DIVA TALK: Diva News From New York, London & Australia

DIVA TALK: Diva News From New York, London & Australia LAURIE BEECHMAN
Andrea McArdle, Sam Harris, Loni Ackerman and Mark Linn-Baker will pay tribute to Laurie Beechman -- who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in March -- this Monday, April 6 at the Winter Garden Theatre. Shubert Organization Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld will also speak at the memorial for the late star of Joseph, Cats and Les Misérables as well as other friends and family. The memorial is being organized by Richard Jay Alexander, a close friend of Beechman's who also directed her in Les Misérables and many of her night-club acts. The tribute is free to the public, and doors will open at 2:30 PM for the 3 PM tribute at the Winter Garden, where Beechman touched audiences for years portraying Grizabella, the faded Glamour Cat. Those in attendance will receive a six page PLAYBILL filled with pictures of Laurie onstage and with her friends and family.

LAURIE BEECHMAN
Andrea McArdle, Sam Harris, Loni Ackerman and Mark Linn-Baker will pay tribute to Laurie Beechman -- who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in March -- this Monday, April 6 at the Winter Garden Theatre. Shubert Organization Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld will also speak at the memorial for the late star of Joseph, Cats and Les Misérables as well as other friends and family. The memorial is being organized by Richard Jay Alexander, a close friend of Beechman's who also directed her in Les Misérables and many of her night-club acts. The tribute is free to the public, and doors will open at 2:30 PM for the 3 PM tribute at the Winter Garden, where Beechman touched audiences for years portraying Grizabella, the faded Glamour Cat. Those in attendance will receive a six page PLAYBILL filled with pictures of Laurie onstage and with her friends and family.


BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley received a tremendous ovation during her concert last week at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I thought you would be interested to read an excerpt from James D. Watts, Jr.'s review in Tulsa World: ". . .Buckley has a voice that is almost perfectly suited to the demands of musical theater. The best analogy is that it's like a sword: thin and slightly flexible, steely and sharp, and marvelously effective and powerful when put to proper use. That thin, flexible tone means not a word gets lost on its way to the back of the theater; that steely edge gives her phrasing an added sense of drama. And when Buckley unleashes all her power on some showstopper tune like 'The Meadowlark' or 'With One Look,' the results can be devastating." Check the Betty Buckley website (on PBOL) for a list of upcoming concert performances.

Also, a reminder that BB has been nominated for two MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards, one for Major Female Vocalist of the Year and the other for Major Artist Recording of the Year (for Much More on Sterling Records). The MAC Awards will be held on Sunday, April 19 at the Manhattan Center's Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street. Call 212-465-2662 for more information.


ELAINE PAIGE
Elaine Paige opened to wonderful reviews in her first non-singing stage role in the Moliere classic, The Misanthrope. The production, which was directed by Sir Peter Hall, officially opened on March 26. Just before her opening, Paige had this to say to London's Evening Standard about her upcoming role:

"I'll be a basket case on the first night--because Celimene in The Misanthrope is my first straight acting role. At the moment, I'm dealing with the challenge of making it work, rather than worrying about whether or not I'll be successful.
During rehearsals I've learned that the techniques are completely different from musicals. I breathe as a singer--and will as an actor. But I'm still worried that's the only comparison.
Luckily I'm surrounded by wonderful actors such as Peter Bowles, Michael Pennington and Anna Carteret, who know exactly what they're doing. But, on the other hand, all that talent can leave you thinking, 'Oh, crikey, I don't know what I'm doing."
But I welcome a challenge and I've wanted a crack at drama for a long time. I kept dropping leaden hints to everyone, but before Sir Peter Hall, nobody seemed to take any notice.
Because I wasn't convinced I could do it, for ages I deliberated over taking the role. Yet I wanted the opportunity. It's a good play, and Celimene is a wonderful part to play--so capricious, flirtatious and coquettish, which is fun to do.
Like all of Moliere's plays, The Misanthrope is a social comedy. It's so funny--fantastic for me because all the musicals I've done over the years have been rather tragic. And with its rhymes and rhythms, Ranjit Bolt's new translation is like music with words. God knows what I'll be like. But anyway, we won't worry about that." And, here's what some of the London critics had to say about our favorite English diva:

Edward Pearce in The Express:
". . .With a bubbling and delicious Elaine Paige as his mistress and Peter Bowles as a French Foppington--strangulated vowels and bullfrog manner -all the acting is at the highest level. Don't be put off from the great experience of a French masterpiece finally got right. You'll enjoy it."

John Gross in The Sunday Telegraph:
". . .The novelty of the evening is that Celimene is played by Elaine Paige. She gives a lively and creditable performance. . ."

Michael Coveney in Daily Mail:
"Still tiny after all these years, the delightful Elaine Paige finds herself mouthing through Moliere after emoting through Evita, clawing through Cats and sinning through Sunset. And, indeed, with her current director Peter Hall, pouting through Piaf. She joins Sir Peter's reconstituted Old Vic company to play a fickle widow besieged--at a safe distance--by the ludicrous, mildewy Alceste. . .But Moliere's play is not a game of win or lose, of up or down. It reeks of false friendship, phoney liaisons, rampant sycophancy. To express yourself as you wish, as opposed to how you will be assessed, is to break the rules. And Miss Paige's clear-eyed Celimene takes reasonable refuge from this blood sport in the triviality of court gossip. . ."

