By all accounts, Betty Buckley's recent concert in Chicago was a fabulous three-hour long songfest that found Buckley in great voice and spirits. What follows are excerpts from two reviews of Buckley's evening at the Symphony Center that ran in Chicago papers:
Hedy Weiss in Chicago Sun-Times:
" . . . There was plenty of Broadway stardust in Buckley's concert Monday evening at the Symphony Center, but some of the most intriguing material in her generous show had a contemporary country tinge or played a variation on classic rock.
The singer, who was born in Fort Worth, Texas, still has a voice with the big, echoey sound of the Plains and a roaring ripple running through it. And she proved herself a master of lonesome heartache, American style, whether singing Bonnie Raitt's torchy "I Can't Make You Love Me," or segueing from Paul Simon's "Old Friends" into a voluptuous take on that '50s standard, "Unchained Melody." There also was a dark, stormy force to the way she spun out the fantasies of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Something of a Dreamer."
With her cropped, silver-blond hair and womanly figure, Buckley suggests a Mirabella magazine model now, and she brings a mix of New York irony, Texas bravura and vulnerable yet edgy middle-aged "I'm still here" persona to the stage all at once. The powerhouse voice remains . . . She can soar thrillingly through her ravishing signature song, Stephen Schwartz's "The Meadowlark," from the ill-fated musical The Baker's Wife. She can still make hay with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Memory." And she can dive into unabashed melodrama to conjure the movie soundstage where a washed-up film star rekindles the past in "As If We Never Said Goodbye."
Buckley seems particularly at home with songs of experience that hint at the passage of time. She turns "Neverland," the lovely tune from Peter Pan, into just such a meditation, using a subtle, bossa-nova arrangement . . ." Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune:
In the midst of well-rehearsed patter about how she was unaccountably passed over for the lead role in the ill-fated Stephen Schwartz musical, The Baker's Wife, Betty Buckley suddenly seemed to realize that her audience had heard all of this before.
"You guys know all my stories," rasped the self-reflexive diva to a sea of grinning, enraptured and overwhelmingly male faces in a packed Symphony Center on Monday night. "I always wondered when this would happen. I need some new stories."
Since people were on the feet by the fourth number and cheering with delight well before the end of a show of generous length and complexity, it seems that the older stories are more than enough to satisfy Buckley's adoring fans. . . Making her first Chicago concert appearances in several years, Buckley aptly demonstrated that she is one of the few remaining great vocal powerhouses with firm Broadway roots.
Her intensely theatrical interpretations are never intimate cabaret material; they belong in a grand venue like the Symphony Center. As she proved with her "Amazing Grace" encore, Buckley can amply fill any hall without the aid of a microphone or the quartet of musicians that accompanied her.
This remarkable singer not only has a belt of staggering range, but she's a good enough actor to make the most hackneyed material appear fresh. Her two songs from Sunset Boulevard are consummate renditions. And in the case of her signature tune, the overly familiar "Memory," Buckley turns feline before one's very eyes. Just as you're looking for the whiskers on the tip of her nose, a searing voice spits out "Midnight/Not a Sound from the Pavement" like a hailstorm. Combined, it's enough to make you listen to the ballad with new respect.
Buckley's repertoire was by no means confined to Andrew Lloyd Webber ("We call his songs arias," she intimated, "ever since they made him into a lord."). In a wide-ranging program dominated by jazzy charts and unusual but often revelatory arrangements by musical director, Kenny Werner, Buckley mixed and matched Kurt Weill with Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter with Stephen Sondheim and Paul Simon with Richard Rodgers. . ."
Sarah Brightman fans will be happy to learn that on June 1 a new recording from the star of The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love will be released on the DECCA label entitled "Sarah Brightman -The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection." Coinciding with this release are two other exciting Brightman events: a new PBS special entitled "One Night in Eden" that will debut during PBS' June pledge drive and a U.S. concert tour of the same title. Following is a list of songs from Brightman's new CD as well as her "One Night in Eden" U.S. concert tour schedule.
