Linda Eder, the powerhouse singer seen on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde, released her tenth solo recording at the end of last month. Entitled "The Other Side of Me," the single CD, which was produced and arranged by Eder and Billy Jay Stein, is available on the Verve Music Group label. Eder, who has spent the past decade or so belting out tunes from The Great American Songbook as well as the songs penned by former husband Frank Wildhorn and the classics associated with the late, legendary star Judy Garland, ventures into new territory on the 12-track recording. Well, not exactly new territory, but a world that Eder had left behind as she cultivated a dedicated Broadway and concert fan base. In the liner notes for the new recording, Eder writes, "This isn't so much a departure as it is me getting back to who I really am. . .This is really me getting back to my natural musical self, the person I was before Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand came into my life and I went the Broadway route. This is the kind of music that moved me as a kid, when I first started playing my guitar and learning how to write songs, so it's a natural direction for me. I still love the Broadway stuff, and I don't ever intend to stop singing it." The new recording, which features a more intimate country-pop sound for Eder, boasts a mix of new songs ("Pieces," "If I Could," "Make Today Beautiful"), covers ("Both Sides Now," "Ghost") and one penned by the singer herself ("Waiting for the Fall"). A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat with Eder, who spoke about her latest recording and her thoughts about returning to the Broadway stage; that brief interview follows.
Question: Tell me about the genesis of the new recording and your decision to go back to your music roots.
Linda Eder: It was time to make the next record. I was trying to think about what I wanted to do. I've done several different albums over the years in different directions: a Broadway record, some mixes of standards and a little more pop stuff, a lot of standards, the Judy Garland tribute. My very first record was sort of a pseudo-pop record years ago, but I always felt like I wanted to go back to my roots, which really were country-pop. Even though I had influences early on of Judy Garland and opera singers — because I loved their voices and the way they sang, and that's what made me want to use my voice and be a singer — when it came to doing my own thing, naturally, it was always country-pop. I had the guitar, and I didn't play very well, but I played enough to write my songs. They always had that country-pop feel. It's very natural to me, it's very natural to who I am as a person. I was a little nervous about presenting the idea because it's so different from the path that my life has gone, and I've been very successful doing what I've been doing, but [the record company] agreed. And I said, "Okay, and also I'd like to produce it." [Laughs.] I've always sort of co-produced my records over the years. The Christmas record, even though it says Frank [Wildhorn]'s name on there, too, I pretty much produced that record, so I felt confident that I could do it. They agreed, and I ended up co-producing it with my friend Billy Stein, who used to play in my band years ago and had his own studio. So we worked on it together for about a year and a half.
Question: When you talk about producing a CD, what does that entail?
Eder: It's a pop record, so it's different than records we've made in the past. With standards records, an arranger will come up with an arrangement based on maybe an idea that I had. They would take it away and come back with a big-band chart or an orchestral arrangement, and we normally would record the big band within a few days. You would come in, and everybody works hard for those few days, and you basically can get all the tracks [recorded]. Then I would put the vocals over the top, and it's a much faster recording process. It's all based around that one step, whereas pop music is done often very differently. It's done layer-by-layer using synth tracks and different ideas. We made demos and played around with directions of songs. We have that luxury [because] Billy Stein has his own studio, so the two of us just spent hour after hour, day after day, sitting there coming up with ideas and throwing out new ideas and just building songs layer by layer.
Question: On the new CD, there's one song you've written. When did you start writing songs?
Eder: A long time ago, I used to write quite a bit. Over the years, I was married to a songwriter, and the impetus wasn't there. It was years before I even told him that I could write. [Laughs.] I did collaborate on some of the stuff that we did over the years, but that's not where I live as a writer. I don't get inspired to write standards, and Broadway, that's not what I am, but I always liked country-pop. Now that I'm back to doing this kind of music, all of a sudden I'm writing again. I've actually got two more songs that I'm doing in my show live that I wrote that weren't finished in time. The record was already done. I wish they'd been done because I would have put them on there. Similar to the song that I wrote on the record, it suits me. The best thing is always to write for yourself. I know that I can write this kind of material, and I've gotten really strong feedback on it. In fact, the one I wrote gets the strongest feedback as far as being a radio-friendly song. Question: Is there a difference for you when you perform one of your own songs versus performing a song written by another songwriter?
