DIVA TALK: Buckley's Master Class, Akers at the Algonquin

DIVA TALK: Buckley's Master Class, Akers at the Algonquin Hello, diva lovers! Lots o' news as we go into the holiday weekend. Enjoy! . . .

Hello, diva lovers! Lots o' news as we go into the holiday weekend. Enjoy! . . .

BETTY BUCKLEY

Our very own Betty Buckley — who is currently shooting episodes for the final season of HBO's gritty jailhouse series "Oz" — will offer two separate master classes this summer in New York. A long-time instructor at the T. Schreiber Studio, Buckley will teach master classes in both Song Interpretation and Scene Study in July and August. The Song Interpretation workshops will be held Thursdays, July 18 and 25 and Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22 from 7 to 11 PM, and the Scene Study classes are scheduled for 6:30 to 11:30 PM on Mondays, July 22 and 29 and Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26.

I recently had the chance to chat with the Tony-winning Buckley, who recently completed an acclaimed run in A. R. Gurney's Buffalo Gal at the Buffalo Arena Theatre. BB spoke about her upcoming classes and her methods of instruction. "I teach meditation as the means for focusing the actors' mind, and spiritual philosophy as the basis for making one's choices," the former Sunset Boulevard star said. "The song interpretation class teaches how to tell stories in song, how to interpret a song and how to connect with an audience. [Students will] work on their songs several times over the six-week period. It's a long, detailed process." That class, Buckley added, will have a pianist, Eugene Gwozdz, to accompany students on their journeys in song.

About the Scene Study class, Buckley explained, "I teach [students] what I do, the technique I use. All the information that I have, I learned from great teachers. I feel like it's my responsibility to give back that which was given to me." Established in 1969, the T. Schreiber Studio is recognized as one of the foremost acting schools and professional theatre labs in New York City and is located at 151 W. 26th Street on the 7th floor. Prospective students or those non-performers wishing to observe (at a reduced fee) should call (212) 741-0209.

By the way, although Gurney's Buffalo Gal will not make its way to New York, Buckley will take part in two musical workshops this summer, which will hopefully see her back on the Broadway stage soon. Stay tuned for more!

KAREN AKERS

Songs by Billy Joel and — initials reversed — Jacques Brel provided the highlights of Karen Akers' beautifully constructed cabaret act, which I caught late last Friday night. Akers, who concludes her month-long engagement at the Algonquin Hotel this weekend, has dubbed her show "When Love Speaks to You," which is also the title of the one of the songs she performs, a new tune by Kathy King Wouk.

Akers possesses one of the more unique voices in the theatre/cabaret world. It's a dark, rich, vibrato-filled chest voice that she uses with exquisite control, and her diction — whether singing in English, French, German or Flemish — is flawless. The New York native who now resides in London began her show gently with Harold Arlen's "As Long As I Live" and Dietz and Schwartz's "I See Your Face Before Me." She then offered a medley of songs from The Fantasticks — "They Were You" and "Try to Remember" — as a way of paying homage to the Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones musical, which ended its unprecedented long run Off-Broadway this year. Her "Try to Remember" was particularly touching, given the events that changed our city and our nation this year. "Try to remember a kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow" now, unfortunately, takes on a whole new meaning.

A trio of songs, which the lanky Akers jokingly referred to as her "Three Tall Women" medley, included two comical ditties, Rodgers and Hart's little-heard "Queen Elizabeth" and Stephen Sondheim's "Ah, But Underneath," the solo written for Dame Diana Rigg for the London production of Follies. But it was the final part of that trilogy that was the most enjoyable, Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman," a tune Akers recorded on her first album two decades ago. Akers offered a slowed-down version of the Joel classic, and if anyone can sing it better, I'd like to hear 'em; it was a perfectly crafted rendition. She followed with a terrific reading of Piaf's "Padam Padam" and then presented three new songs — Wouk's "When Love Speaks to You" and "You Left Too Soon" and Lord's "Stop All the Clocks." None of the three is a particularly great tune, although Akers sings them well. It was her version of Brel's "Marieke," however, which was the highlight of the evening, and it's a song that Akers should, perhaps, not sing without. She built the song of longing slowly, the passionate cry in her voice becoming more and more noticeable, and as she belted out the song's final lines "Your love alone, your love alone, the day is gone, the day is gone," it was truly moving.

The former star of Nine and Grand Hotel ended her show with a forceful version of Brel's anthem, "If We Only Have Love," and returned to offer an encore of Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home," the title song from her most recent, must-have CD, which — by the way — also features her thrilling take on "Marieke."

**This weekend, Akers plays the Algonquin (59 West 44th Street) Friday and Saturday nights at 9 and 11:30 PM. There is a $50 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 419 9331.

FOR THE RECORD

Barnum:

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the musical Barnum ever since I did a production of the musical in high school. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the score until I received copies of the five CDs — Barnum, My Fair Lady, Li'l Abner, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and a studio recording of Oklahoma! — that comprise the sixth edition of the Columbia Broadway Masterworks' Series.

