BRAVO BERNSTEIN: A BROADWAY TRIBUTE!
It seemed extremely apropos that Musical Theatre Works should celebrate the music of Leonard Bernstein with Bravo Bernstein! the same day the revival of Wonderful Town — starring two-time Tony Award winner Donna Murphy — opened to rave reviews at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
Wonderful Town, of course, boasts a score with music by Bernstein and lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. The Nov. 24 benefit concert at the Hudson Theatre featured three songs from Town: one that was cut from the original production — the bittersweet "The Story of My Life" (sung by Judy Blazer) — as well as two of the show's classics, "One Hundred Easy Ways" (delivered by Mary Testa) and "A Little Bit in Love" (performed by Audra McDonald). When one watches McDonald perform, it's clear why she has won three Tony Awards: not only is her vocal range impressively rangy and colorful, but her work is filled with a wealth of emotion and honesty. McDonald later returned for the second half of the concert to offer another of the evening's highlights: In fact, even with a flubbed lyric, her duet with Sara Ramirez on West Side Story's "A Boy Like That"/"I Have a Love" was thrilling.
David Hyde Pierce — of "Frasier" fame — hosted the benefit and provided much laughter as he made his case throughout the evening for why he should portray Bernardo in the upcoming revival of West Side Story. He also scored one of the evening's biggest laughs when he announced at the beginning of the second act, "In your program you'll see that Emily Skinner is scheduled to sing. Well, that's the only place you're going to see her sing tonight." Skinner was unable to perform "I Can Cook, Too" as originally announced; in her place, Rozz Morehead stepped in at the last minute, and with lyrics in hand, the singer triumphed with a brassy rendition of the On the Town song.
Other noteworthy performances: David Miller, of La Boheme fame, lent his glorious tenor to West Side Story's "Maria"; a beautiful rendition of "Tonight," delivered by Broadway couple Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley; a belty medley of "Take Care of This House" and Peter Pan's "My House," sung powerfully by Tony Award winner Betty Buckley; and the evening's finale, Candide's "Make Our Garden Grow," featuring Danieley, Harolyn Blackwell and most of the company. Musical Theatre Works, which celebrated its 20th anniversary at the concert, is New York's only non-profit theatre dedicated to the development and production of new musicals. For more information about the organization, visit www.mtwnyc.org.
It's a busy time for Broadway belter Linda Eder, who most recently starred in the Goodspeed debut of husband Frank Wildhorn's Camille Claudel.
On Dec. 6 Eder will bring her evening of holiday classics, contemporary standards and musical theatre tunes to the Ford Center for the Performing Arts' Oriental Theatre in Chicago, IL. Eder will be backed by her band for "The Holiday Concert"; show time is 8 PM, and tickets are available by calling the theatre's box office at (312) 977-1700. Those unable to make it to Chicago, can catch Eder in action Dec. 21 on Bravo. The arts and entertainment network will rebroadcast Eder's "Christmas Concert" at 2 PM ET; check local listings.
And, on Feb. 7, 2004, the former star of Jekyll & Hyde will make her Radio City Music Hall debut as a special guest of The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. The evening, under the direction of conductor Keith Lockhart, will begin at 8 PM. Tickets, priced $40-$85, are available by logging on to www.radiocity.com.
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Stand back, Elaine Stritch. Here comes Chita Rivera! Playwright Terrence McNally is currently working on a solo show for Tony Award winner Rivera. It will be a reunion, of sorts, for the duo, who worked together during the world premiere of Kander and Ebb's The Visit at the Goodman Theatre in 2001. The Rivera biographical evening — produced by Marty Bell and featuring direction by Graciela Daniele — will receive a workshop production next summer at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. . . . Tyne Daly, Jason Graae and Rod McKuen will be part of the benefit concert Dreidels and Sleighbells Dec. 8 in Los Angeles. The one-night-only event will benefit the West Coast Ensemble and Actors' Fund of America and will be held in the Magnin Auditorium of the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. Show time is 8 PM. Daly, a Tony Award winner for her performance in the 1989 revival of Gypsy, will read Temple Bailey's classic story, "A Candle in the Forest." Graae, who has appeared in Falsettos and Ragtime, will offer excerpts from his one man show, and poet-singer Rod McKuen will offer several selections from his repertoire. Tickets are priced $50 (performance only), $100 (performance and dessert reception) and $150 (VIP seating, performance, reception and holiday gift bag). Call (323) 525-0022 for reservations. . . . Karen Mason, who was most recently on Broadway as Tanya in the hit musical Mamma Mia!, will offer her acclaimed Christmas concert next month. Mason brings her "Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" evening to the Supper Club's King Kong Room Dec. 8 and 13. Show time is 7 PM. Concertgoers can expect to hear Mason's interpretations of "We Need a Little Christmas," "Count Your Blessings," "It's Today," "Joy to the World," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and several other holiday classics. On Dec. 8, Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte will follow Mason with a 9 PM show of holiday tunes. On Dec. 13 songwriters Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich will follow Mason with an evening celebrating the release of their new songbook. Scott Coulter and Norm Lewis will make guest appearances during the Heisler/Goldrich evening. The King Kong Room at the Supper Club is located in Manhattan at 240 West 47th Street. Covers range from $20-$25 plus a $15 food/drink minimum. Call (212) 921-1904 for reservations. . . . A host of theatre favorites will take part in the Dec. 15 concert, "Miracle on 47th Street," to benefit God's Love We Deliver. Those scheduled to lend their voices to the holiday fundraiser include Avenue Q's John Tartaglia, The Boy From Oz' Stephanie Block, recent Chess star Julia Murney, Dance of the Vampires' Max von Essen, Bat Boy's Deven May and Into the Woods' Laura Benanti. Directed by Jamie McGonnigal with musical direction by Mark Hartman, "Miracle on 47th Street" will feature brand-new holiday tunes by some of the city's up-n-coming writers as well as several seasonal classics. Show time is 7 and 9 PM at the Supper Club's King Kong Room. "Jim Caruso's Cast Party" will follow the concert at 10:30 PM. There is a $25 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum for the Dec. 15 concert; call (212) 921-1904 for reservations.
Betty Buckley in Concert:
Dec. 9-20 at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Los Angeles, CA
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Dec. 13 in Arlington, VA
Jan. 17, 2004 in Asheville, NC
Jan. 31 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
Feb. 8 in Sibling Revelry in Riverfront, IL
Feb. 14 with Jason Graae in Palm Springs, CA
Feb. 26-28 with Jason Graae in West Palm Beach, FL
April 24-25 with Jason Graae in San Rafael, CA
May 1 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY
Barbara Cook in Concert:
Nov. 29 in Mostly Sondheim at the Paramount Theatre in Peeksill, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert:
Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Jan. 24, 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Christiane Noll in Concert
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little
Louise Pitre in Concert:
Jan. 31, 2004-Feb. 8 in Sweeney Todd with the Calgary Opera Company at the Jubilee Auditorium in Canada
Feb. 13 at the Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario
Feb. 28 at the Sanderson Performing Arts Centre in Brantford, Ontario
Feb. 29 at the Silverthorn C.I. Auditorium in Toronto, Ontario
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!