And Rosie said, "Let there be divas!" That's the message everyone's favorite talk show host, Rosie O'Donnell, imparted on the "Today Show" earlier this week. O'Donnell, one of Broadway's biggest supporters and the host of last year's Tony Awards, announced that the theme of this year's Tony telecast (June 7) would be "DIVAS," and, as you can imagine, I could not be happier.
The diva festivities will actually begin on Monday, May 4 when Bernadette Peters and Peter Gallagher announce the 1997-98 Tony Award nominees (Since Peters has long been rumored to star in the upcoming revival of Annie Get Your Gun and since Gallagher recently appeared in the one-night Lincoln Center benefit production of that show, we wonder whether the two will also announce on this morning that they've agreed to star in the Annie revival. Just a thought!).
The Tony announcements should prove to be very exciting this year, especially in the Best Actress in a Musical category where there are so many possibilities: Betty Buckley for Triumph of Love, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner in Side Show, Natasha Richardson for Cabaret, Marin Mazzie and Audra McDonald for Ragtime, Rebecca Luker in The Sound of Music, Melissa Errico in High Society, Ednita Nazario for The Capeman, Christine Andreas in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Tsidii Le Loka and Heather Hedley for The Lion King. And, of course, in the Best Actress in a Play category, I would have to lead off with Patti LuPone in The Old Neighborhood.
Speaking of La LuPone, watch for a host of grand divas -- including LuPone, Betty Buckley and Jennifer Holliday -- in the opening sequence of the CBS portion of the Tony Awards. According to one of my favorite theatre critics, Ken Mandelbaum, these three ladies will instruct Rosie -- who will be flanked by Chicago dancers -- in how to be a diva. A friend of mine who writes for the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" has been sworn to secrecy (for the time being), but he did admit diva lovers will have a field day! Who could ask for anything more?
DIVAS PLAY CARNEGIE
For some prime diva-watching in the next few months, Carnegie Hall will be the place to be. First up is the multi-talented Betty Buckley, who will perform with Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops on Friday, May 8 at 8 PM. Buckley will perform a few of her trademark hits at this performance. . .Then, on June 17 at 7:30 PM, 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." Elaine Stritch and Jack Jones are just two of the many talents who will take to the Carnegie Hall stage that night. . .And, on Monday, November 9 at 8 PM 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.
Three of our favorite ladies will lend their vocal talents to upcoming Disney projects: Liz Callaway, the current Grizabella of the Broadway production of Cats, will supply the voice to Simba's daughter in the straight-to-video release of the animated sequel The Lion King. Entitled Lion King II: Simba's Pride, the video is due in stores in October. . . Judy Kuhn, who is getting ready to star in the upcoming Drama Dept. production of As Thousands Cheer, will reprise her role as the singing voice of Pocahontas in another straight-to-video Disney release entitled Pocahontas: Journey to a New World. Look for that video some time this summer. . .Also, the golden-voiced Lea Salonga has recorded a few of the songs for the newest animated feature from Disney, Mulan, due in theatres in June. . . And, finally, a non-Disney note: You can hear Bernadette Peters wrap her beautiful voice around a new Jerry Herman tune in the Barney film currently in movie theatres.
DIVAS AT BAY
A host of talented women will make appearances at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York, in the next few months. On May 2, the legendary Julie Wilson will perform her one-woman show at 7pm. All seats are $25, and tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 516-725-9500 . . . Then, on May 20 Elaine Stritch will begin a two-week run in a one-person play by Bob Kingdom. Entitled Elsa Edgar, Stritch will portray Elsa Maxwell in the first half and J. Edgar Hoover in the second . . . And, from July 15 through August 2, you can catch Twiggy portraying Gertrude Lawrence in Sheridan Morley's Noel & Gertie about the relationship between composer Noel Coward and Lawrence . . . If all that weren't enough, the fall promises some diva action as well: Karen Mason performs on Saturday, September 26 and Marcia Lewis on Sunday, October 11.
Fans of Shirley Bassey will be happy to learn that DRG Records is set to release a new, live recording of the big-voiced singer on May 19. Entitled Shirley Bassey: The Birthday Concert, the CD was recorded live on July 26, 1997, before an SRO audience at Althorp Park, England. The album contains 18 tracks (see list below), and most of the material has not been recorded by Ms. Bassey previously.