Eder: I guess the difference would be that it feels good in the sense that no one's recorded it before. No one's sung it. It's me. I sort of set the bar for that particular song. Also the lyrics are, in some ways, more personal to me. The best writing you can do is something that is a little bit personal to you. Of course, always in the back of my mind, I'm wondering, "What are people thinking of this?" [Laughs.] I don't have that when I do other people's material. A lot of the stuff on the record is original, even though I didn't write it, so I have that same feeling with all of the songs. But I also like to do cover songs, and I have some in my show that are just classic cover songs. You're always being compared, so you want to try to come up with a new take on the song. Question: You recently did a few concerts with Marvin Hamlisch.
Eder: That's why I'm in Pittsburgh. I did three nights in DC recently, and then we had a couple days off in between, and then we're here five nights in Pittsburgh [this was the week of Oct. 6].
Question: What's he like to work with as a conductor?
Eder: He's great. We've known each other over the years, and he's kind of a legend in the business. Besides being a great composer and very musical, he's also very funny and a great entertainer, so that makes it a lot of fun. It's always fun to work with a symphony, but it's more fun when it's with Marvin.
Question: Is this another Garland show you're doing tonight?
Eder: Yeah, this whole series of shows are all tributes to Judy Garland. After I had done that tribute album, it was a natural pairing.
Question: As you've been performing the Garland material, have you found new meaning in some of the songs?
Eder: I think what has happened is, because I was able to go in this direction doing country-pop and just infuse new life into what I have been doing — I've been singing for 20 years or more — anytime you stretch into another area, you grow. I feel like I've grown more musically in the last two years than I had for a few years. It's infused new life into everything that I do. I've become even more of my own self. I get a joy out of doing all the stuff again because I get a break from it, and I do all different types of shows. I'm really now the true Hannah Montana. [Laughs.] I'm not just changing my clothes. I'm actually completely singing different types of music, especially when I do this Garland show. I can't help but channel Judy when I do a Judy song, and I can't help but channel Barbra [Streisand] when I do a Barbra song. They're both huge influences of mine and, as far as I'm concerned, the best in the business at what they did and do. I don't try to do it. It's just something that happens, especially when singing an arrangement of Judy's that is her arrangement basically.
Question: Is there anyone currently performing that you admire?
Eder: There are so many. I really like all different kinds of music. People know me as [performing] Broadway and standards, but that's not really what I listen to. I used to a lot when I was younger. Over the years I've been so influenced by Barbra or Judy, and I did listen to a lot of that stuff, but I really don't listen to that anymore. I listen to country-pop. I listen to Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Faith Hill. I like a singer I just discovered not long ago called Brooke Fraser. I really do listen more to that kind of thing. I just enjoy that kind of music. It fits me as a person; it's what I'm into right now. Question: I know at one point there were a couple of theatre projects you were involved in, like Camille Claudel. Is anything happening with that show? Would you like to do more theatre?
Eder: I would. The only reason I agreed to do Camille is because it was so tempting. When I left Jekyll, I got pregnant shortly thereafter. I had Jake, and I knew I really didn't want to do theatre and raise a child at the same time, having known what that schedule was like. When you're a lead, it just consumes your life. You're tired all the time, you have to do all the press, and you're always babying yourself just to survive it. It's a crushing kind of a schedule, and there's just really no life outside of that. You can't do that with a child, so I haven't really wanted to go back for that reason, though I love theatre. What I love the most is I love the family aspect of it. I miss being surrounded by a group of fun people everyday, and also I love acting. I really discovered how much I love it when I took a year of private lessons to get ready for Camille, because that was very much a book musical, and I discovered that I can act. I kind of felt all along that I could, even though I didn't need to in Jekyll. They just wrote me this part that was basically Linda doing a cabaret act up there, but it worked for that show. But I knew I could act — I just needed a part that would allow me to do that, and Camille really did. The thing with Camille is it's just very dark. She's unknown for the most part, which is unfortunate. It's a fascinating story, but it's just very dark and frightening to producers. Even though we had this amazing production of it — sure it needed work, but the bones were there, and the audience was loving it and I really loved the part. I'm almost not disappointed that it didn't move on to Broadway because of Jake. Maybe one day I would like to go back if the right part presented itself. I would actually like to go back and do a straight play.
