Hello, diva lovers... I thought for this holiday column I'd cover a few European divas I haven't discussed before. . .Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper, who are both starring in the London production of Chicago. In the past few years, Henshall has become one of England's reigning musical theatre divas, winning an Olivier Award for her performance in the revival of Harnick and Bock's She Loves Me , while Lemper has received acclaim for her cabaret and concert performances around the world. Both ladies' official bios follow as well as quotations from the London critics about their performances in Chicago. I actually had the chance recently to watch a few video clips of their work in this Kander and Ebb musical, and they both look sensational. I had never heard Lemper sing and was surprised by her wonderful voice. In fact, I'm off this weekend to buy one of her many recordings. . .
RUTHIE HENSHALL (bio)
"Ruthie Henshall has become something of a fixture on the West End stage since she joined the cast of Cats nearly 10 years ago, straight from playing Maggie in the UK tour of A Chorus Line. In Cats she had the rare distinction of appearing in a variety of roles: Jemima, Demeter, Jellylorum, Griddlebone and Grizabella. She was the American wife Ellen in Miss Saigon (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), and afterwards Aphra in Children of Eden (Prince Edward Theatre).
After a summer at the Chichester Festival playing Shakespeare, Moliere and the musical Valentine's Day (she was back at Chichester again this year for Divorce Me Darling!), she then moved to the Palace Theatre as Fantine in Les Miserables. Picked for the plum role of Polly in Crazy for You, Ruthie was nominated for an Olivier Award and she then went on to win an Olivier for Best Actress in a Musical in 1995 for her portrayal of Amalia Balash in the much-honoured She Loves Me (Savoy Theatre).
Ruthie recreated the role of Polly in Toronto with the legendary Mickey Rooney playing her father, followed by a highly-praised run as Nancy in Oliver! (London Palladium). She has appeared in concert at the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall and sang Fantine in the star filled Les Miserables--10th Anniversary Concert.
Albums include the original cast recordings of Miss Saigon and Crazy for You as well as Symphonic Miss Saigon and the Les Miserables--10th Anniversary Concert recording. Her debut album Love Is Here to Stay is a personal tribute to the music of George and Ira Gershwin and the Ruthie Henshall album backed her recent national concert tour."
UTE LEMPER (bio)
Ute Lemper is most known for her solo performances which include: Kurt Weill Recital, Illusions, City of Strangers and Berlin Cabaret Evening, produced at major venues throughout Europe, North America, Australia, Japan and Israel.
Her theatre credits includes: Grizabella and Bombalurina in Cats (Vienna), Peter in Peter Pan (Berlin), Sally Bowles in Jerome Savary's Cabaret (Paris), for which she received the Moliere Award for Best Actress as Lola in Peter Zadek's The Blue Angel (Berlin) and Maurice Bejart created a ballet for her, La Mort Subite (Paris); Fassbinder's Katzelmacher (Stuttgart), The Seven Deadly Sins (Stuttgart, Paris, Boston, London, Dresden), Weill Revue (Pina Bausch Tanztheater) and Bye Bye Showbiz (Paris).
Her recordings include: Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill (Vols I & III), Three Penny Opera, The Seven Deadly Sins, Mahagonny, Songspiel, Prospero's Books, Songbook, Illusions (Piaf/Dietrich), City of Strangers (Sondheim/Prevert), Berlin Cabaret Songs, Crimes of the Heart, Life is a Cabaret, Ute Lemper Live, Espace Indecent, Nuits Etranges and She Has a Heart. She was named Billboard Magazine's Crossover Artist of the Year 1993-1994.
Her symphony concerts include The Seven Deadly Sins, Songs from Kurt Weill, Songbook and Songs from Piaf & Dietrich with The London Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Paris Radio Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, The 'Illusions' Orchestra and The Michael Nyman Band. She also appeared in Folksongs with the Luciano Berio Orchestra and with The Matrix Ensemble performing Berlin Cabaret Songs.
Her films include: L'Autrichienne, Jean Galmot, Coupable d'Innocence, Prospero's Books, Pierre qui Brule, Moscow Parade, Pret a Porter, Bogus and the very recent releases, Combat de Fauves, A River Made to Drown In, and Appetite.
Television credits include: Rage and Outrage, The Dreyfus Affair, Tales from the Crypt, Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill, Illusions, Volker Schloendorff's Songbook, Not Mozart, The Wall and The Look of Love.
Her publications include Unzensiert and Non-Censure."
. . .the reviews. . .