"Sarah Brightman: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection" song list:
"The Phantom of the Opera" (with Michael Crawford)
"All I Ask of You" (with Cliff Richard)
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
"Another Suitcase in Another Hall"
"Love Changes Everything"
"Amigos Para Siempre" ("Friends for Life" with Jose Carreras)
"Gus: The Theatre Cat" (with Sir John Gielgud)
"Anything But Lonely"
"Macavity: the Mystery Cat"
"Tell Me on a Sunday"
"Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"
"Pie Jesu" (with Paul Miles-Kingston)
"The Music of the Night"
"One Night in Eden" tour dates:
June 2 Temple Buell Theatre in Denver
June 3 Delta Center in Salt Lake City
June 5 Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas
June 6 Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles
June 7 The Orpheum in San Francisco
June 12 Chateau Ste. Michelle in Seattle
June 15 Chicago Theatre in Chicago
June 16 Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI
June 22 and 23 City Center in New York City
June 25 N.J. Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
June 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia
June 28 Symphony Hall in Boston
June 29 Center for the Performing Arts in Providence, RI
July 1 Wolf Trap in Washington, D.C.
June 2 and 3 Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ
IN OTHER NEWS The always-wonderful Florence Lacey will star in a production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the University of Connecticut's Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre from June 4 to June 19 . . . Tickets are still available for MAC Award winner Heather MacRae's benefit performance of "Songs for My Father" this Monday, May 17 at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. There are $35 and $50 tickets available for the concert only as well as $75 and $150 tickets, which include the concert and post-performance reception. The evening is a benefit for The Colleagues Theatre Company, and reservations for just the concert may be made by calling the Merkin Box Office at (212) 501 3330. For the benefit and reception, call (212) 362-0312 . . . On May 24 Karen Mason joins K.T. Sullivan, Marin Mazzie and others at a benefit for Manhattan Plaza AIDS Project at the Westside Arts Theatre. Tickets for the concert and dinner are $100; call Jim Kelly at (212) 971 0660 for reservations . . . Speaking of Mason, I was in the Colony Records store over the weekend and noticed that sheet music is now available for the songs composed by the late Brian Lasser that Mason recorded on her "Better Days" CD. Colony does a large mail-order business and may be reached by calling (212) 265-2050. Also available are many songs by two other New York cabaret composers, David ("We Can Be Kind," "Listen to My Heart" ) Friedman and John Bucchino . . . "Stephen Sondheim, Eric Schaeffer and I are thrilled that Kathie Lee Gifford has agreed to make her Broadway debut in Putting It Together, stepping in for the wonderful Carol Burnett once a week. Kathie is a terrific performer who in her own unique way will bring the perfect combination of warmth and humor to the role of Amy." So says producer Cameron Mackintosh about the upcoming production of Putting It Together, which will open at the Barrymore Theatre on October 28. In order to lessen the strain on the show's star, Ms. Burnett, TV personality Gifford will perform the role of "Amy" on Tuesday evenings. Co-starring in the production are George Hearn, Susan Eagan, John Barrowman and Bronson Pinchot. Tickets go on sale on Sunday, June 6; call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. (Burnett will perform Wednesdays through Sundays as well as the following Tuesdays: October 12, 19, 26 and December 21 and 28.) . . . Add Joan Ryan to the ever-growing list of cabaret performers -- including Lee Lessack, Brian Lane Green, Susannah Mars, Barbara Brussell, Anne Kerry Ford and others -- who have recorded CDs on the LML Music label. Ryan, you may recall, originated the role of Judy Denmark/Ginger Del Marco in the Los Angeles production of Ruthless! and made her New York cabaret debut last year at Eighty-Eights. Much of her eclectic program at Eighty-Eights can be found on her solo debut album, which is simply titled Joan Ryan and due in stores on June 8. Ryan begins the recording with a wonderful, heartfelt version of David Friedman's "Trust the Wind." Other highlights include a belty version of Stephen Schwartz's "West End Avenue"; a beautiful, wistful ode to a lost sibling in "My Brother Lived in San Francisco"; and the Bruce Roberts/Carole Bayer Sager ballad, "I'm Coming Home Again." To celebrate the release of the disc, Ryan will perform one night only at The Cinegrill (located in the lobby of the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel) on Saturday, May 22 at 8 p.m. There is a $15 music charge and a two-drink minimum. Reservations can be made for "Joan Ryan in Concert" by calling (213) 466-7000 . . .Audra McDonald will guest star on next week's (Friday, May 21) episode of "Homicide." McDonald plays the daughter of series regular Yaphet Kotto; "Homicide" airs on NBC at 10 p.m. . . . I was thrilled that Bernadette Peters and Carolee Carmello both received Drama Desk Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Musical and that You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown's Kristin Chenoweth received Best Featured Actress in a Musical honors. A few thoughts about this year's awards broadcast, however. Who decided to have only three musical numbers in a two-and-a-half-hour evening? What a shame to have Peters as host and not let her belt out one of Annie Get Your Gun's classic songs? It would have been great to preserve her rendition of "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" or "I Got Lost in His Arms." And, why tease us with multiple spoken passages by Chenoweth when it would have been much more enjoyable to hear her sing "My New Philosophy"? One more suggestion: Please don't cut to press clips of the shows just as the award winner's name is announced. One of the major highlights of award shows is watching the recipient's initial reaction to his or her name being announced. But, I am very glad that the Drama Desk Awards are now broadcast in Manhattan -- these are just a few suggestions for next year.
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.
June 5 Myerson Symphony Center--Obelisk Awards in Dallas, TX
June 7 PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
June 10-13 Theatrefest in Montclair, NJ
June 29 Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. KAREN MASON
The songstress will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on Sept. 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theater Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
Following are a a handful of upcoming Paige concert dates in Sweden, which are listed below:
June 10 Ulriksdal (as part of the Royal Ulriksdal Palace Festival) in Stockholm, Sweden
June 12 Finspang Palace in Finspang (outside of Norrkoping), Sweden
June 17 Sofiero Palce in Helsingborg, Sweden
June 19 Tradgardsforeningen Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg, Sweden
Paige will also appear as the special guest of Cliff Richards at his concerts in Hyde Park, London, on July 16, 17 and 18. Tickets are available from First Call: 0171 420 1000. And, don't forget, EP will make a special appearance in New York City in May when she will perform at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's spring gala on Wednesday, May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House in the city. The event is being hosted by Barbara Walters, and Paige--who is expected to sing a handful of her biggest hits -will be accompanied on the piano by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch. For more information about this worthy event, contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at (212) 572-4249.
Bernadette Peters currently stars on Broadway as Annie Oakley in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The show's cast recording was recently released from Broadway Angel.
DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from August 9 through August 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from August 23 to August 28, and Sam Brown will open on August 31 and close September 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday at 4pm. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.
DIVAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
This summer's San Francisco Pops series will include appearances from Patti LuPone and Marin Mazzie. La LuPone will perform her new one-woman show, "Matters of the Heart," on July 1 and 2 with Rob Fisher as musical director. On July 10, an evening entitled "Rodgers and Hammerstein and Friends" will feature performances by the husband-and wife team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. Tickets are available through the San Francisco Symphony Ticket Service (415) 864 6000) or by visiting the symphony's website at www.sfsymphony.org. . . . Also, two of cabaret's finest performers, Andrea Marcovicci and David Campbell, will appear together on June 11 and 12 at the Alcazar Theater (650 Geary Street). Tickets, which are priced at $35, are available by calling Star Classics (415) 552-1110.
THE DIVA SERIES
The Public Theater's Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) celebrates the best of Broadway and cabaret in a new series devoted to the women who scat, swing, belt and croon. Lea DeLaria was the first in the series, and she is being followed by Mary Cleere Haran (May 10 and 11), Ann Hampton Callaway (May 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22) and -- most exciting of all -- Ute Lemper (May 26, 27, 28, June 3, 4, 5 and 7). All shows are at 8:30pm . Call (212) 239-6200 or (212) 539-8777.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.