Diamonds Are Forever
Nobody Does It Like Me
Never, Never, Never
Kiss Me, Honey, Kiss Me
The Lady Is a Tramp
New York, New York
What Now My Love
I Wanna Know What Love Is
I Who Have Nothing
Yesterday, When I Was Young
This Is My Life
I Wish You Love
I Am What I Am
I have long been a fan of Melissa Errico, who currently stars as Tracy Lord at the St. James Theatre in High Society, the show being billed as the "new Cole Porter musical." I first saw Errico perform in the most recent My Fair Lady revival opposite Richard Chamberlain, and I thought she was the best part of that production, singing beautifully and having a lot of fun with the role. She appeared next in the City Center Encores! company of Call Me Madam, and again, I thought she was the best part of that wonderful evening. That night, in fact, I was even more struck by the beauty of her voice and her ability to deliver even a "silly song" like "The Ocarina" deliciously. In fact, every time she appeared that evening, she lit up the stage with her stunning presence and creamy, rich voice. My next viewing of Errico occurred at another Encores! evening, when she played the lead in One Touch of Venus, and again I delighted in her work. Now, I am anxiously awaiting her performance in High Society next week, but until then, I have been enjoying reading many of the recent articles and interviews with Errico that have appeared. I thought you would like to read some of her choice quotes in an article from In Theater Magazine that was written by Michael Portantiere:
about the character she portrays, Tracy Lord:
"She's a very complex character--and I'm much more mature since San Francisco. Maybe being engaged has given me a sense of what the decision to marry actually entails. I like Tracy. She's a perfectionist, judgmental, an ice goddess on the outside. But I see the positive aspects of her flaws. She has high standards because she believes in everyone's potential. When her father fails her mother, she can't forgive him, because she feels her mother deserves so much."
about her vocal problems during the pre-Broadway tour of My Fair Lady:
"A blood vessel broke in my vocal cords from screaming in rehearsals. I should never have been asked to shriek, especially at that age. But I try not to be ungrateful, because I was given a good job and I should have known how to protect myself from misplaced demands. My new take on everything is that, if something goes wrong, it's my fault. I have to look out for myself and get rid of the helplessness."
about the kind of recordings she would like to make:
"Well, I think I should start with a sort of a mellow, easy-listening album--beautiful Broadway songs sung pianissimo, "Speak Low" style. That's my forte. Then I'd love to do a composer's album. I also have a wacky idea for something that's kind of a criss-cross between Broadway and Dawn Upshaw--a semi-operatic, Erik Satie kind of mystery thing. But I wouldn't do that right away, because it would just alienate the world. You can't get arty too quickly."
**And, Errico fans in the Metropolitan area will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of this young diva and her new musical this Sunday, April 26 (Channel 9 at 8pm) during the High Society preview program hosted by Pat Collins.
DIVA SIGHTINGS. . . Audra McDonald plays a wedding singer in the just-released film The Object of My Affection, which features a screenplay by Wendy Wasserstein. . .Karen Akers attended the opening-night performance of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, a terrific production that recently transferred from the Roundabout Theatre to the Neil Simon . . .Also, rumor has it that Patti LuPone will soon film a TV sitcom. Stay tuned for more. . .
Chess will be performed in concert next month on May 10 and 17. The two Sunday performances 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 PM Included in the cast will be an array of some of Broadway's finest talents including Alice Ripley, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Cerveris, Christiane Noll, Miller McLeod, Carl Anderson, Danny Zolli, Raymond Jaramillo, David Clemmons and Robert Evan.
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.
The beautiful-voiced star of Les Miz and Chess is just one of the many talented performers who will star in the upcoming production of As Thousands Cheer for the Drama Dept. At this point, others in the Irving Berlin/Moss Hart musical comedy revue include Howard McGillin, Mary Beth Peil and B.D. Wong. Performances are scheduled to begin on May 27, and the production will be directed by Christopher Ashley and will feature choreography by Kathleen Marshall.
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, 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
April 25 in Greensburg, PA at the Palace Theatre
May 9 in Knoxville, TN at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum
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. Entitled "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 PM, a host of newcomers (including myself) 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.
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 PM and 11 PM 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 email@example.com