Betty Buckley heads into the studio this week to host an upcoming television program for PBS. The program, which is titled Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley, will salute many of the songstresses who flourished during the first half of this century, including Kay Swift, Dana Suesse, Ann Ronell and Dorothy Fields. In addition to her hosting duties, Buckley will also perform four gems from that era: Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh's "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," Fields and Jerome Kern's "Just the Way You Look Tonight," Fields, Jimmy McHugh and George Oppenheimer's "I Feel a Song Coming On" and Dana Suesse and Leo Robin's "Have You Forgotten?" Buckley will be accompanied by a quartet of musicians composed of Billy Mayes (piano), Jamey Haddad (percussion), Tony Marino (bass), and Billy Drewes (reeds). The documentary is being produced by Lumiere Productions and will air during the winter pledge drive on most PBS stations around the country.
I was extremely disappointed and saddened to learn this week that due to ongoing legal problems with Nancy LaMott's estate and ever-escalating legal fees, Midder Music -- which has been the exclusive producer and distributor of LaMott's albums -- will be shutting its doors. As I have often expressed in this column, the late Nancy LaMott was (and is) extremely high on my list of all-time favorite singers, a woman who possessed an incredibly beautiful, rich, smokey voice and the most honest, heartfelt delivery of anyone in the cabaret field. LaMott was beset with health problems for much of her brief life, and over two years ago, just at the beginning of what seemed to be an exciting rise to fame that found her singing on such show as "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee," "Good Morning America" and "The Charles Grodin Show," she lost a short battle with ovarian cancer.
A few years before that, two gentlemen entered her life, composer/pianist David Friedman and director Scott Barnes. The three quickly became friends, and Friedman launched Midder Music to produce and record LaMott's first solo album, a wonderful mix of songs titled Beautiful Baby. Four more albums, each a classic in its own right, swiftly followed: Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer, Just in Time for Christmas, My Foolish Heart and Listen to My Heart. On her deathbed, Friedman promised LaMott that he would do all in his power to promote her name around the country and the world. With this in mind, he and Midder Music released another LaMott album, What's Good About Goodbye?, songs culled from demo tapes and recordings that LaMott had created as presents to friends. Friedman had many other unreleased tracks -- several demo tapes as well as live cabaret performances -- and planned to release as many posthumous recordings as possible in the years to come. Both Friedman and Barnes have valiantly tried to keep this promise in the two years since LaMott's death.
For those of you who do not own all of LaMott's albums or for those of you who would like to obtain extra copies, you should contact Midder Music as soon as for possible, for they will not be reprinting any of the existing LaMott recordings. Albums can be obtained by writing to MIDDER Music at 275 W. 96th St. #5R, NY 10025, calling (212) 665-0699, FAXING (212) 222-6579 or emailing to MIDDER2000@aol.com. They cost $17.50 including shipping and handling, and if you leave a credit card number with your order they can be shipped out immediately.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the lovely and talented Florence Lacey on Monday, who is currently starring at the Booth Theatre in the Jerry Herman revue, An Evening with Jerry Herman. Lacey, who is thrilled to be back on Broadway, said audiences have been going wild at the first few previews, cheering loudly throughout and jumping to their feet at the end of the evening of song. Lacey informed me that she is also currently working on a recording of a new musical titled Fever, set in New Orleans and featuring a score by Mildred Kay. FL can also be heard on the Broadway cast recording of The Grand Tour as well as the world-tour CD of Evita (a must for Evita fans) and is also still choosing songs for a yet-unnamed solo album. I'll be attending the Jerry Herman evening this weekend and will give you a full report next week . . . For those of you who have yet to hear Lacey live, be sure to get yourselves to the Booth Theatre!
It always brightens the day to hear some news about my favorite Brit, Elaine Paige, who is currently starring in London in her first non-musical play, Moliere's The Misanthrope. Paige will leave that production on Aug. 7 (call 011-44-171-287-0464 for tickets) to begin work on her 16th (!) solo album. In the next few weeks Paige and her musical director will begin sorting through piles of songs that she has been collecting over the past two years. Paige will also be working on many theatrical projects that will bring her to New York this fall. Stay tuned for more information about this multi-talented lady.
