, Judy Kuhn, Audra McDonald, Lea DeLaria and Priscilla Lopez. The evening, featuring direction by Scott (1776, Steel Pier ) Ellis, is being produced by Continental Airlines, Metropolitan Entertainment Group, Allen Newman and Tony Adams. For those of you who will be unable to attend the event, fear not. The festivities will be taped for the Great Performances series on PBS, and a CD and video cassette will also be made available for sale. Tickets range in price from $50 to $250 and may be purchased by calling Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

**Betty Buckley (who was originally announced to perform) will be unable to participate in the diva evening.

PETULA CLARK
Coinciding with Petula Clark's upcoming national tour in Sunset Boulevard will be the release of her newest solo album, featuring songs from Broadway, the movies and three original tunes, two of which were composed by Clark herself. A Varèse Sarabande recording, the CD was produced by Bruce Kimmel (who, thankfully, has made it his mission to record as many divas as possible) with musical direction by Ron Abel. The yet-unnamed CD will be released Oct. 20, and following is a sneak peek at the track listings:

"Look To the Rainbow"
"I Concentrate on You"
"Children Will Listen"
"Here For You"
"Falling In Love Again"
"Not a Day Goes By"
"I Never Do Anything Twice"
"Easy"
untitled new Michel Legrand song
"Here We Are"
"Pinball Wizard"
"Seasons of Love"
"Losing My Mind"
"Stranger in Paradise" ANDREA MARCOVICCI
This year's American Music Theatre Festival (AMTF) gala, titled "Putting It Together," will salute the music of Stephen Sondheim on Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Academy of Natural Sciences' Dinosaur Hall (19th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway). Cabaret star Andrea Marcovicci will perform an array of songs by the composer of Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Follies, Company and other award-winning musicals. AMTF's Rainbow Company will join Marcovicci for a few numbers, and there will also be a special live auction of "musical theatre offerings." The gala will feature the presentation of the annual AMTF Stephen Sondheim Award (given to an emerging composer who explores innovative approaches to musical theatre), which will be presented to Peter Foley, a New York based composer. Past recipients include Elliot Goldenthal, Julie Taymor, James McBride and the late Jonathan Larson; in fact, Larson's parents will be on hand to present this year's award to Mr. Foley. Call (215) 893-1570 for more information.

SIMON'S DIVAS
As one of the few who enjoyed much of the past season's The Capeman -- especially Paul Simon's beautiful, haunting score and the show's innovative set designs -- I was happy to receive the latest recording from Varèse Sarabande, "The Paul Simon Album. " Not only does the CD include many beloved Simon tunes ("50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "The Sounds of Silence"), but it also features a track from the ill-fated The Capeman ("Bernadette"). Additionally, the recording, which was produced by Bruce Kimmel and arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Lanny Meyers, boasts a host of Broadway performers and a wide range of divas: Marcia (Tommy, Ragtime) Mitzman-Gaven, Sally (She Loves Me) Mayes, Lauren (Emily Skinner's Side Show understudy) Kennedy , Liz (A New Brain) Larsen, Jane (Grand Hotel) Krakowski, Christiane (Jekyll & Hyde) Noll and cabaret performer/composer Amanda ("The Rose") McBroom.

I started to list the highlights from the recording, then realized I named almost every track (with the possible exception of a somewhat screechy performance of "Keep the Customers Satisfied" by Liz Larsen), so instead, here is the complete song list from "The Paul Simon Album," which is subtitled "Broadway Sings the Best of Paul Simon:"

"Kodachrome" / Christiane Noll
"Bernadette" / Drew Sarich
"Still Crazy After All These Years" / Amanda McBroom
"Red Rubber Ball"/ Alet Oury
"America" / Jose Llana
"50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" / Jane Krakowski
"So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" / Sal Viviano
"Feelin1 Groovy" & "At the Zoo" / Sally Mayes
"The Sounds of Silence" / Jason Raize
"Keep the Customers Satisfied" / Liz Larsen
"I Do it For Your Love" / Tammi Tappan
"The Graduate Medley /Jason Graae
"Homeward Bound" / Lauren Kennedy
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" / Marcia Mitzman-Gaven
"Bookends & Old Friends" / Guy Haines


VCR Alert:
That divine diva, Bette Midler, will be a guest on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" this Monday, Sept. 21. Midler will discuss and perform excerpts from her new album, "Bathhouse Betty," and she will join O'Donnell for the entire hour. Stage and screen legend Julie Andrews will also make an appearance on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" on Wednesday, Sept. 23, just prior to her appearance in My Favorite Broadway -- The Leading Ladies on Sept. 28 at Carnegie Hall.

REMINDERS:

LAURIE BEECHMAN
It was announced last week that the tribute concert honoring the late Laurie (Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) Beechman will be held at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia on Monday, Nov. 30. Titled "Let the Memory Live Again: A Musical Celebration for Laurie Beechman," the concert will benefit Gilda's Club, where Beechman found support during her struggles with ovarian cancer. Those already scheduled to perform include Patti LaBelle, Sam Harris, Christiane Noll, Douglas Sills and more. Call (202) 226-1780 for more information or visit Congressman Fox's web site (http://www.house.gov/fox).

BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley and Deborah Gibson currently star in Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey through Oct. 25. Tickets range from $25-$55 and $10 student tickets may be available 15 minutes prior to curtain. For tickets and more information, call (973) 376-4343...

Concert line-up:
Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 1998 at the Bottom Line, in New York, NY
Nov. 6 in at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, PA
Dec. 28 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
Dec. 29 at the Kravis Center for the Perf Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec. 31 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL
Jan. 14, 1999 in Irvine, CA
Jan. 16, 1999 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17, 1999 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23, 1999 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3, 1999 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, IL.

PETULA CLARK
Concert list:
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)


KAREN MASON
On Sept. 26, the former Sunset Boulevard standby-to-the-stars will perform at the Bay Street Theatre (516) 725-9500; tix are $25). An appearance at the upcoming Cabaret Convention brings Mason to New York's Town Hall, Oct. 13. Mason will teach a master class at UCLA Oct. 14, and then she will sing in concert at that University on Oct. 17, a concert that is being presented by Michael Kerker and ASCAP. And, from Nov. 4-14, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20, 1999 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10, 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri
Dec. 31, 1999 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)


RAINBOW & STARS
Cybill Shepherd Now through Sept. 19.
Kathie Lee Gifford Oct. 6 - Oct. 10.
David Campbell Oct. 13 - Oct. 31.
Ann Hampton Callaway Nov. 3 - 14
Karen Akers Nov. 17 - 5


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

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com