DIVAS SALUTE DAVID ZIPPEL
Randy Graff is the epitome of the maxim "less is more." Graff is not a showy performer. She doesn't strut around the stage or gesticulate wildly. She simply stands, sings and beguiles. In fact, two of the highlights of All Girl Band: The Songs of David Zippel, which I caught this past Monday evening at the Public Theater's Joe's Pub, were Graff's renditions of "How Can I Win" and "You Can Always Count On Me." It's not surprising that her version of City of Angels' "You Can Always Count On Me" was flawlessly delivered with measured doses of comic sarcasm (okay, she flubbed a lyric, but it hardly mattered), for she did win a Tony for her role in that musical. However, what was unexpected was her simple, yet affecting version of The Goodbye Girl's "How Can I Win." I've always enjoyed the Hamlisch/Zippel score for that ill fated musical (it was the book that needed work), and Graff managed to bring that sweet song to life, adding a few vocal inflections and slides that worked wonderfully. I'd love her to record that song; in fact, it would be great if the entire evening of Zippel tunes were recorded.
Zippel is a wonderful, witty lyricist, and proof of that fine skill was in evidence throughout Monday's hour-long performance. One of my favorite Zippel lyrics is from the song "Another Mister Right," a tune from Going Hollywood, which features music by Jonathan Sheffer. In this bluesy ballad the heroine laments the loss of another Mr. Right and sings, "Another Mr. Right left,/I stood and watched him leave./Another Mr. Right left,/I've earned the right to grieve./But is there any fight left in me?/Is there any fight left to give that man a right-left?/And will there be another Mr. Right left for me?" Debbie Gravitte handled the song well, although I must confess that her version didn't quite reach the vocal or dramatic heights of the late Nancy LaMott, who I first heard sing that show-stopper about five years ago (it is a shame that LaMott never got to record that song). Gravitte, however, did score with "Life's Ambitions," a somewhat bawdy tune -- featuring music by Wally Harper -- about a woman's dream of becoming a slide trombone player. Adriane Lenox, who exudes much stage charm and likability, did well with both Hercules's "Go the Distance" and Just So's "Camel's Blues," in which she was able to display her deftness for comedic tunes. Lenox also deserves special praise for stepping in at the last minute and performing as though she'd been a part of the program from the very beginning. "I replaced that 'white' woman," she joked, ". . . Lillias White." The three women were also able to kid their diva image in a reworked lyric of City of Angels' "You're Nothing Without Me."
Zippel himself provided one of the evening's most moving moments, singing "In the Cards," a tune from his musical with Alan Menken, Diamonds. Though the lyricist doesn't possess a strong or rangy voice, he managed to inhabit the character of the song, a young baseball loving boy, who -- though always chosen last for his team -- dreams of greatness. "All Girl Band" plays again on Mondays, January 24 and 31, and I strongly and happily recommend this wonderful evening of song. Shows begin at 8:30 PM, and there is a $25 music charge. Joe's Pub is located inside the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets may be purchased at the theatre's box office or through Telecharge at (212) 239 6200. For more information, call the Pub at (212) 539-8777.
That belter of belters, Linda Eder, is currently preparing for her upcoming solo Carnegie Hall concert debut. Eder first dreamed of performing in the famed hall when she was just ten years old, after hearing Judy Garland's "Live from Carnegie Hall" album. A big fan of Garland's, Eder often includes a dedication to the late screen star in her concert acts. The former Jekyll & Hyde star's Carnegie performance promises to be an exciting night of thrilling vocals, with several surprises in store. Tickets for the concert, which will take place on Wednesday, February 2, are still available by calling Carnegie charge at (212) 247-7800 or by visiting Ticketmaster locations. S.T.A.G.E. BENEFIT
The 16th annual S.T.A.G.E benefit -- on March 3, 4 and 5 at California State University's Luckman Theater -- will honor composers Charles Strouse, Arthur Schwartz and Stephen Schwartz and will feature tunes from Pippin, Godspell, Applause, Annie, Working, The Baker's Wife, Bandwagon, Children of Eden and more. The Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.) is the nation's longest-running AIDS benefit, and since its inception in 1984, the organization has raised millions for HIV/AIDS services and charities throughout Southern California. This year's benefit concerts will feature direction by David Galligan and musical direction by Ron Abel. Those scheduled to perform at this time include Jamie Anderson, Mitchell Anderson, Lucie Arnaz, Cliff Bemis, Polly Bergen, Alan Campbell, Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, Tyne Daly, Clifton Davis, Barbara Deutsch, Jill Eikenberry, Bonnie Franklin, Penny Fuller, Betty Garrett, Sharon Gless, Jason Graae, Bill Hutton, William Katt, Lauren Kennedy, Stephanie Kramer, Dale Kristien, Lee Lessack, Andrea Martin, Pamela Myers, Linda Michele, Robert Morse, Deborah Nishimura, Linda Purl, Joan Ryan, Katie Sagal, Christopher Seiber, Tami Tappen, Michael Tucker with more names to come! Call (323) 665-0857 to order tickets by phone or visit www.stagela.com to order on-line.