From all accounts, Bernadette Peters' recent concert with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall was sensational. Peters presented an all-Stephen Sondheim evening, beginning with the little heard "They Asked Me Why I Believe in You" from an unproduced television musical I Believe in You. One diva lover reported that following her opening number, Peters held up two pieces of paper, which contained a list of songs she was asked not to sing, songs that she had performed at the Hall in 1991, 1992 and 1995. Instead, she sang only Sondheim, but she sang it superbly, and her repertoire from the evening included "Johanna," "Happiness," "Hello, Little Girl/Any Moment/Moments in the Woods," "There Won't Be Trumpets," "Later," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," "Not a Day Goes By," "With So Little To Be Sure Of," "Children Will Listen," "Being Alive" and "Move On." For an encore, she provided a haunting version of "No One Is Alone."
Octavio Roca, the San Francisco Chronicle's critic had this to say about BP: ". . .It is no slight to the many beautiful artists who have brought his music to life to say that it is Peters who makes the best case for the greatest living Broadway composer. In "No One Is Alone," as elsewhere throughout the concert, Peters could find her way to the giant paradox that is a Sondheim song: simplicity and depth, as in the most timeless of children's tales, but also the sort of knowing melancholy and urbanity that could only come from our time, our place. . .As it was, Peters took several unusual numbers and made them her own. 'Johanna,' a throwaway tenor aria from Sweeney Todd, turns out to be ravishing as a woman's song -- at least this woman's -- as well as a dazzling example of Sondheim's gift for alternating a meandering recitative with sudden, heartbreaking flights of melody. 'Happiness,' from Passion, found Peters first hugging herself before opening up her arms in a broad gesture that was both inviting and precisely what the song suggested. She danced seductively as the Wolf in 'Hello, Little Girl' from Into the Woods and filled us with the wonder and dark promise of the line, 'Anything can happen in the woods.' . . . From Anyone Can Whistle, a show Peters revived in concert not long ago, 'There Won't Be Trumpets' and the finale 'With So Little To Be Sure Of' showed the diva at her best: the gurgly chest voice rising through an incredibly sensual middle then up to the very model of a Broadway belt. 'Children Will Listen' and 'Being Alive,' both sung simply and gorgeously, were surpassed only by the concert's high point. That was a brief scene from the underrated Merrily We Roll Along. To hear Peters caress the words 'Not a day goes by, not a single day . . .' was to feel the almost unbearable reality, the naked splendor of Sondheim's music."
Another San Francisco critic, Allan Ulrich of the San Francisco Examiner, had this to say about Peters' performance: ". . .Yet, in more than one case, you can't help feeling that she has expropriated this material by almost divine right. 'Definitive' is the word that passes through the mind more than once during a Peters concert . . . Peters remains unbeatable when it comes to communicating Sondheim anthems; in fact her delivery lends them an almost obsessive moral force. Friday, there was 'Move On,' 'Being Alive,' the haunting 'Not a Day Goes By' and 'Children Will Listen.' And, in all cases, one felt both exhilarated and a bit drained."
And, thankfully, Bernadette Peters will indeed be back on Broadway this season in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
Last week, I discussed Andrea Marcovicci's newest album, Live from London (originally aired over BBC Radio), which is a wonderful disc focusing on love songs from the American musical theatre. On the Live from London CD, Marcovicci is accompanied on piano by her long-time musical director Glenn Mehrbach. I recently received word that Marcovicci is currently recording another album, one where she will be backed by a full symphony orchestra. At this point, there is no release date, but I will keep you posted.
The wonderfully gifted chanteuse also performed in San Francisco this past weekend at the Louis Davies Hall (where Bernadette Peters performed the night before; Marcovicci had actually caught Peters in rehearsal and remarked to her audience two nights later, "Wasn't Bernadette wonderful? You're getting two divas this weekend!"). Marcovicci delivered a generous two-act set, culling songs from her many cabaret acts, those saluting Irving Berlin, Mabel Mercer, new composers, songs from the movies and more. The first half of the evening found the striking singer ensconced in an elegant red gown, singing to the piano accompaniment of Glenn Mehrbach. For the second half of the evening Marcovicci appeared in a tuxedo and was supported by an eight-piece musical ensemble. Her song list follows:
"As Time Goes By"
"On Such a Night As This"
"Hi Lili, Hi Lo"
Rodgers & Hart medley: "Where Or When"/ "My Romance"/ "I'll Tell The Man on the Street"
"Some Enchanted Evening"
"Someone To Watch Over Me"
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Mabel Mercer medley: "The End of a Love Affair/Falling in Love with Love"/"While We're Young"
"The Way We Were"
"Everybody Has The Right To Be Wrong"
Irving Berlin medley: "Let's Face the Music and Dance"/ "It Only Happens When I Dance With You"/"Cheek To Cheek"
"A Horse with Wings"
"Only Matters in the End"
"A Brave and Foolish Thing"
"Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind"
"Strangers Once Again"
"Look at Those Eyes"
"Life Goes On"
"Goodnight New York"
"The Kind of Love You Never Recover From" Also, word from our diva lover Down Under is that Ms. Marcovicci will make her Australian cabaret debut this Oct. as part of the Melbourne Festival from Oct. 27-31 at Myer Mural Hall. You might want to visit the festival's website at www.melbournefestival.com.au for more information.
