DIVA TALK: Divas Around Town

DIVA TALK: Divas Around Town Hello, diva lovers! Just a few items this week as we head into the much anticipated Tony Awards weekend. Be sure to catch the telecast, which begins this Sunday, June 6 at 8 PM on PBS and continues on CBS 9-11 PM. Also, for those of you in the New York area, NY1 will present a special Tony Awards special 7:30-8 PM, also on Sunday.

Hello, diva lovers! Just a few items this week as we head into the much anticipated Tony Awards weekend. Be sure to catch the telecast, which begins this Sunday, June 6 at 8 PM on PBS and continues on CBS 9-11 PM. Also, for those of you in the New York area, NY1 will present a special Tony Awards special 7:30-8 PM, also on Sunday.

DIVAS SALUTE COMPOSERS

The third annual benefit for Temple Beth Simchat Torah, the Gay and Lesbian Synagogue in Manhattan, will salute composers David Friedman and Henry Krieger and will feature performances from many of Broadway's top stars: Brenda Braxton, Kristen Chenoweth, Alix Korey, Norm Lewis, Andrea McArdle, Billy Porter, Sara Ramirez, Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner and Lillias White.

The benefit will be held at B. Smith's Restaurant in New York City on Monday, June 14 at 7 PM (sharp), and it promises to be a thrilling evening of powerhouse vocals. You can expect to hear the entire fight scene from the end of the first act of Dreamgirls. Lillias White will reprise her role as Effie, with Aisha de Haas as Lorrell, Brenda Braxton as Deena, Norm Lewis as Curtis and Kevin Anthony as James Early. Those Side Show gals, Ripley and Skinner, will begin the evening with "I Will Never Leave You," and Paul Castree and Jason Opsahl will perform another Side Show anthem, "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" The title song to Dreamgirls will be gender-reversed as well: Ric Ryder, Jason Opsahl and Adam Hunter will lend their vocals to this Krieger tune. Alix Korey is set to perform David Friedman's hysterical ode to the holidays, "My Simple Christmas Wish," and Korey will duet with Norm Lewis on "Different Worlds." The velvet-voiced Lewis will solo on another David Friedman tune, "We Live on Borrowed Time."

Comedian-performer-writer Seth Rudetsky will serve as producer, music director and the host for the evening. There is a $25 cover plus a $10 food and drink minimum. Call (212) 247-2222 for reservations. SANDY DUNCAN

A loyal diva watcher sent me a copy of the May 21 issue of Next magazine, which features a lengthy interview with Sandy Duncan, that Peter Pan star who was to join the Broadway company of Chicago next month. Due to a broken foot, however, Duncan will now join the production in August. Regardless of the dates, however, I thought you would enjoy reading some of Duncan's quotes from her Next interview with Jay Jimenez:

About her personality:
"I'm a total introvert . . .Socially, I'm very quiet. And there was a period where I drank a lot because of it. In fact I don't drink anymore because I think I've had all the alcohol I've been allowed to have in this lifetime. [Laughs.] It started when I first went out to L.A. I was extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes after I belted down a few drinks -- and several glasses of wine -- I was able to cope with public appearances better. [Sandy smiles broadly.] All the papers used to write I was "a party girl." It was a pure facade. I think I would have preferred to have been beaten than go to a party. I'm not kidding."

About her longevity in show business:
"The public can be fickle sometimes and if you get really, really, really big, they tire. They say, 'Ah! We've seen that, do something new.' So, from time to time, I like to disappear. When I come back, I return as someone 'new.' The only difference this time on Broadway is I'm wearing a short skirt, black tights, messy hair and I have my mouth open. Chicago is musical theater as opposed to musical comedy. It's clean, tight and it wears well."

About whether she will catch Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan:
"No. I probably won't ever see it. [Sandy smiles.] You see, the Peter Pan role is very dear to me and I think it would be difficult to see someone else perform a role that you still love doing. I mean, I'd probably just be sitting there bitching and complaining and criticizing away. Why should I put sweet Cathy Rigby through that? [Laughs.] I'd be like, 'I'm so happy that you're succeeding, darling.' [Laughs.] I really wouldn't be able to sit there in a very objective way. It just wouldn't work for me."

About whether her audiences should worry when she climbs up the ladder again as Roxie Hart:
"Hopefully that won't be necessary. I learned I can never put all of my body weight on a little, itty, bitty spike heel. [Laughs.] I think once you do a dumb thing like that, you kind of learn your lesson!

ANDREA MARCOVICCI

On her newest album, cabaret singer-actress Andrea Marcovicci brings her usual charm and intelligence to a set of songs associated with another legendary performer, Mabel Mercer. Entitled "Some Other Time: Marcovicci Sings Mabel Mercer," the recording captures the singer's recent cabaret act devoted to material Mercer performed over the course of her own career. In his review of Marcovicci's show, New York Times critic Stephen Holden wrote, "Marcovicci's new show, a celebration of songs performed by Mabel Mercer, the grande dame of cabaret, suggests that the singer is well on her way to achieving the same kind of status." The CD is available from Cabaret Records, and the track listing follows:


"Nobody Else But Me"
"Looking at You"
"You Are Not My First Love"
"You Don't Know Paree"/ "Autumn Leaves"
"How Do You Say Auf Weidersehn?"
"Sunday in New York"
"I Walk a Little Faster" / "Isn't He Adorable?"
"All in Fun" / "Just Once Around the Clock"
"The End of a Love Affair" / "Falling in Love With Love"
"Young and Foolish"
"Ev'rybody Has the Right To Be Wrong!"
"Ace in the Hole"
"The Riviera"
"Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden's"
"The Kerry Dance" / "While We're Young"
"Some Other Time"
"Here's To Us"