KISS ME, KATE
On Jan. 25 the cast recording of the current Kiss Me, Kate revival hits record stores around the country. Available on the DRG Theater label, the 20-track recording boasts two of the theatre's lushest voices, those belonging to Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell. And, not surprisingly, Mazzie and Mitchell's tracks are the most exciting of this new recording. Particularly impressive are Mazzie's soaring version of my favorite Kate tune, "So In Love"; Mitchell's reprise of that Cole classic plus his vocal work on "Wunderbar," "Were Thine That Special Face" and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?" Mazzie also has some fun with the show-stopping "I Hate Men," abandoning her restrained image that served her so well in Ragtime and Passion and letting loose her comedic skills and her Broadway belt. Another highlight is the musical's opening, "Another Op'nin', Another Show," although one does wish the key had been lowered a touch to allow the big-voiced Adriane Lenox to belt all of her solo.
IN OTHER NEWS There's a wonderful interview with Barbra Streisand in the Jan. 22-28 issue of TV Guide. Streisand spoke with writer Mary Murphy about acting, directing, her marriage to James Brolin and her reluctance to perform in concert again. About the latter, she had this to say: "This is the last time I'm going to do any kind of concert. I said to my husband, 'I don't like performing; I feel like I'm in a beauty pageant, like I'm 18 and strutting around the stage.' I'm very shy. Ironically, tonight [her New Year's Eve performance] is the most relaxed I've ever been. I usually get sick to my stomach before I go on." . . . Faith Prince, Marian Seldes and Judy Blazer will star in the Drama Dept.'s production of George Kelly's The Torch-Bearers from February 11 to March 4. Kelly's backstage spoof on community theatre will be presented at the Greenwich House Theatre (27 Barrow Street at 7th Avenue South), and tickets may be purchased by calling (212) 541-8441 (all seats are $15) . . . Victoria Clark, Lauren Flanagan and Malcolm Gets will perform the music of Marc Blitzstein in a tribute to the late composer of The Cradle Will Rock and Juno on February 7, 14 and 21 at Joe's Pub. Tickets are priced at $20 and may be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 . . . In an upcoming Playbill interview by Harry Haun, Karen Ziemba has this to say about her role in the Susan Stroman hit Contact, which reopens in March at the Vivian Beaumont Theater: "Maintaining my body for Contact is about chiropractors, acupuncturists and yoga. This is the most I've ever had to act and dance at the same time. There's very little dialogue, so everything I do has to be portrayed through my body and my face. You know how I feel inside by how I move." . . . On April 4 Image Entertainment, Inc. will release VHS and DVD versions of the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria, starring Julie Andrews. The recording was made using "state-of-the-art high definition equipment and will have Dolby Digital 5.1 multi-channel sound." The DVD version will be letterboxed and will contain a Julie Andrews biography and filmography . . . From RCA Victor comes "Broadway in Love," a compilation CD that contains a host of beautiful, romantic songs. The CD, which will be available January 25, includes such gems as "Not a Day Goes By" (sung by Bernadette Peters), "The Human Heart" (sung by Andrea Frierson-Toney), "Love Has Come of Age" (sung by Linda Eder and Colm Wilkinson), "You Were Meant for Me" (sung by Audra McDonald) and many others . . . Speaking of McDonald, her official website is up and running. If you visit www.audra mcdonald.com, you can pre-order her new CD, "How Glory Goes."
Betty Buckley will return to the famed Cafe Carlyle for a five-week stint beginning Tuesday, February 15. Buckley will perform two shows nightly at the plush boite, at 8:45 PM and 10:45 PM, Tuesday through Saturday evenings. There is a $60 cover charge but no food/beverage minimum. The cabaret room of the Carlyle Hotel is located at 35 East 76th Street; for reservations, call (212) 744-1600. Be sure to make your reservations now. Seating is limited. A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
February 5, 2000 Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
February 6 Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
February 8-9 Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
February 11 Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
February 12 Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
February 14 Keith Albee Theatre in Huntington, WV
February 15-March 17 at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, NY March 18 Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19 Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
August 29 Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone's ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone's confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
February 2-14 at the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia, PA; (215) 569 9700
February 18 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts (Hayes Hall) in Naples, Florida; (941) 597-1900
February 19 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (Dreyfoos Hall) in West Palm Beach, FL; (561) 832-7469
May 4-6 in Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632 ARTS
June 8-11 at Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112
Already announced McGovern concert dates:
Jan. 22 "Sondheim & Jazz: Side by Side" at the UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA
Jan. 23 at the Mentor Performing Arts Center in Mentor, OH
Feb. 11 & 12 "Valentine Pops" with the Baton Rouge Symphony at the Centroplex Theatre for Performing Arts in Baton Rouge, LA
Feb 18 & 19 at the La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts in La Mirada, CA
March 5 & 6, 19 & 20 with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA
March 17 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern featuring pianist Lee Musiker" at Purchase College-SUNY in Purchase, NY
March 24 & 25 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern" with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK
ALICE RIPLEY and EMILY SKINNER
That dynamic Side Show (and now The Dead) duo will join forces for a special concert this Valentine's Day, Monday, Feb. 14, at The Skylight Room at the Puck Building (295 Lafayette Street). The Tony nominated pair will perform songs from Side Show, their two albums ("Duets" and "Unsuspecting Hearts") and other tunes. A benefit for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the evening will also include an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets range from $125 to $1,500. For more information contact GMHC at (212) 367-1112.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
By Andrew Gans