DIVA TALK: Divas Go to London . . . and more

DIVA TALK: Divas Go to London . . . and more BETTY BUCKLEY
From all accounts Betty Buckley's May 8 appearance at Carnegie Hall was a huge success. Buckley was the guest soloist with the New York Pops (Skitch Henderson, conductor) and performed many of her trademark tunes, including both Sunset arias, "Memory," "Meadowlark," "Hello, Young Lovers"/"Almost Like Being in Love" and more.

BETTY BUCKLEY
From all accounts Betty Buckley's May 8 appearance at Carnegie Hall was a huge success. Buckley was the guest soloist with the New York Pops (Skitch Henderson, conductor) and performed many of her trademark tunes, including both Sunset arias, "Memory," "Meadowlark," "Hello, Young Lovers"/"Almost Like Being in Love" and more.

Buckley's appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" has been scheduled for June 3. Be sure to set your VCRs that day as Buckley will sing at least one number to celebrate her recent Tony nomination in the now-closed musical Triumph of Love. Also, Buckley will receive an honorary doctorate in music from the Boston Conservatory on May 17.


BERNADETTE PETERS
London fans of Bernadette Peters should brace themselves for a double dose of the Tony-winning talent this summer. First, on June 7 and 8 BP will be among the many stars who will take part in the charity benefit, Hey Mr. Producer, which will celebrate the work of producer Cameron Mackintosh. Then, from July 29 through August 2, Peters will perform in concert (backed by a full orchestra) at London's Royal Festival Hall. Stay tuned for more details about these performances -- you won't want to miss Peters in concert.


LIZ CALLAWAY
Liz Callaway will take a three-month hiatus from her role as Grizabella in the Broadway production of Cats. Callaway's last performance will be on June 28, and her replacement (through the end of September) is the Norma Desmond of the first Sunset Boulevard tour, Linda Balgord. Rumor has it that Liz and her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, will bring their cabaret act, Sibling Revelry, to London's Donmar Warehouse this summer. Although Liz's press agent was unable to confirm the rumor, it looks like the talented duo will perform at the Warehouse August 17-29. Stay tuned for more . . .


JUDY KUHN
Rehearsals are underway for the upcoming production of Irving Berlin and Moss Hart's As Thousands Cheer, which will star one of my very favorite ladies, Judy Kuhn. Kuhn was seen recently in the Encores! production of Strike Up the Band, where she got the chance to wrap her beautiful voice around the Gershwin classic "The Man I Love." Kuhn will be joined in this production by Howard McGillin, Paula Newsome, Mary Beth Peil, B. D. Wong and Kevin Chamberlin, who was on Broadway this season in Triumph of Love. The musical revue will be directed by Christopher (Jeffrey) Ashley, and performances begin on June 2 with an official opening on June 14 at the Greenwich House Theatre, located at 27 Barrow Street (near 7th Avenue South). Tickets are only $12 and may be purchased by calling (212) 541-8441. Don't miss your chance to see Kuhn in action.


NANCY LaMOTT
In the past few months, I have found myself listening to Nancy LaMott's recordings more and more. I have long been a fan of the late singer - blessed with one of the most beautiful voices -- whose honest, simple delivery of songs is hard to beat. So, it was with a wave of excitement that I received the news that not one, but two new Nancy LaMott albums were to be released next month on the Midder Music label. The excitement was unfortunately short-lived as I soon discovered that due to legal issues surrounding LaMott's estate, the albums have been put on hold for the time being. I did learn, however, that there is still plenty of unreleased material available, and when the legal issues are cleared up, much of this material will begin finding its way to CD. For now, however, LaMott fans will have to content themselves with one of her already available recordings: Beautiful Baby, Come Rain or Come Shine, My Foolish Heart, Just in Time for Christmas, Listen to My Heart and What's Good About Goodbye?