Nicholas de Jongh in Evening Standard:
". . .Ruthie Henshall's murderess, who convincingly toughs it out and then succumbs to winsomeness and vulnerability, and Ute Lemper as her partner in crime, go at their songs with a riveting, sexy ardour and sharp attack. . ." Michael Coveney in Daily Mail:
". . .In London, our own squeaky-clean Ruthie Henshall plays Roxie and Europe's classy cabaret queen Ute Lemper is Velma. This unlikely duo is, in fact, a reversal of the expected casting, but it works more than well. It works like a dream.
Respectively, Henshall and Lemper suggest elements of Liza Minnelli and Marlene Dietrich without resorting to dull imitation. They are the kooky innocent abroad and the quirky not-so-innocent as a broad.
And, boy, do they , kick up a storm. . ."
Robert Butler in Independent on Sunday:
". . .As Velma, Ute Lemper is quite a shock. She gives a brazenly angular high-kick performance, throaty and growling, contorting her face like a Grosz caricature. It will amaze those who know her only from her work as a singer. A giraffe may have longer legs--we could argue about that--but no giraffe has ever raised one above its head. Ruthie Henshall is more than a match as Roxie. If Lemper is all display, Henshall draws us in with a contained energy that serves her numbers superbly. . ."
John Gross in Sunday Telegraph:
". . .The most obvious bombshell of the evening is Ute Lemper as Velma. Bony, angular, facing down the world with lopsided shrugs and grins, she looks like nothing you have every quite seen before, except in an Expressionist picture--Dietrich, perhaps, if she had been painted by Otto Dix. But her force of personality transforms what might have been grotesque into sulphurous glamour, and her high kicks and cavortings are something to behold.
Ruthie Henshall's performance as Roxie is less startling but equally good--and indeed almost as startling, if you consider it in the light of Henshall's previous roles. Up to now her main stock-in-trade has been sweetness; here she reveals a striking gift for satire, when Roxie plays the victim and still more when she starts getting carried away by her own publicity. And she is terrific in the number when she sits on her lawyer's knee, miming the part of a ventriloquist's doll. . ."
Michael Billington in Guardian:
". . .The performances are also good. Ruthie Henshall captures Roxie's murderous opportunism--growling seductively, after a particularly butch display by the male chorus, "These are my boys." . . ."
Charles Spencer in Daily Telegraph:
". . . Yet while the ensemble is terrific, the show will be remembered for its star performances. Until now Ute Lemper has been known as an up market cabaret singer but as Velma the Vamp she reveals a knack for both hard-boiled humor and high-kicking dance routines that leave you gasping with admiration and lust.
Ruthie Henshall plays Roxie with real wit, moving from fake little girl innocence to monstrous self-regard, and boy can she shimmy. . ."
Georgina Brown in Mail on Sunday:
". . .It's a formidable achievement when the competition is Ruthie Henshall, in stunning form as Roxie. There's something of Liza Minnelli, Audrey Hepburn and Victoria Chaplin rolled into one in this pert, precise, pixie-faced actress. She can come on all coy and winsome when she needs to be, and monstrously egomaniacal after swallowing every word of her own publicity.
The plot demands that Roxie knocks fellow inmate and cell-block queen Velma Kelly into the wings--no mean task when she's played by Ute Lemper, the German chanteuse who looks like Marlene Dietrich and dances on legs as bandy as a new-born giraffe's. . ."
David Lister in Independent:
". . .Miss Henshall as killer turned singer Roxie Hart is a revelation, cool and sexy with a beautiful voice matched by assured comic timing. "I started fooling around," she confides to the audience. "Then I started screwing around, which is fooling around without dinner."
Her rival in the show is played by Ute Lemper, internationally famous for her smoky renditions of Kurt Weill. As she and Henshall trade high kicks with the rest of the cast, the stage a mass of legs and cleavage, this is more like a night at the Folies Bergere than a show ostensibly set in a prison. . ."