Tickets are available to The Misanthrope by calling 011-44-171-287 0464. . .On April 7 Paige will be one of the many stars celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber's 50th birthday through song at the Royal Albert Hall. . .On June 7 and 8 EP will take part in the charity concert Hey Mr. Producer, which will celebrate the work of another legendary Brit, producer Cameron Mackintosh. . . .And, Paige will appear in concert at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on June 19. Tickets may be purchased by calling 011-171-344-4444


BERNADETTE PETERS
The episode of "The Closer" with Bernadette Peters that was mentioned in last week's column will air this Monday, April 6 on CBS. In the new Tom Selleck sitcom, Peters will portray an ex-girlfriend of the star, and she will even get the chance to sing the standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Peters will also be a guest on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" on Monday (April 6) to promote her appearance on the CBS sitcom, so set your VCRs . . .Also exciting are reports that it's looking more and more likely that Peters will indeed be back on Broadway next year in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. Peters is in serious discussions with the producers of the show, The Weisslers, and if all goes well, we could be hearing the actress singing such classic tunes as "They Say It's Wonderful" and "I Got Lost in His Arms" next season. . .


JUDY KAYE
On her first solo album for Varèse Sarabande, Judy Kaye saluted the divas of the Broadway stage, performing songs that had been originally created by such theatrical stars as Ethel Merman ("The Hostess with the Mostess"), Mary Martin ("A Cockeyed Optimist"), Patti LuPone ("Where is the Warmth?") and others. On her second recording, which has just been released by Varèse, Kaye continues the diva theme, this time paying tribute to the divas of the silver screen. In fact, in the liner notes for this recording, the current star of Ragtime writes, "For all the ladies who have sung on screen, for the ladies who have sung for the ladies on screen, for anyone who has ever dreamed of singing on screen, I dedicate this recording to you." Kaye possesses a clear, strong voice that easily switches between belt and soprano, and she is most effective on "Everything," which Barbra Streisand sang for A Star Is Born; "You'll Never Know," Alice Faye's hit from Hello, Frisco, Hello ; and the Leslie Bricusse tune, "You and I," which Petula Clark recorded for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Kaye is joined on this CD by Jason Graae in the Ginger and Fred medley and by David Green on a duet of "Two Sleepy People." Following is the complete track list for Judy Kaye: Songs from the Silver Screen:
"Wonderful, Wonderful Day"
"Everything"
"(I Had The) Craziest Dream"
"Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet!"
"The Folks Who Live on the Hill/Two Sleepy People"
"Carmen Miranda Medley"
"Secret Love"
"Thanks a Lot But No Thanks"
"You'll Never Know"
"Shakin' the Blues Away"
"Falling in Love Again"
"On the Good Ship, Lollipop!"
"Ginger and Fred Medley"
"You and I"


LEA SALONGA
The Tony-winning Miss Saigon star will release a new album for BMG entitled Lea. . .in Love. It's an especially appropriate title for the young woman (she's now 27) with the big voice, since she is currently enjoying a two-and-a-half year relationship with her boyfriend, Richie Grau. Salonga recently told The PhilSTAR Daily Inc. that "My lovelife is one of the nicest episodes in my life, one of the safest things in my life. No problem. When Rich is here, he lives just near my place (somewhere in Mandaluyong City). When he's in New York where he's working in an investment company, we conduct a long-distance romance. No problem. The bill is fixed at $20 a month. Rich is the right guy for me; mabait talaga. But marriage is a long way off. He's 30, three years older than me. He was actually raised in the Philippines where he was born." The new album will feature such love songs as "Even If" (original by Jam Morales), "I Think I'm in Love" (by Kuh Ledesma), "Give Me a Chance" (by Ric Segreto), "Special Memory" (by Iwi Laurel) and many others . . . In other Salonga news, the singing actress will be featured in the upcoming Disney release, Mulan, where she can be heard in three songs. She is also currently in negotiations to take over the role of Belle in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. Nothing is definite on that front, but it is looking more and more likely that she will eventually step into that "tale as old as time."


NEWS FROM LONDON

It appears that the on again-off again cast recording of the London production of Chicago is now on again and was actually recorded on March 23 and 24. That production features stunning performances by Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper, and it will be a treat to hear these two sensational singers on disc. My London source also informed me that it's looking more and more definite that both stars of the London production will be on Broadway within the next year--Ute Lemper perhaps by the end of the summer and Ruthie Henshall some time after that. . .Stay tuned for more details.


NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA
A few dedicated diva watchers from Down Under wrote to inform me that Debra Byrne's recent concert was sensational. Byrne, who was much in the news during her difficult run in the Australian production of Sunset Boulevard, treated the crowd to a mix of theatre and pop tunes that included many songs from her stage work: "Surrender" from Sunset, "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables and "Memory" from Cats. Byrne may bring her concerts to New Zealand some time in the near future; let's hope this talented lady will someday perform in the States as well. . .While the new Australian production of the Kander and Ebb hit Chicago readies itself for its imminent opening, one of the stars of the original Australian company of that show, Geraldine Turner, will release a new solo album in the near future.


REMINDERS:

BARBARA COOK
For those of you who have yet to see the legendary Barbara Cook live, you can get another chance during her current run at the chic cabaret room of the Cafe Carlyle (Madison Avenue at 76th Street). Call 212-744-1600 for reservations.

PATTI LuPONE

You can catch La LuPone nightly at the Booth Theatre in David Mamet's newest play The Old Neighborhood. Stay tuned for more concert dates.

DONNA MURPHY
Hope you caught a dazzling Donna Murphy in the audience of the Oscars this week, seated next to the Academy Award-winning Joel Grey. Murphy, who was last on Broadway in the King and I revival, will portray Mary Todd Lincoln in a TNT production of The Day Lincoln Was Shot, which will air on that network on April 12.

JULIE WILSON

Julie Wilson is currently performing at Michael's Pub at 57 East 54th Street (between Madison and Park Avenues). Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. There is a $20 music charge Tuesday-Saturday, $25 Friday and Saturday and a $15 food or drink minimum for all performances. Call 212-758-2272 or 212-355-0243 for reservations.

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

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com