FOLLIES

It was with great anticipation that I ventured to Millburn, New Jersey, two Sundays ago with a fellow diva lover to catch the version of Stephen Sondheim's Follies currently on the stage of the Paper Mill Playhouse. It was actually during college when I hosted a Broadway radio program that I first heard the incredible Stephen Sondheim score, a score that features one great song after another. Who could possibly complain about a musical that features "Losing My Mind," "Could I Leave You?" "I'm Still Here," "Too Many Mornings," "Broadway Baby" and many others?

Having never seen an actual production of Follies, I was thoroughly delighted by the current version at the Paper Mill, and you shouldn't miss your chance to see this wonderfully moving show. In fact, just the opening number of the show was worth the trip, as each star (Donna McKechnie, Ann Miller, Kaye Ballard, Phyllis Newman, Liliane Montevecchi, Tony Roberts . . .) entered from the back of the stage to much applause.

I particularly enjoyed Donna McKechnie's performance, for she perfectly captured Sally's wounded soul, and her unrequited longing for Ben (played by Laurence Guittard) was beautifully expressed in a deeply felt rendition of "Losing My Mind." It was also a treat to see Ann Miller (the veteran film actress) onstage, and her version of the Sondheim anthem "I'm Still Here" was an exhilarating experience, and the audience rewarded her lovingly, with a thunderous ovation after she finished the song's final lines: "Lord knows at least I've been there, and I'm here. Look who's here. I'm still here."

I was also impressed by Tony Roberts, who failed to make much of an impression on me in Victor/Victoria, although that may have had more to do with the piece itself. In Follies, however, his work is surprisingly poignant, and he delivers a wonderful, manic interpretation of "The God Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues." It was also a great treat to see Kaye Ballard onstage, even if her delivery of "Broadway Baby" wasn't as hilarious as I had hoped.

With Ben Brantley's recent rave in The New York Times, John Simon's glowing review in New York Magazine and Liz Smith's positive remarks in today's New York Post, it does seem that the show has a good chance to move to Broadway. Keep your fingers crossed!


THE SIDE SHOW GALS
There was a sweet interview by Paul Wontorek in this week's In Theatre Magazine with Tony nominees Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley. The two ladies explained that they are currently working on an album of duets for Varèse Sarabande and also expressed their feelings about their joint Tony nomination. Skinner comments, "Alice and I always thought it was a good idea. Yes, we're two separate actresses, but we were playing the Hilton sisters, an entity unto themselves. Alice and I wouldn't have been giving the same performances if I wasn't next to her and she wasn't next to me. It makes absolute sense." Ripley concurs: "It might be difficult for anyone but Emily and me to understand, but my performance was completely dependent on her in a most unusual way. It just shows [the Tony committee] got it, which is cool." Be sure to tune in on June 7 (PBS at 8 p.m. and CBS at 9 p.m.) to see whether Skinner and Ripley will take home the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. Other nominees include Betty Buckley, Natasha Richardson and Marin Mazzie.


A MUSICAL TRIBUTE
Add Rosie O'Donnell and Joel Grey to the already stellar line-up of celebrities who will take part in The Longest Running Show on Broadway, A Musical Tribute to Maurice Levine. The tribute to the late founder of the 92nd Street Y's acclaimed Lyrics & Lyricists series will be hosted by Angela Lansbury and will feature appearances by Mike Burstyn, Debbie Gravitte, Kitty Carlisle Hart, George Hearn, Judy Kaye, Judy Kuhn, Marcia Lewis, Jim Lowe, Donna McKechnie, Tony Randall, Rex Reed, The 92Y Children's Choir as well as such composers and/or lyricists as Cy Coleman, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Herman, Kander and Ebb and Stephen Schwartz. Tickets for the black-tie evening begin at $300 and may be purchased by calling (212) 415-5488.