DIVAS SING TV TUNES
Recently, an updated version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella aired on ABC-TV with a star-studded cast that boasted Whitney Houston, Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber and Bernadette Peters. Cinderella, originally written in 1957, was just one of many musicals composed for television in days gone by. From Varese Sarabande now comes a newly recorded collection of songs from shows that were expressly written for the small screen by some of the most legendary Broadway and pop composers. A host of divas can be found on Prime Time Musicals, including Crista (Gypsy, Big) Moore, Christiane (Jekyll & Hyde) Noll, Sally (She Loves Me) Mayes, Jennifer (Titanic) Piech and Liz (The Most Happy Fella) Larsen. Following is the complete song list of this new recording:--
"Come To the Supermarket" from Aladdin (Porter) sung by Gregory Jbara--
"One Hand Tied Behind My Back" from No Man Can Tame Me (Livingston & Evans) sung by Alet Oury--
"One Starry Moment" from Jack and the Beanstalk (Cahn/Van Heusen) sung by Crista Moore--
"It Doesn't Matter Anymore" from On the Flip Side (Bacharach and David) sung by Guy Haines--
"Strangers" from Androcles and the Lion (Rodgers) sung by Pamela Winslow--
"Man Wanted" from Copacabana (Manilow, Sussman, Feldman) sung by Jolie Jenkins with Suzanne Lorge, Bethany Samuelson, Kelli D. Shrewsbury, Linda Strasser and Gretchen Weiss--
"One Day at a Time" from High Tor (Schwartz/Anderson) sung by Jason Graae--
"Too Happy Dancing" from Hansel and Gretel (Wilder/Engvick) sung by Jennifer Piech--
"Ride on a Rainbow" from Ruggles of Red Gap (Styne/Robbins) sung by Sally Mayes--
"You're So Right for Me" from Satins and Spurs (Livingston and Evans) sung by Liz Larsen and Sal Viviano--
"Listen To Your Heart" from Pinocchio (Wilder/Engvick) sung by Michelle Nicastro--
"Happy Heart" from Junior Miss (Lane/Fields) sung by Lynnette Perry--
"I Worry/If You Never Try" from The Canterville Ghost (Bock and Harnick) sung by Tammy Minoff and Shannon Stoeke--
"Who Needs to Dream" from Copacabana (Manilow/Sussman/Feldman) sung by Christiane Noll--
"Getting Married/Love and Marriage" from I'm Getting Married/Our Town (Styne/Comden & Green; Cahn/Van Heusen) sung by Beth Howland and Charles Kimbrough
IN OTHER NEWS
The cast recording of the revival of 1776 is now available from TVT Records and features Violet's Lauren Ward singing "He Plays the Violin," which Betty Buckley sent soaring in that show's original production . . . Side Show, the new musical starring Alice (Sunset Boulevard) Ripley and Emily Skinner, has posted a closing notice for January 3. Be sure to catch this musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre before it departs--terrific performances from Ripley, Skinner and Norm Lewis coupled with a wonderful score make it a must-see . . .Darlene Love, who starred on Broadway in Leader of the Pack and the cult classic Carrie, will sing high atop Rockefeller Center at Rainbow & Stars through Saturday, January 3. Call 212-632-5000 for reservations . . .The legendary Eartha Kitt returns for her winter run at the Cafe Carlyle (call 212-570 7189) in New York City beginning Friday, January 2 . . .On New Year's Eve, Jekyll & Hyde's Linda Eder will be the special guest singer at The Rainbow Room. There is a special $450 (!) cover for this New Year's Eve celebration that also features the Rainbow Room Big Dance Band and Rainbow's Manhattan Latins (call 212-632-5000).
Betty B continues to bring down the house nightly with "Serenity" in the musical comedy Triumph of Love, which has posted a closing notice for January 4. Tickets for the remaining performances are available at the box office of the Royale Theatre or by calling 212-239-6200. Don't miss Betty while you have your chance.
La LuPone is currently wowing audience at the Booth Theatre in the new David Mamet trilogy, The Old Neighborhood. Tickets may be ordered by calling 212-239-6200.
Marcovicci is currently performing at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC through Saturday, January 3; performances are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 9pm and Friday and Saturday at 9pm and 11:30pm. There is a $15 food and beverage minimum as well as a $35 music charge (on Friday and Saturday, the music charge is $40). Dinner is required at the early show, and reservations can be made by calling (212) 840-6800. The Algonquin is located at 59 West 44th Street.
Karen Mason will return to the cabaret stage of Los Angeles's Cinegrill on December 31. Mason kicks off a two-week engagement on New Year's Eve, and reservations can be made by calling 213-466-7000.
Add January 8, 15 and 22 to Runolfsson's previous New York cabaret dates at Eighty Eight's in the West Village. Runolfsson is scheduled to sing at 10:30pm on each of these Wednesday nights, and reservations can be made by calling 212-924-0088. The club is located at 228 West 10th Street; there is a $12 music charge plus a two-drink minimum. Runolfsson will also sing in L.A. at the famed The Cinegrill from February 10-14, 1998.
That's all for now. Happy holidays, and happy diva-watching! -- By Andrew Gans
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