Originally produced at the St. James Theatre in April 1980, the musical with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart and a book by Mark Bramble played 854 performances and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. The Coleman/Stewart score is a delight, offering a slew of toe tapping songs as well as the lovely ballad, "The Colors of My Life." Although neither of the leads — Jim Dale and Glenn Close — are particularly good singers, they manage to do well with the score. Dale has a joyous spirit that is quite contagious and has fun with his opening tune, "There Is a Sucker Born Ev'ry Minute," and the tongue-twisting "Museum Song"; his Act I finale, "Out There," is also quite powerful. Close, who thankfully switches between vocal registers less here than she did in Sunset Boulevard, gets to sing the rousing "One Brick at a Time," the second half of "The Colors of My Life" and also duets with Dale on one of the songs I like most in the score, "I Like Your Style." Terri White — who would later be replaced by Lillias White — has two of the show's beltier moments, "Thank God I'm Old" and "Black and White."

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Bernadette Peters will be a guest on CBS-TV's "Early Show" on Wednesday, May 29. The Tony winning actress will discuss her upcoming Radio City Music Hall solo concert debut on June 19 as well as her gig co-hosting this year's Tony Awards broadcast on June 2. . . . My favorite Brit, Elaine Paige, can be heard on a recently released DVD/VHS that was filmed live in China at The Great Hall of the People in Tianneman Square. Available in both the U.K. with the title "Andrew Lloyd Webber: Masterpiece" and in the U.S. with the title "The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Live in China)," the video contains 32 Andrew Lloyd Webber songs rendered by Paige, Kris Phillips and an international ensemble. Paige, who has starred on the London stage in Evita, Cats, Chess, Anything Goes, Piaf, Sunset Boulevard and The King and I, performs seven Lloyd Webber tunes on the 135 minute release, including "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "The Heart Is Slow to Learn," "Memory," "The Perfect Year," "As If We Never Said Goodbye," "No Matter What" and the duet "Friends for Life" with Phillips . . . Liz Callaway, Alix Korey, Sharon McNight, Norm Lewis and Tom Andersen, along with Carol Channing (as portrayed by Richard Skipper) and Barbra Streisand (as played by Steven Brinberg), will headline the The Broadway Musicals of 1964 concert on June 10 at Town Hall in N.Y.C. The 8 PM concert will include songs from Anyone Can Whistle, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, I Had a Ball and Hello, Dolly! Tickets, priced between $30 and $35, are available by calling (212) 307 4100 . . . Quotable Quote: I was happy to read this quote — from Nelson Pressley's Washington Post review — about our Side Show gal, Alice Ripley, who is currently starring in the Kennedy Center's production of Company: "As Amy, the bride who has a nervous breakdown the morning of her wedding, Alice Ripley brings down the house with a stunningly clear and funny rendition of 'Getting Married Today,' a patter song that easily exceeds the legal limit of syllables per second. Ripley is letter-perfect and brightly melodic, too; she's a kooky delight."

REMINDERS

Betty Buckley in Concert:
June 29 at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY
July 7 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, NM
Sept. 28 at the Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
Oct. 3-6 at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 22-Nov. 9 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
Nov. 16 at the Performing Arts Center of SUNY-Purchase in Purchase, NY
Dec. 6 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC
Dec. 31 at the Tilles Center at CW Post University in Glen Cove, NY

LIZ CALLAWAY

June 3 Tribute to Cameron Mackintosh at the York Theatre in New York, NY
June 10 "Broadway By The Year: 1964" at Town Hall in New York, NY
June 14 & 15 at Odette’s in New Hope, PA
June 21 & 22 Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, IL
June 30 & July 1 "Sibling Revelry" at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
July 14 at the Bradston County Hotel's Nancy LaMott Room in White Lake, NY
August 2 in "Stephen Schwartz and Friends" in Bethlehem, PA
August 16 & 17 at the Stackner Cabaret Theatre in Milwaukee, WI

Barbara Cook in Concert:

June 5-9 and June 12-16 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
June 23-Aug. 26 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, NY (Mostly Sondheim)
July 5 at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts in Long Island
August 14-18 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
Oct. 19 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA
Nov. 2 at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 17 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ Maureen McGovern in Concert:

June 22 "Music by the Lake" in Lake Geneva, WI
June 29-Aug. 17 Dear World at Sundance Theater, Sundance, UT
July 4 at the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts at the Venetian Theater in Katonah, NY
Aug. 7 at the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival in Salt Lake City, UT
Sept. 1-2 MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon in Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 20 - 22 Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI
Sept 26-29 North Carolina Symphony, Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, NC
Oct. 30-Nov. 3 American Music Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 2 at the Rialto Center in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 9 at the Landmark Theater in Port Washington, NY
Nov. 19-Dec. 1 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA
Dec. 6 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
Dec. 8 at Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
Dec. 9 Laurie Strauss Leukemia Benefit, Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Dec. 14 Boca Pops Big Band Series in Boca Raton, FL

Bernadette Peters in Concert:

June 7 at the Ravinia Pavillion in Highland Park, IL
June 19 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY
June 28 at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, CA
July 2 at the Interlochen Center in Interlochen, MI
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Morton H. Meyerson Hall in Dallas, TX
Sept. 28 at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI
Oct. 5 Sundome Center in Sun City West, AZ
Oct. 24 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 26 at the Kleinhans Auditorium in Buffalo, NY

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

—By Andrew Gans