While Betty Buckley prepares to begin rehearsals for the upcoming production of Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, her Norma Desmond standby, Karen Mason, is currently tackling the mammoth role for the Sundance Institute on their outdoor Eccles Stage in Sundance, Utah. Thought you might be interested in reading a few excerpts from the rave reviews Mason received:
Ivan M. Lincoln in Deseret News:
". . .As Mama Rose, a woman obsessed with turning her children into vaudeville stars, Karen Mason literally chews up the scenery. Some shows merely have performances. Sundance's Gypsy, directed with consummate skill by Damien Gray, has what can only be described as knock-out bravura performances. Gray has taken one of Broadway's sturdiest showbiz musicals and added several ingenious theatrical touches. His greatest coup, though, was luring Mason --who previously played Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard -- to spend the summer in Utah playing one of the world's most notorious stage mothers. Unlike Ethel Merman and Rosalind Russell, probably two of the best-known Roses, Mason is far closer to the real McCoy. (In real life, Rose Hovick was only in her 20s when she took her daughters, June and Louise, out on the American vaudeville circuit.) And Mason, who is slender and gorgeous, appears much more vulnerable than big and brassy Merman, creating a decidedly more sympathetic Mama."
Claudia M. Harris in The Salt Lake Tribune:
". . . Director Damien Gray gives the show style and substance. With great music and sterling performances, this Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) musical seems written yesterday, not 39 years ago . . . Performers Karen Mason and Amy Ashworth Barrus [Gypsy Rose Lee] are two good reasons to brave the canyon cold [weather]. Mason claims the role of Rose, the stage mother from hell. No one misses Merman when the award-winning Mason belts out 'Everything's coming up roses.'"
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Sundance Box Office at (801) 225-4100.
BB will perform at 7:30 and 10 PM on Oct. 30 and 31, and on Nov. 1 show times are 4 PM (the "songs by request" concert) and 8:30 PM. The Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street, and tickets will be on sale at the Bottom Line box office in the near future.
Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City from Sept. 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:
Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
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)
Epcot Center in Walt Disney World will host an array of divas beginning next month in a concert series that includes three of Broadway's favorite ladies: Jodi (Crazy for You) Benson, Judy (Chess) Kuhn and Susan (Triumph of Love) Egan. Backed by the Disney Grammy College Orchestra, the concerts are free to anyone who happens to be in the Disney park at that time (entrance to Disney World is approximately $44). Benson is scheduled to perform on July 11 and 12, Judy Kuhn on July 25 and 26 and Susan Egan on Aug. 1 and 2. The mini-concerts will take place four times a day: 4 PM, 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM and 8 PM. Call (407) 824-2222 or (407) 824-4321 for more information; times and singers are subject to change.
There will be a four-week season of Divas at the Donmar--London's Donmar Warehouse, the theatre that first premiered the current incarnation of Cabaret. As previously mentioned, Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway will kick off the season from Aug. 10-22. Following the sister act will be Barbara Cook from Aug. 24-29, and Imelda Staunton and Her Big Band will finish the diva season from Sept. 1-5 .
Florence Lacey currently stars on Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which also stars Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award-winning composer himself. The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, will officially open at the Booth Theatre on July 28. Call Tele charge at (212) 239-6200 for tickets.
LuPone will also perform in concert on Aug. 28 and 29 at The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; call (562) 916-8500.
Aug. 11 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Music Center
Sept. 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
Oct. 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Kansas (venue to come)
Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org