IN OTHER NEWS
Karen Mason's rendition of "Hold Me," which can be found on her most recent CD, Better Days, won a Daytime EMMY Award for Best Original Song. Mason and her fiance accepted the award on behalf of the late Brian Lasser, who wrote the tune. . . The Capeman's Ednita Nazario will speak this Sunday, May 17 at the opening ceremonies for GMHC's annual AIDS Walk at 9:15 a.m. . . The re-release of Funny Lady (Arista Records), starring Barbra Streisand, is due in stores on May 19. The recording will feature digital sound as well as some previously unreleased material, including the single version of "How Lucky Can You Get?"


REMINDERS:

DIVAS PLAY CARNEGIE
On June 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. Lorna Luft will host a tribute to her mother, the late Judy Garland, in an evening titled "Carnegie Hall Celebrates the Music of Judy Garland." . . .On Monday, November 9 at 8 p.m. theatre and concert star Barbara Cook will grace the stage with her long-time friend Wally Harper as musical director and conductor. . .For more information and for ticket reservations to any of these great events, call (212) 247-7800.

CHESS
Chess will be performed in concert on May 17. The performance will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and will be held at the John Houseman Theatre at 450 West 42nd Street. Currently on sale, tickets may be purchased by credit card by calling (212) 354-2220 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Included in the cast will be an array of some of Broadway's finest talents including Alice Ripley, Michael Cerveris, Christiane Noll, Miller McLeod, Carl Anderson, Danny Zolli, Raymond Jaramillo, David Clemmons and Robert Evan.

PATTI LuPONE
Patti LuPone will perform in concert on August 28 and 29 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Tickets will be available shortly by calling 562-916-8500. You can also hear LuPone a bit earlier at a benefit for the Kent Land Trust, which will be held at the Kent School in Connecticut. The benefit is scheduled for June 27, and tickets, which are priced between $40 and $1,000, are available by calling 860-927 3936.

KAREN MASON
Karen Mason is scheduled to star in the Sundance Institute's production of Gypsy on their outdoor Eccles Stage in Sundance, Utah, from June 24 through August 29. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Sundance Box Office at 801-225-4100.

ELAINE PAIGE
Tickets are available to The Misanthrope by calling 011-44-171-287 0464. . .On June 7 and 8 EP will take part in the charity concert Hey Mr. Producer. . . .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
May 17 in Purchase, NY (venue to come)
May 30 in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
June 2 in Toronto, ON at the Roy Thomson Hall
July 4 in St. Louis, MO at the Fair Saint Louis
July 17 in San Francisco, CA at the Louise Davie Hall
August 11 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Music Center
September 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
October 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
October 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
February 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
February 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Kansas (venue to come)
December 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)


A SWELL PARTY
A plethora of performers will unite this June for a three-evening extravaganza that celebrates the art form that is called cabaret. Titled "A Swell Party," the celebration will take place on June 8, 9 and 10 to benefit The Mabel Mercer Foundation. On the first evening, June 8 at 6 p.m., a host of newcomers will be welcomed onto the stage of Town Hall. The second evening will pay tribute to the legendary Cole Porter, and those who will warble his songs include Ann Hampton Callaway, Claiborne Cary, Paula Laurence, Marcia Lewis, Marin Mazzie, Liliane Montevecchi, Patricia Morrison, Sidney Meyer, Abe Reybold, Steve Ross, Jon Soleather, David Staller, Elaine Stritch, Margaret Whiting, Julie Wilson and Gretchen Wyler. The final evening commemorates what would have been Gertrude Lawrence's 100th birthday. Donna Murphy will be joined by Jeff Harnar, Celeste Holm, Alix Korey, Andrea Marcovicci, Patricia Morison, Christian Nova, Phillip Officer, KT Sullivan and many others. Ticket orders are accepted only by mail ($10 per performance; send checks made out to "The Mabel Mercer Foundation" to Finell Enterprises, 301 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021), and further information is available by calling (212) 980-3026 or (212) 980-3109 during regular office hours.

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

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