DIVA TALK: Divas Gather for Feb. 24 Event

DIVA TALK: Divas Gather for Feb. 24 Event NOTHING LIKE A DAME
There's nothing like a dame or a diva for that matter, and a host of divas are lined up to perform this Monday evening, February 24, in the second annual Nothing Like a Dame benefit. The evening, which will be held at 8 PM at the Marquis Theatre (1535 Broadway, New York), supports the Phyllis Newman Women's Heath Initiative of the Actors' Fund of America. The initiative is "committed to the good health of women in the entertainment community."

Many of our favorite ladies are scheduled to appear, including Betty Buckley, Laurie Beechman, Barbara Cook, Randy Graff, Judy Kuhn and Donna Murphy. And, if that's not enough talent on one stage, how about Julie Andrews, Brenda Braxton, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Marilyn Cooper, Ann Duquesnay, Uta Hagen, Marcia Lewis, S. Epatha Merkerson, Bebe Neuwirth, Mary Rodgers, Elaine Stritch, Melissa Tomei, Lillias White, Mary Louise Wilson, Rachel York and, of course, Phyllis Newman, who originated the initiative last year. In addition to these performers, radio personality Joan Hamburg and gossip columnist Liz Smith will also take part in the event, which will include cast members from Rent, Chicago, Forbidden Broadway and virtually every Broadway show.

Highlights from last year's event included Laurie Beechman's moving speech about her battle with ovarian cancer and a deeply felt rendition of "If You Remember"; Marin Mazzie's belty version of Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By"; that great "dame" of the theatre, Irene Worth, probing the dramatic depths of A Little Night Music's "Liaisons"; Andrea Martin, reprising her comical "Nobody's Chasing Me," which she performed two seasons ago in the Encores! production of Cole Porter's Out of This World; Lillias White's rousing "Flowers in the Sky"; Judy Kuhn in glorious voice, singing two Jule Styne songs "Just in Time" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance; and Betty Buckley, who after being greeted by a thunderous applause, dazzled the audience with "Over You," from the film Tender Mercies. Two of the non-musical highlights were Carol Channing's hilarious monologue about Cecilia Cisson, a silent movie star's ill-fated attempt to make it in the world of talkies; and Zoe Caldwell's squirrel (!) sonnet.

Tickets to this year's Nothing Like a Dame range from $100-$250, and it is sure to be a not-to-be-missed event. I will be attending the evening on Monday and write about the divafest next week. For further ticket information, please call (212) 221-7300 ext. 135.

NOTHING LIKE A DAME
There's nothing like a dame -- or a diva for that matter, and a host of divas are lined up to perform this Monday evening, February 24, in the second annual Nothing Like a Dame benefit. The evening, which will be held at 8 PM at the Marquis Theatre (1535 Broadway, New York), supports the Phyllis Newman Women's Heath Initiative of the Actors' Fund of America. The initiative is "committed to the good health of women in the entertainment community."

Many of our favorite ladies are scheduled to appear, including Betty Buckley, Laurie Beechman, Barbara Cook, Randy Graff, Judy Kuhn and Donna Murphy. And, if that's not enough talent on one stage, how about Julie Andrews, Brenda Braxton, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Marilyn Cooper, Ann Duquesnay, Uta Hagen, Marcia Lewis, S. Epatha Merkerson, Bebe Neuwirth, Mary Rodgers, Elaine Stritch, Melissa Tomei, Lillias White, Mary Louise Wilson, Rachel York and, of course, Phyllis Newman, who originated the initiative last year. In addition to these performers, radio personality Joan Hamburg and gossip columnist Liz Smith will also take part in the event, which will include cast members from Rent, Chicago, Forbidden Broadway and virtually every Broadway show.

Highlights from last year's event included Laurie Beechman's moving speech about her battle with ovarian cancer and a deeply felt rendition of "If You Remember"; Marin Mazzie's belty version of Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By"; that great "dame" of the theatre, Irene Worth, probing the dramatic depths of A Little Night Music's "Liaisons"; Andrea Martin, reprising her comical "Nobody's Chasing Me," which she performed two seasons ago in the Encores! production of Cole Porter's Out of This World; Lillias White's rousing "Flowers in the Sky"; Judy Kuhn in glorious voice, singing two Jule Styne songs "Just in Time" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance; and Betty Buckley, who after being greeted by a thunderous applause, dazzled the audience with "Over You," from the film Tender Mercies. Two of the non-musical highlights were Carol Channing's hilarious monologue about Cecilia Cisson, a silent movie star's ill-fated attempt to make it in the world of talkies; and Zoe Caldwell's squirrel (!) sonnet.

Tickets to this year's Nothing Like a Dame range from $100-$250, and it is sure to be a not-to-be-missed event. I will be attending the evening on Monday and write about the divafest next week. For further ticket information, please call (212) 221-7300 ext. 135. BERNADETTE PETERS
Thought you'd like to see the cover art for Bernadette's upcoming Carnegie Hall album (see above). Titled Sondheim Etc.: Bernadette Peters at Carnegie Hall, the live album will be released on March 11, and portions of the proceeds will benefit GMHC.

I spoke with Bernadette's press agent Judy this week--who had just returned from catching Maureen McGovern at the Cinegrill in L.A. (next week I'll write about Maureen's upcoming album)--and Judy is currently scheduling many TV appearances for BP to promote the wonderful album. The first appearance scheduled is March 25 on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show." I will keep you posted on Peters' TV schedule. Also, be sure to look for BP in the audience next week on the Grammy Awards--she was nominated for her long-awaited solo album, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.