Question: How old is Jake now?
Eder: He just turned nine.
Question: How has it been combining motherhood and your concert schedule?
Eder: It's hard. I normally don't do five nights in a row. I will do one or two and then be back home. I mostly manage to keep them on the weekends, so I'm really there for his school schedule. I've been able to balance it. Frank and I are divorced, but Frank is very much in his life. We're all together all the time. But even if we were still together, he would still have had two parents that are always traveling, so he's used to that. My sister lives right next door on the same property, so he's very secure. Still, you want to be there. I've been able to balance it. It's tricky, but my life, the way it's carved itself out, has worked.
Question: What does he think of his mom's singing?
Eder: I think he's pretty proud of both of us. We get that sense. Like I said, he's a very secure kid, and he's also very musical. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes into it because he is just innately musical. Question: You're also very involved in the Pets Alive charity. Can you tell me a little bit about that? I know you've also helped raise money through quarters.
Eder: It started with a quarter. I was on the stage of the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, years ago. The first time I ever did a concert there, I tried to pick the quarter up during the show, not realizing it was nailed there and was marking the center stage, so people laughed and made a joke out of it. Then the next concert I went to there were some quarters scattered on the stage. I kept picking them up. Every show I would go to do, there would be quarters. It just led into this thing where I said, "Okay, we gotta start putting this money toward something." I think we had something like $120 in quarters after a short period of time. So we said, "Okay, let's start collecting for something." And, when I named an animal shelter, Pets Alive, people just got onboard and started really donating. I think we've given them almost $30,000.
Question: What does the charity do?
Eder: It's a no-kill animal shelter in Middletown, New York.
Question: Since you had been such a success on "Star Search," I was wondering what you think of "American Idol."
Eder: I think any talent contest is a great springboard for young people trying to get into the business, so from that point of view, I think it's wonderful. I think it's a money-making machine for the people behind the scenes who are involved with it, which is unfortunate because I think they've abused the psyche of a lot of young kids. I did "Star Search," so I know what it's like to be in a contest in front of a camera in front of the viewing nation. I was fortunate that I never lost, but I watched a lot of people go through losing, and I saw what the effect was on these young people. Now you have to magnify that ten times or more to get the abuse that they take on "American Idol" that they take publicly. I don't like it from that aspect at all. I think it's terrible.
Question: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Eder: The new CD, the new concert we're doing. We've been performing it now — we've done probably eight shows so far. . . . It's really fun. We're starting to gel. I had 20-some years to get my other act going. [Laughs.] This one won't take that long, I don't think, but it's been a lot of fun. It's so much fun to do this music, and the new band is fabulous. I'm really enjoying that, so that's really my main focus right now. I'm with Verve now. Verve bought the record for this kind of music, which is great. It's not like being on my old label and having them just indulge me, letting me go off in this direction and twiddling their thumbs until I came back to the other stuff. Verve really bought it for this, but they are interested in anything that I want to do. There is maybe a jazz album in my future. It's something that I've grown a little bit more into. Jazz is a very particular art form, and I never wanted to do one before. I said, "I'm not a jazz singer. I don't understand that." But over the years I think I've grown into that, and I'm also surrounded by some of the best jazz musicians out there, so I think that's coming.
[For Linda Eder tour dates, visit www.lindaeder.com.] THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD NOT TAKEN
Wicked fans flocked to the Gershwin Theatre Oct. 27 for The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken, a concert celebrating the fifth anniversary of the hit Broadway musical penned by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.
