Just what is it about Linda Eder’s singing that is so exciting? It is partly due to the voice itself: Just when you are convinced the singer-actress cannot possibly belt any higher, the jaw suddenly opens wider, her head flings back and out comes some of the most exciting, vibrato-filled notes you’ll hear anywhere. Eder, who is best known to Broadway audiences for her performance in former husband Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde, has also grown as an interpreter in the last decade, and that growth is nowhere more evident than on her newest solo recording, "By Myself: The Songs of Judy Garland," which was released earlier this month on the Angel Records label. On the new CD Eder wraps her rich, powerful alto around such Garland classics as "Almost Like Being in Love," "This Can't Be Love," "Me and My Shadow," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," "The Trolley Song" and, of course, "Over the Rainbow." She will perform these tunes — and many more — during her eagerly awaited return to the stage of Carnegie Hall on Nov. 9 at 8 PM. I recently had the chance to chat with the down-to-earth Eder, who spoke about her newest recording, the upcoming Carnegie Hall gig as well as her new television special for Animal Planet; that brief interview follows.
Question: How did the decision to record an all Judy Garland album come about?
Linda Eder: Well, it was my eighth solo album, and to be honest I really didn't know what kind of record I wanted to make next. You like to play around a little bit — I kind of know what my strengths are, but I also know I can stretch out into other areas. I like having a nice mix, but I was just really on the fence, so my record company came to me with some ideas, and this particular one just jumped out at me. This is the main one that they really thought that they wanted to do, too, and I thought, 'Great.' I think I am the right person for this. [Judy Garland was] a huge influence on me, probably the reason I'm a singer, and there aren't a lot of people out there doing this kind of music that's natural to them, something that they have grown up doing.
Question: When do you think you first became aware of Garland?
Eder: Eight years old. [Laughs.] "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in "The Wizard of Oz." I remember it so vividly because it really did change my life. It made me go, "I want to do that!" It gave me a passion and a direction, and for that I've always been very grateful to her.
Question: What do you think made Garland's singing so unique?
Eder: I think one of the things that we've discovered through "American Idol" and reality shows, we like to know who we're watching and who we're listening to, and Judy's life was so [in the news] from the very beginning. She performed from a child on, and her life was so dramatic — the good and the bad — and we saw it, we knew it, and I think that lent something to her appeal. You would have heard her emotion anyway in her music, but when you knew that much detail, you heard the emotion [even more]. Question: Do you see any similarities in your performing styles?
Eder: I think there are two types of performers in this world. There are the ones who stand up on a stage and basically it's the equivalent of shutting their eyes, saying, "This is what I do. If you like it, great. If you don't like it, I'm not changing. This is what I am, and you have to come to me." And then there are the others who are up there going, "What do you want? Anything you want. If you don't like this, I'll give you something else." [Laughs.] I think that was Judy, and I think I emulate that style more. I'm very much aware of the audience, very much there for them.
Question: You'll also be performing again at Carnegie Hall next month. . .
Eder: . . . which will be amazing because Carnegie Hall was the one place I knew of as a kid growing up in Minnesota that was famous to play at. It was always my dream to play there, and I have now done that a few times, and it's been amazing each time and very nerve-wracking because it is Carnegie Hall, and it means so much to me. But this time will be something else because it's Judy, and her ghost has always been in that place for me, but this will be like having her right there on the stage because we'll be singing some of the same songs that she did that night back in 1961, that very famous concert.
Question: How does it differ singing at Carnegie Hall than at other concert halls?
Eder: It just has an aura to it. There are a lot of ghosts there, people who have performed. It's just different because all kinds of music play there, classical as well as jazz and pop. It definitely has an elegant feel to it. It's in Manhattan, which lends a weight to it also.
Question: Do you remember taking your first step out onto the Carnegie stage the first time you performed there?
Eder: I always say you could have touched me with your fingertip and I would have fallen over. I was a bundle of nerves and very alive and scared to death! [Laughs.]
Question: Tell me a bit about how motherhood has changed your life and your performing.
Eder: Everything in your life adds to what you sing about, especially this kind of music. Music is emotional in general, but there are certain types of music that are more so, and this music is very theatrical and very emotional. I've basically had a very good life, but nobody escapes the rough times, and I've been through that in the last two years personally and have come out in a better place, but it's made me understand lyrics on a whole new level. And that's what having a child is for me as well. You hear all the stories about how it changes your life, and you can keep telling someone who doesn't have a child yet what that feels like, but you can't really explain it until they experience it for themselves.
Question: Is anything happening with any of the musicals you've been involved with — like Camille Claudel?
Eder: I don't know. I did what I could do with Camille. I had the best time doing it. I really enjoyed playing that character. I think the piece is great. I think the music is great. I love the story. It's not in my hands anymore. It's up to people who want to produce it and spend the money on it to try to take it forward, so I really just have removed myself from that. If they come to me one day and said, "We want to go with it," I would certainly not say no. I loved it, but it may be that that magic time up in Goodspeed will be the only time I ever perform it. If that's the case, that's okay as well because it truly was a magical experience. The other thing is, even though I love doing theatre, when you have a child and they're in school, I know the schedule of theatre, and I know I would hardly see him.