BETTY BUCKLEY
A loyal diva watcher sent a copy of the February 1997 issue of Dallas/Fort Worth's Life Style Magazine, which featured Betty B on the front cover and an interview, Q & A style, inside with Roma Cannizzaro. Following are some of Betty B's choice quotes:

About finding her way in life:
"I found God, and it seems that I had this huge, enormous guidance from an inner voice that would tell me always exactly what to do. For example, I knew I should do the show Promises, Promises. I auditioned for it, and I had blown my audition. My inner voice told me, "Do your number, take off your costume and go over to the Shubert Theatre and speak to the stage manager." So I did it! I asked for the stage manager, and he said, "Well, Betty, they don't want to see you." And I said, "Well, I know I blew my audition, but I know I know how to do this part." . . . I was crying, and he knew I was really sincere. He said, "All right, come before the matinee on Saturday and I'll work with you."
I called my agent and he said, "Betty, they don't want to see you," and I said, "I worked with the stage manager. You're a big agent--get me the audition, pull in a favor." That's unusual for a kid of 21. The end of the story is that I auditioned for it and . . .I got the part. I wouldn't have gotten there if I hadn't listened to my amazing inner guidance."

About her disapproving father and some hard-won approval:
". . .I felt very strongly that I won the Tony for my mother. My father had refused to come to see me in Cats. He refused to come to see me at the Tony Awards. He was a tough guy--a really tough guy. . .Years later I flew my parents up the first time I sang at Carnegie Hall, and he came backstage. I said, "Dad, what did you think?" I was singing with a 64 piece symphony in a black velvet gown, and it was a special thing . . .He said rather gruffly, "World class, Betty Lynn. . .world class." . . .In Los Angeles, when I was doing Getting My Act Together, he saw the show and I asked him, "Well, Dad, what did you think?" He said, "Well, Betty Lynn, I have to say that I always thought this show-business thing was just a superficial, silly business, but I watched you tonight and I realized that you really care about people and you're really trying to communicate something worthwhile. I was just worried that you'd waste your brain. You have a really fine brain."

PATTI LuPONE
La LuPone began a week-long stint in Costa Mesa on Tuesday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center and continues to perform Patti LuPone on Broadway through Sunday. There was a review in the February 20 issue of Daily Variety, and Charles Isherwood had this say to say about our Evita gal:

"Temporarily in between Master Classes in New York and London, Patti LuPone is keeping her musical chops in tune with a tour of her concert, now titled after its Broadway stand, although the show originated here in Los Angeles just about four years ago. In its weeklong Orange County stand, the show replaced a canceled tour of Funny Girl with Debbie Gibson; let it be said that Orange County audiences are not likely to be disappointed. In fact, with a short, chic, side-parted bob, LuPone physically recalls the Streisand of Funny Girl, though her vocalizing is most renowned for its belting power in the more traditional Broadway style associated with Ethel Merman. That's not to say that her musical artistry isn't diverse: A quick look at the sophisticated selection of tunes she's performing makes that clear. . .Her performance is as unpretentious and fresh as her voice is powerful, particularly in its firm middle and lower registers. The evening's unquestionable highlight is a breathtaking rendition of Berlin's "Moonshine Lullaby," performed without microphones by LuPone and her able backup singers, who get to shine only here, while LuPone's voice is revealed to be an instrument whose beauty is inevitably blunted by electric amplification. It's enchanting, and heartbreaking."

So, if you're in the Costa Mesa area, be sure to catch La LuPone in action. Tickets range from $19-$49.50 and can be purchased by calling (714) 740 7878 or (213) 365-3500.

ELAINE PAIGE
As of this Saturday, February 22, there is only a month left to catch one of our favorite ladies, Elaine Paige, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, which will end its run at the Minskoff Theatre on March 22. For those of you who have yet to catch Elaine's wonderful turn as Norma Desmond, what are you waiting for? Paige, who is making her Broadway debut after thrilling London audiences for the past two decades, delivers a not-to-be-missed performance, and soon EP will announce her post-Sunset plans.

A postscript to last week's "Elaine at Sardi's" diva column. I had transcribed Elaine's thank-you speech but forgot to give you her inscription on the caricature. So here it is: "To Sardi's, This is such an honour--particularly for a 'Brit' like me. Thanks. Elaine Paige" KAREN MASON
Karen Mason, who was the standby for Norma Desmond for the majority of the run of Sunset Boulevard in New York (and in L.A.), will return to the cabaret stage at New York's Rainbow and Stars for three weeks beginning March 4.

Mason will be backed by a quarter of musicians, including musical director Dick Gallagher on piano. Mason will perform standards as well as selections from her new album, "Better Days," which features the songs from her longtime collaborator, the late Brian Lasser.
As of this writing, Mason's song list for Rainbow & Stars is set to include the following:
"Like the Heavens Hold The Stars"
by Paul Rolnick and William Soden Jr.
"Tear Up the Town"
by Brian Lasser
"Almost Like Being in Love"
by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
"Mr. Snow"
by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
"It's a Nice Face"/"When I Look In His Eyes"
by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields/by Leslie Bricusse
"I Wish"
by Babbie Green
"I'm Becoming My Mother"
by Brain Lasser and Gary Gardner
"Hold Me"
by Brian Lasser
"The King and I"
by Gary Gardner
"What's Wrong with This Picture?"
by Brian Lasser and Garry Bormet
"I Want to Be Around"
by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt
"Happy Ending"/"Hey There, Good Times"
by Jerry Herman/by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart

Mason will perform Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:30 PM and 11 PM, and the cover charge is $25 with dinner required at the early shows. For more information and for reservations, call (212) 632-5000.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!--

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