Buck Henry, the film actor who was last on Broadway in the 2002 revival of Morning's at Seven, opened the evening with a few introductory remarks. Henry jokingly explained his tenuous connection to the musical: As a boy, his mother claimed that his dog Angus had played Toto in "The Wizard of Oz."
"It was one of her many lies," Henry deadpanned.
The actor-writer also explained that Wicked producer David Stone had been influenced by Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and decided that each production of Wicked would help raise funds for a different eco-friendly organization. Wicked's Broadway company had previously donated to the New York Restoration Project, and the proceeds from the Yellow Brick Road Not Taken would also benefit that organization founded by Bette Midler.
Henry then revealed that the evening, which boasted a mix of current and former Wicked stars as well as many not associated with the musical, would feature an early draft of Wicked's first act. In a note in the show's program librettist Holzman wrote, "[Looking through old scripts] was kind of like friends looking their high school yearbook. Only instead of, 'Can you believe we used to wear our hair that way on purpose?!' it was, 'Can you believe we thought the scarecrow should give a press conference?!' or, 'Can you believe we thought she became Governor in Act One?' Looking through those pages, we smiled nostalgically at how innocent and foolish we were, to think that Avaric was a necessary part of the story, or that the father had to die onstage. But what you don't know when you're writing is — everything. That's why you have to write it — to find out what happens."
It was quite interesting to see how much had changed from the 16 scenes presented to the final version of the show that is now a hit around the country and the world. In fact, during the curtain call, composer Schwartz said the evening was a great testament to the adage that "musicals are not so much written as rewritten."
|photo by Samantha Souza|
Yellow Brick Road featured two sets of Glindas and Elphabas. Jennifer Laura Thompson and Stephanie J. Block played those roles for the first eight scenes, while Kate Reinders and Shoshana Bean were, respectively, the curly-locked Glinda and the green-skinned Elphaba for the next eight. Daniel Reichard and Matthew Settle also shared the role of Fiyero with "Ugly Betty" star Mark Indelicato as Boq, "View" co-host Joy Behar as Madame Morrible, Hairspray's George Wendt as the Wizard, Timothy Britten Parker as Dr. Dillamond and Michelle Federer in the role she created, Nessarose. There were several times throughout the evening that the actors poked fun at the script. During the opening number, Jennifer Laura Thompson's Glinda asked, "Is it true? Is this the way the show really started?" And, following a confusing scene where Elphaba is able to light a crystal and witness a conversation between Boq, Fiyero and Glinda, Joy Behar said, "I don't follow," and Shoshana Bean countered, "I know. That's why this scene was cut." In order to speed up the proceedings, at one point Kate Reinders said, "Well, this part never really changed," and then simply sang the final line of "I'm Not That Girl."
Just a few of the many changes on Wicked's way to Broadway: Elphaba's first song — eventually replaced by "The Wizard and I" — was originally titled "Making Good"; "Bad Situation," a duet between Glinda and Elphaba, was replaced by "What Is This Feeling?"; and an odd song entitled "Easy as Winkie Wine" was scrapped altogether. In fact, it seems several references to Winkie Wine were deleted: At one point in the script Fiyero says, "I told Galinda I had urgent Winkie business." Also removed: "Emerald City Stomp," a chorus number prior to Elphaba's entrance in the witch hat; and "Step By Step," a solo for Nessarose after her father presents her with the ruby red slippers.
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Some of the evening's highlights: Stephanie J. Block was in terrific voice, belting out a thrilling "Making Good" and sending the audience into spontaneous applause during her portion of "Defying Gravity." Mario Cantone drew laugh after laugh for his manic rendition of "Popular," and the "Defying Gravity" finale led by pop singer Ashanti and featuring dueling Elphabas and Glindas (Block, Bean, Thompson and Reinders) was thrilling. There were also a few welcome political barbs added for the occasion: Both "I hate that goat because he reminds me of John McCain" and Joy Behar's reference to a "hockey mom" also drew applause. One left the theatre wishing to return to see the final version of Wicked; in fact, all of the changes that have been made since this draft were not only "for good" but "for the better."