AUDRA McDONALD

This past week, Audra McDonald made her eagerly-awaited Boston Pops debut, singing a selection of both classic and new material. The three time Tony winner delighted the sell-out crowd, and television audiences will get a chance to view the evening this summer on PBS. I thought you would enjoy reading a portion of the glowing review by Richard Dyer that ran in the June 3 issue of the Boston Globe. Says Dyer: "Audra McDonald, not yet 30, has it all -- voice, looks, charisma, three Tony awards, and the rare quality of awakening powerful emotions in every audience that hears her. McDonald has arrived on Broadway with the kind of quality no singing actress has rivaled since Streisand went onstage as Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale and walked off as a star . . . last night McDonald sang four songs from ['Way Back to Paradise'], 'Tom,' by Michael John LaChiusa; 'Baby Moon,' by Adam Guettel (a grandson of Richard Rodgers); 'A Lullaby,' by Ricky Ian Gordon; and 'Stars and the Moon,' by Jason Robert Brown . . .

"McDonald's gifts are spectacular. Her voice, trained for opera, is a wide ranging mezzo-soprano with easy top notes (all the way up to B-flat last night), a defiant growl at the bottom, and an ability to make her voice soar both in 'belt' and in 'legit' production an octave higher. (Sarah Vaughan may be the only previous singer who foreshadowed this sensation.) Her diction is both clear and meaningful, and she uses her voice fearlessly to act a song, convey its complex feelings, awaken those emotions in the audience. Just to hear her sing the word 'Tom' in LaChiusa's song was like hearing Helen Morgan convey everything you needed to know about 'Bill' -- and herself. The audience responded with warmth and enthusiasm to the songs, to the enraptured Keith Lockhart and the Pops, and to McDonald's backup trio (Lee Musiker, piano; Peter Donovan, bass; Dave Rataczak, drums) . . .

"McDonald opened with Gershwin's 'Fascinatin' Rhythm' because, she said, the new songs obsess her the way that rhythm fascinated Gershwin, and she is one of the rare singers to get that rhythm right and make it fascinate. Then there were four Harold Arlen songs that played to her dramatic instinct and skill - 'A Sleepin' Bee,' 'The Man That Got Away,' and 'Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home.' Her best performance came in 'The Man That Got Away,' which she sang in tribute to the singer she called her 'goddess,' Judy Garland. 'There's no way in heck (this is television),' she said, 'that I could sing it in her grand style; this is my quiet tribute.' So McDonald searingly sang it as a bruised waif trying to shrug the situation off, and not quite succeeding. In the other Arlen songs she could be criticized for some of the same things Garland was -- she never lets up; puts you, herself, and the song through the wringer; seldom lets her voice relax and smile. But to be criticized on this level is a compliment; everything original can be carped at. Everything original is also unforgettable, and Audra McDonald already is."

IN OTHER NEWS

Cabaret chanteuse Maureen McGovern continues to charm audiences at the Algonquin through June 19. Show times are Tuesday through Thursday at 9 PM with 9 PM and 11:30 PM shows on both Friday and Saturday. The Algonquin is located at 59 West 44th Street. Call (212) 840-6800 for reservations . . . The one-and-only Barbara Cook returns to the intimate confines of the Cafe Carlyle on September 14. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 744-1600. Bobby Short is currently in residence at this posh cabaret . . .

BLIND ITEM: What musical theatre star may open a London production of The King and I this fall? Stay tuned for more.

REMINDERS:

SARAH BRIGHTMAN

Following is Brightman's "One Night in Eden" U.S. concert tour schedule:
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 BETTY BUCKLEY

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
Oct. 9: Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
Oct. 22: (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
Oct. 24: Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
Nov. 6: State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
Nov. 14: Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
Dec. 6-7: St. Barths Church in New York, NY
Dec. 17: City Center in Coral Springs, FL
Dec. 18: Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
Dec. 31: Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT

FLORENCE LACEY

Florence Lacey will star in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre's production of A Little Night Music, which will be directed by Gary M. English and begin performances at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Stage on June 4. This production of Night Music will run through June 19, the first of three musicals being offered during the 44th Nutmeg Summer Series. Following Night Music will be Once On This Island and Forever Plaid. Performances for each production are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM Tickets range from $20 to $22, with a $3 discount for students and seniors. (The entire series may be purchased for $48 or $54). Call the box office at (860) 486-4226.

PATTI LuPONE

LuPone will sit down with writer Sheryl Flatow in front of a live audience to discuss her stellar career. "A Conversation with Patti LuPone" is being presented by the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (PALM) on Wednesday, June 30 from 6-7 PM at PALM, 401 Van Ness Ave., 4th Floor. For ticket prices and other info, call PALM at (415) 255-4800 . . . La LuPone will also 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

Mason will appear at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater on Sunday, June 13 and Monday, June 14 at 8:30 PM. The Public Theater is located at 425 Lafayette Street (between East 4th Street and Astor Place). The songstress will also perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on September 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.

ELAINE PAIGE

Following are 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

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 Aug. 9 through Aug. 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from Aug. 23 to Aug. 28, and Sam Brown will open on Aug. 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 Theatre (650 Geary Street). Tickets, which are priced at $35, are available by calling Star Classics (415) 552-1110.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.