DIVA TALK: Buckley Says Goodbye to Norma

DIVA TALK: Buckley Says Goodbye to Norma BETTY BUCKLEY
Well, tomorrow night marks the end of Betty's critically-hailed run as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. It is sure to be a tremendous evening, with many of BB's fans attending this final performance.

I received word from Sterling Records, Buckley's recording company, that her recent Carnegie Hall performance is due in stores on September 17. The recording, which features 74 minutes of the concert, contains 21 songs, and 16 of these have never been recorded by Betty before. Only four songs from the concert did not make the single-CD release. *Also, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of An Evening at Carnegie Hall will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

There was another review of Buckley's concert in POZ Magazine that I thought you might be interested in reading. Here are a few excerpts from Dick Scanlan's article entitled "One Night Only":

BETTY BUCKLEY
Well, tomorrow night marks the end of Betty's critically-hailed run as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. It is sure to be a tremendous evening, with many of BB's fans attending this final performance.

I received word from Sterling Records, Buckley's recording company, that her recent Carnegie Hall performance is due in stores on September 17. The recording, which features 74 minutes of the concert, contains 21 songs, and 16 of these have never been recorded by Betty before. Only four songs from the concert did not make the single-CD release. *Also, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of An Evening at Carnegie Hall will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

There was another review of Buckley's concert in POZ Magazine that I thought you might be interested in reading. Here are a few excerpts from Dick Scanlan's article entitled "One Night Only":

"In 1961, Judy Garland gave a now legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, captured on a two-record set that has never gone out of print. Though countless acts have followed at Carnegie Hall, the torch of talent and showmanship remained firmly in Garland's grip until June 10, when Broadway diva Betty Buckley gave her debut concert at the famed hall to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

. . . Many of the songs she chose for her BC/EFA concert were culled from her career, including "Unexpected Song," "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and "Memory." In addition, the audience got to see what she's done outside of New York City with some of musical theater's most coveted roles. Buckley's version of "Rose's Turn" makes you forget the Mama Roses who've gone before her, from Merman to Midler.

Part Jolson and part Joni Mitchell, Buckley makes a show tune sound hip, so her choice of "Seasons of Love" from Rent, the widely-acclaimed Hair of the '90s, was a perfect fit. It's also a great statement to people who are HIV positive. Perhaps the greatest triumph of Buckley's concert was the clarity of her focus: Rather than make the evening about Betty Buckley, star, she reminded the sellout crowd that her concert was first and foremost an affirmation of caring, compassion and respect for PWAs. Hence her final encore, the rarely sung "My House" from Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan. The modern melody belies the simplicity of Wendy's message: "Only build my house with love."

PATTI LuPONE
Patti continues her triumphant run in Terrence McNally's Master Class. Still no definite word whether La LuPone will be taking this play to London, although it was announced this week that another Sunset alum, Faye Dunaway (who never actually got to play the role), will be playing Maria Callas for the road tour of MC.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Hope you caught Bernadette on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee this past week. Bernadette spoke about her wedding and her new recording, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and then delivered a shortened, but moving rendition of Stephen Sondheim's "No One Is Alone." It's a shame we don't get to see more of Peters, because whenever she performs it's always so top-notch. She is so at ease when she sings and really lets the message of a song come through her like very few other performers.

Next week, I'll post a column about the conversation I had with her last Friday.

ELAINE PAIGE
London's Elaine Paige takes over the coveted role of Norma Desmond this Monday night, September 2. It is Paige's first time on a Broadway stage after a nearly two-decade reign as the leading lady of the British musical theatre. Paige's official opening in Sunset Boulevard is September 12. I'll be at her opening performance and will give a full report the following day.

Here is another quote from Paige from the interview I had with the charming lady a few weeks ago. . . I had asked her how she approached "As If We Never Said Goodbye":

"First you look at the words...because the words, the lyrics are what will tell the story, why you're singing the song. To me it seemed fairly obvious what the song was about, this woman returning, with the excitement of a child that we see earlier around the pool when she tells Joe Gillis that they want to see her, and she's so terribly excited by that. . .and this woman gets completely done up to the nines to return to the studio to meet Mr. DeMille and the wonderment. This is how I play it. The wonderment of being back on that soundstage and remembering how it was when she was there. It's a reflective song, and it's full of wonderful memories. It's also rather sad for her because she knows probably in her deepest heart that she's not 25 anymore. . .But she won't admit that to herself either. So there's a defiance in the lyric and a determination to not give in and to carry on to the bitter end, and to see that. . .is really rather sad and pathetic, so those are the things that I thought about and think about when I sing that song because those are the things that came to me from studying the lyric over and over and, of course, from talking to [director] Trevor [Nunn]."

I also asked her what her favorite moments in the show are:
"I have several really," said Paige. "It's difficult really. The end of 'With One Look' is really exciting because it's such a powerhouse of an ending. Obviously 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' is a favorite moment. That whole scene, theatrically, is brilliant to look at as an audience and also to play is wonderful. It's touching. It's amazing. You imagine what it would be like to be making a return as she sees it. I also rather like the phone call, 'Hello,' when she's trying to furtively make this telephone call but is terrified of knowing. . .I don't really think she wants the answers to the questions she's asking...And, of course, the moment she's gone completely bonkers at the end, coming down the stairs is always great fun to play, to play a complete lunatic at the end." NANCY LaMOTT
The late Nancy LaMott will be the sole artist featured in the season premiere of Manhattan Neighborhood Network's Broadway Beat, the weekly half-hour program produced by Bradshaw Smith that spotlights the New York City theatre and entertainment scene. This half-hour documentary will include performance clips of LaMott from 1975 through 1995. Also included is an interview taped with LaMott in January 1995 as well as other talks with composer David Friedman, director Scott Barnes, club manager Erv Raible, famed singer Margaret Whiting and LaMott's piano accompanist Christopher Marlowe.

This season premiere will take place on Tuesday, September 17. Broadway Beat , written and directed by Edgard LaMance Jr., and hosted by Richard Ridge airs in New York City on Channel 69, Tuesdays at 5 p.m. The show is also broadcast in Washington, D.C. on District Cable Vision (Channel 25) and on Connecticut Cablevision (Channel 27).

A few final notes. . .I was sent a release about singer Jennifer Heaney, who has been called "the Princess Grace of Song." She will be making her Los Angeles debut at the Cinegrill on September 9, headlining between Nancy Sinatra and the legendary Eartha Kitt. Heaney will perform songs from her new CD, You and I. I've never heard her sing, but it might be an interesting experience. If anyone goes, let me know. . .Comedienne/singer Jamie DeRoy will bring her special brand of music and comedy to New York's Don't Tell Mama every Thursday night from September 12 through October 31. DeRoy invites many performers and friends to share the stage with her at these performances. Her opening-night guest list will include Tovah Feldshuh and Eric Hansen, and her guests on September 19 will be singers Julie Wilson, KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar. Call 212-757-0788 for more information. . .And on a personal note, I will be performing my yearly cabaret act also at Don't Tell Mama on Thursday nights in October in their front room.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

by Andrew Gans
(My e-mail address is andrew_gans@playbill.com.)