Question: You also have a new television project. Tell me about that.
Eder: It's called "Trail Mix," and it came about as a result of a woman that I met who runs Animal Planet, and she approached me with some other project ideas. When she found out I was a horse lover, she said, "I love horse programming. Would you want to try to take a crack at coming up with something for us?" I honestly didn't take it very seriously, but I got an idea, I pitched it to them, and surprise, surprise, they liked it, and it all took off! I guess because I'm sort of suited it — it's combining music and horses, singers who are also real horse people. I go to their farms, I ride with them, I sit and interview them, and at the end of their segment, we will be cutting together footage of the day to one of their songs. You see them in a little bit of a different way. First of all, I can relate to them being a singer myself and also relate to them as horse people. Horse people can sit around and talk horses all day long. [Laughs.] It relaxes them, and you sometimes can get things from them that you wouldn't normally, and certainly see them in a way that you wouldn't normally see them.
Question: Who are some of the people you have spoken with already?
Eder: Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, Lee Ann Rimes, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ronan Tynan, Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Tim McGraw.
Question: When will the show air?
Eder: It's a two-hour special, and it airs Jan. 29 at 8 PM.
Question: Getting back to Garland, do you have a particular favorite song of hers or one that you enjoyed doing most on the recording?
Eder: Well, it really depends on what mood I'm in. In terms of performing them, I've just now started doing this concert, warm-up concerts leading up to Carnegie Hall. But it is so much fun to get up there and sing all the big-band [tunes]. I've always loved big band — "Rockabye," "Swanee," "San Francisco." Those I love. As far as the ballads, I'm really having fun with a song called "Do It Again" and also, of course, the title track, "By Myself."
Question: That's a great track. I think it's actually your best recording so far — there's an added layer of emotion to it.
Eder: Thank you. I think it's natural — it feels right. As I said earlier, it's not as if I'm a singer who had spent my life doing pop and all of a sudden decided one day to this type of music. . . It's very natural to me. . . . I understood that a long time ago, where my strengths lie. In this arena, this type of a song, a really good classic standard song, I can pretty much compete with anybody out there. When it comes to pop, I can sing a good pop song here and there, but there are so many other people who do that better.
Question: You also have a new musical director.
Eder: Well, I made a lot of changes in my life. [Laughs.] Even though I wasn't looking forward to it, I knew that it was coming and I needed to make the change, although I didn't want to because a lot of emotions were invested. But I have to say that it's been really wonderful. John Oddo is an amazing guy. He's worked with so many great people, a lot of years with Rosemary Clooney. He just brings a new element. When you go too long with the same thing, you tend to stay in that same thing and you can't really grow. And I think I had reached a point in my career where I needed to [change].
Question: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Eder: I have a project that I can't really talk about at this point. [Laughs.] Right now, the Garland show is new. My plan is to do this in the United States for several months . . . and then for the first time, my plan is to take it to Europe. I've had people asking me to come over there for a long time, but seven years ago I got pregnant, and I don't like to fly anyway, so I wasn't really that eager to go. My career was thriving here, and I didn't really feel the impetus to go over. Now that [my son] Jake is older and I've been really seriously asked so many times, and this record company, Angel, really wants me to do that. And I think it's the right time with this particular album.
[Carnegie Hall is located in New York City at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. Visit www.carnegiehall.org for more information.]
EUAN MORTON & EDEN ESPINOSA SING BROADWAY
Two Broadway up-n-comers, Euan Morton and Eden Espinosa, were featured in concert this past Saturday night at Town Hall, part of the first annual Broadway Cabaret Festival produced by Scott Siegel. Morton, who made his Broadway debut as Boy George in the short-lived Taboo, performed the first half of the Town Hall evening, while Espinosa, seen in Wicked and Brooklyn, was featured during the second half.
Though I attended the concert because of Espinosa's appearance, I have to admit that Morton was the more engaging performer. The young actor has an easygoing, impish stage manner, is quite funny between songs and boasts a unique voice that is especially beautiful in quieter moments. Morton opened his evening of Broadway tunes with a wonderful pairing of "I Am What I Am" and A Chorus Line's "Who Am I Anyway?" before segueing into Guys and Dolls' "Luck Be a Lady." Highlights also included powerful versions of two ballads originally written for women: Taboo's "Talk Amongst Yourselves" and Oliver!'s "As Long As He Needs Me." His finale, an a capella rendition of "American Tune," brought the audience to its feet, and the 45-minute set also included impressive renditions of "If I Loved You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Won't Dance," "Not While I'm Around" and a Medley for Loiterers ("Leaning On a Lamp Post," "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "On the Street Where You Live"). Eleasha Gamble and Tracy Olivera also provided wonderful back-up vocals.