The complete program for The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken, which was directed by Matt Lenz and featured a small band conducted by musical director Ben Cohn, follows:
Scene 1: The Emerald City
Opening Number (Company)
Scene 2: A Train Station in Munchkinland
Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block)
Scene 3: A Parlor at Shiz University
"Dear Old Shiz"
Morrible (Joy Behar), Students
Scene 4: Elphaba and Galinda's Dormitory Room
Galinda (Jennifer Laura Thompson), Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block), Phannee (Kristen Leigh Gorski), Shenshen (Sonshine Allen), Company
Scene 5: Biology Lecture Hall
"Making Good" (Reprise)
Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block)
Scene 6: The Sorcery Seminar
"Easy as Winkie Wine"
Fiyero (Daniel Reichard), Boq (Mark Indelicato), Galinda (Jennifer Laura Thompson), Phannee (Kristen Leigh Gorski), Shenshen (Sonshine Allen)
Scene 7: The Annual Festivities Frolick
"Emerald City Stomp"
"We Deserve Each Other"
Fiyero (Reichard), Galinda (Thompson), Boq (Indelicato), Nessarose (Michelle Federer), Students
Scene 8: Elphaba and Galinda's Dorm Room
Galinda (Mario Cantone), Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block)
Scene 9: The Biology Lecture Hall
"I'm Not That Girl"
Elphaba (Shoshana Bean)
Scene 10: Train Station
Scene 11: Dr. Dillamond's Laboratory
"As If By Magic"
Dr. Dillamond (Timothy Britten Parker), Fiyero (Matthew Settle), Elphaba (Shoshana Bean)
Scene 12: Munchkinland, The Governor's Private Quarters
"Step By Step"
Scene 13: A Funeral Procession
"Dear Old Shiz" (Reprise)
Scene 14: The Emerald City
"One Short Day"
Glinda (Reinders), Elphaba (Bean), Company
Scene 15: Inside the Wizard's Palace
"A Sentimental Man"
Wizard (George Wendt)
"The Chance to Fly"
Wizard (Wendt), Glinda (Reinders), Morrible (Behar), Elphaba (Bean)
Scene 16: The Attic at the Top of the Wizard's Palace
"For Goodness Sake"
Glinda (Reinders), Elphaba (Bean)
Elphaba (Ashanti, Block, Bean), Glinda (Thompson, Reinders), Company
Two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters, most recently seen in the Lifetime film "Living Proof," will debut a plush dog based on her best-selling children's book "Broadway Barks" Nov. 8 at FAO Schwarz. The Kramer dog is based on the character in the "Broadway Barks" book (and Peters' own rescued dog of the same name). All of Peters' royalties from the dog will be donated to Broadway Barks, the organization co-founded a decade ago by Peters and Mary Tyler Moore. The FAO Schwarz event, which begins at 1 PM, will also feature a reading of "Broadway Barks" by actress-singer Peters. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow. Peters will also make an appearance on CW Morning News Nov. 6 and will chat about the new plush dog, which is available exclusively at FAO Schwarz. FAO Schwarz is located in Manhattan at 767 5th Avenue (at 58th Street). Two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera will return to Feinstein's at Loews Regency in November. The acclaimed singer-actor-dancer will play the Manhattan venue Nov. 18-29. Veteran screen actor Tony Martin, who had been scheduled to play Feinstein's Nov. 25-29, will be seen at the posh nightspot in January 2009. Feinstein's at the Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street. For ticket reservations call (212) 339-4095 or visit feinsteinsatloewsregency.com or TicketWeb.com.
Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai Gilmore on TV's "Gilmore Girls," has been cast in the upcoming Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. Graham will play Adelaide opposite the Nathan Detroit of the previously announced Oliver Platt. Additional casting will be announced shortly. Tony Award Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who's Tommy) will helm the revival, which will feature choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Performances will begin at the newly refurbished Nederlander Theatre Feb. 3, 2009, with an official opening scheduled for March 1. In a statement lead producer Howard Panter said, "We are thrilled with the casting of Lauren as Miss Adelaide. She is the perfect combination of leading lady and natural comedienne and I know she will be the ideal romantic foil for Oliver Platt's Nathan." Actress Graham, last on stage in the 2002 Williamstown Theatre Festival production of Once in a Lifetime, added, "To be making my Broadway debut in this role, in this musical, is truly thrilling."
Deborah Cox, who starred in the title role of the Broadway production of Aida, will release her latest solo recording "The Promise," Nov. 11 on the Deco Recording Group/Image Entertainment label. The R&B recording's first single, "Did You Ever Love Me" — which is climbing the Urban Adult Contemporary radio charts — is currently available by visiting iTunes or Amazon.com. Other tracks include "Beautiful U R," "All Over Me" and "The Promise," among others. Among the disc's producers are John Legend, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Big Jim Wright, Shep Crawford, Devo Springsteen and the Avila Brothers. In a statement Cox said, "The R&B fans were the first to embrace me and help me get to where I am today. I have been fortunate enough to be able to explore other genres of music, but I really missed doing R&B and thought it was time to return to it." For more information visit www.deborahcox.com.
Lincoln Center's American Songbook series, which is held in the Allen Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall and celebrates the diversity of American popular song, will kick off Jan. 14, 2009, with Night & Day: Rob Fisher Celebrates Cole Porter. The 8:30 PM concert will boast the talents of Tony winners David Hyde Pierce and Victoria Clark. Other highlights of the series, which runs through March 6, 2009, follow: Jan. 24, 2009 at 8:30 PM: South Pacific Tony winner Paulo Szot will perform in concert; Feb. 4, 2009, at 8:30 PM: Soul Deep: An Anthology of Black Music will celebrate African-American music's contribution to popular music. The evening will feature the talents of Tony winners Phylicia Rashad, Adriane Lennox and Chuck Cooper as well as Ryan Shaw, Aisha de Haas, Sophia Nicole, Antonique Smith, Destan Owens, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens; Feb. 7, 2009 at 8:30 and 10:30 PM: Cabaret Tony winner Alan Cumming will perform two concerts featuring "songs that have influenced him during his eclectic, electric career"; Feb. 19, 2009 at 8:30 PM: Tony winner Sutton Foster, who will return to Broadway this season in Shrek the Musical, will offer a solo evening, including songs from her upcoming recording, "Wish"; Feb. 20, 2009 at 8:30 PM: An Evening with Alan Menken will feature the composer of Little Shop of Horrors and The Little Mermaid performing "songs both known and unknown from his vast repertoire"; Feb, 21, 2009 at 8:30 and 10:30 PM: With a Song in My Heart: John Pizzarelli Salutes Richard Rodgers. Pizzarelli will be joined by his wife, singer-actress Jessica Molaskey, for an evening of Rodgers tunes; and March 6, 2009 at 8 PM: Passing Strange co-creators Stew and Heidi Rodewald will reteam for an evening of song. The concert will feature tunes from Passing Strange and new material. (This evening will be held in Alice Tully Hall as part of the Alice Tully Opening Nights Festival.) Tickets for the series are available by calling (212) 721-6500 or by visiting www.lincolncenter.org. Tickets are also available at the Frederick P. Rose Hall box office, which is located at Broadway at 60th Street.
Heading the cast of the West Side Story revival, which is scheduled to begin performances at the Palace Theatre Feb. 23, 2009, will be Matt Cavenaugh (A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) as Tony, Karen Olivo (In the Heights) as Anita, Cody Green (Movin' Out) as Riff and George Akram ("Stuck on You") as Bernardo. Twenty-one-year-old Argentinean actress Josefina Scaglione, who created the role of Amber Von Tussle in the Argentinean production of Hairspray, will make her Broadway debut as Maria.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.