In February 2003 I was first introduced to the talents of Eden Espinosa when John McDaniel — in his Joe's Pub cabaret act — featured the singing actress as a guest soloist. Espinosa dazzled with superb renditions of the pop song "Get Here," Brooklyn's "I Still Bleed" and Stephen Schwartz's "Meadowlark." Since that time I've been impressed by her performance as Elphaba in Wicked as well as her vocal work in Brooklyn, so I have been eagerly awaiting her debut solo concert. Perhaps my hopes were too high, but I was a bit disappointed with her recent concert, although that had much more to do with the arrangements of the songs than Espinosa's delivery. Someone misguided the young performer to offer several jazz arrangements of Broadway tunes, even changing the melody line on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "Some Enchanted Evening." Espinosa is one of the most exciting Broadway singers to emerge in recent years — at this point in her career, she should be belting out great Broadway tunes, not exploring the jazz world. That said, however, her concert did have many high points: She scored with Wicked's "Defying Gravity" as well as a medley of Brooklyn tunes that allowed the singer's voice to soar throughout Town Hall. Espinosa also charmed with the John Lennon anthem "Imagine," and she brought powerful tones to Jason Robert Brown's "And I Will Follow." DIVA TIDBITS
Is there a diva lover on your holiday list? A Broadway Diva Christmas may just be the answer. The new holiday revue will begin previews at Off Broadway's Julia Miles Theater Nov. 23 with an official opening Dec. 4, and the limited engagement will play through Dec. 31. The production — which will feature a host of Christmas tunes — will star Maya Days, Christine Pedi and Marla Schaffel with special guest star Ellen Greene. Also in the cast are Natalie Joy Johnson, Tedi Marsh, Kate Pazakis and Sally Schwab. Brian Nash is musical director. A Broadway Diva Christmas is being presented by Parker Russell Productions, Tom D'Angora and Michael Duling. The Julia Miles Theatre is located in Manhattan at 424 West 55th Street. Tickets, priced at $70, are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or by visiting www.telecharge.com. For more information go to www.abroadwaydivachristmas.com.
In November DRG Records will release a new DVD featuring Ute Lemper, the German chanteuse who made her Broadway bow in Chicago. "Blood & Feathers — Live at the Café Carlyle" will be available in music stores beginning Nov. 8. Lemper's latest act was recorded live at the famed Carlyle Feb. 24 and 25, 2005, and the DVD has a running time of one hour and 27 minutes. The complete track listing for the new DVD includes "Pirate Jenny," "Milord," "Blood and Feathers," "The Ladies Who Lunch," Moon Medley ("Bilbao Song," "Moon Dance," "Moon Over Bourbon Street," "Moon of Alabama," "Moon at the Window," "It’s Only a Paper Moon" and "Grapefruit Moon"), "Lilli Marlene," "Muenchhausen/ The Baron of the Lies," "Accordeoniste," Cabaret Medley, "Surabaya Johnny" and "September Song." Visit www.drgrecords.com for more information.
Broadway performers will sing country tunes, and country singers will croon theatre fare at an upcoming concert at the Frederick P. Rose Hall titled Broadway Meets Country. The Nov. 12 evening, which will benefit The Actors' Fund of America and the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, will be co-hosted by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Lee Ann Womack. Those scheduled to perform include Broadway stars Jason Danieley, Reneé Elise Goldsberry, Marin Mazzie, Andrea McArdle, Idina Menzel, Donna Murphy, James Naughton, Marian Seldes, Ben Vereen and Patrick Wilson as well as country recording artists Trace Adkins, Glen Campbell, Billy Currington, Raul Malo, Richie McDonald, Jamie O'Neal, Julie Roberts, Carrie Underwood and Trisha Yearwood. Stephen Oremus will be the musical director for the concert, which begins at 11 PM. Concertgoers can expect to hear Glen Campbell's rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," Billy Currington's "On the Street Where You Live," Marin Mazzie's "9 to 5," Andrea McArdle's "Fancy," Donna Murphy's "Walking After Midnight," James Naughton's "I've Been Everywhere," Carrie Underwood and Patrick Wilson's duet of "Suddenly Seymour," Ben Vereen's "King of the Road" and Trisha Yearwood and Idina Menzel's pairing on Wicked's "For Good." Frederick P. Rose Hall is located in the Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at West 60th Street. Tickets, priced $350 (show only) and $1,000 (concert plus pre-show cocktail reception with the performers), are available by calling (212) 212-869-4535.
Cabaret singer Lisa Mullane Viggiano will make a rare New York City appearance beginning Oct. 30 at The Duplex. The singer, who possesses a voice that is clear, focused and strong while also quite pretty in its upper register, has titled her new show The Viggiano Monologues, and performance dates are Oct. 30 at 5 PM, Nov. 12, 13 and 19 at 7 PM. Backed by Christopher Marlowe on piano, cabaretgoers can expect to hear such tunes as "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Mountain Greenery" as well as new works by David Zippel, Tim DiPasqua and Annie Dinerman. The Duplex is located in Manhattan at 61 Christopher Street. There is a $15 cover and a two-drink minimum; call (212) 255-5438 for reservations.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.