DIVA TALK: Divas - The Next Generation

DIVA TALK: Divas - The Next Generation Hello, diva lovers! Well, the biggest news of the week (and perhaps the month) has got to be the announcement of Patti LuPone's solo Carnegie Hall concert debut. As I reported earlier in the week, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress and singer will perform a brand-new show created by her and director Scott Wittman on Friday, November 19, 1999. The concert will benefit GMHC, the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and tickets go on sale on October 4; call (212) 367-1514. Be sure to save the date!. . . I thought I would devote this week's column to a few of my favorite divas of the next generation: Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Linda Eder and that three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. Enjoy!

Hello, diva lovers! Well, the biggest news of the week (and perhaps the month) has got to be the announcement of Patti LuPone's solo Carnegie Hall concert debut. As I reported earlier in the week, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress and singer will perform a brand-new show created by her and director Scott Wittman on Friday, November 19, 1999. The concert will benefit GMHC, the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and tickets go on sale on October 4; call (212) 367-1514. Be sure to save the date!. . . I thought I would devote this week's column to a few of my favorite divas of the next generation: Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Linda Eder and that three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. Enjoy!

ALICE RIPLEY and EMILY SKINNER
One of the highlights of the 1997-98 theatre season was the short-lived Henry Krieger/Bill Russell musical Side Show, which featured a thrilling score and break-out performances from those dual belters, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner. The two received a joint Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical and followed their critically-praised run with a "Duets" album for Varèse Sarabande. The "Duets" album was so successful that Varèse producer Bruce Kimmel decided to record another disc of Ripley/Skinner duets, to be released on Oct. 5. The CD, which is titled "Unsuspecting Hearts," also boasts several solo tracks from each of the stars, and the complete song list follows:


Friendship/Friends to the End (from Dubarry Was a Lady/Tom & Jerry)
She's Gone (cut from Side Show, Alice solo)
Pretty Women (from Sweeney Todd)
The Alto's Lament (Emily solo)
Unsuspecting Hearts (from Carrie)
I'm Past My Prime (from Li'l Abner)
Losing Track of Time (from the upcoming musical Summer of '42, Alice solo)
What You Don't Know About Women (from City of Angels)
I Don't Know How To Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar, Emily solo)
Solid Silver Platform Shoes (from The Magic Show)
My White Knight (from The Music Man, Alice solo)
The Miller's Son (from A Little Night Music, Emily solo)
Live With Someone You Love (from Martin Guerre)
The Last Duet/Enough Is Enough
Old Friend (from I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road)


And, of course, the two gals will reunite this season in the Off-Broadway production of James Joyce's The Dead, which will again feature the twosome as sisters (not Siamese ones, though). LINDA EDER
Fans of Linda Eder will not be disappointed by the Jekyll & Hyde star's latest album, "It's No Secret Anymore," to be released on the Atlantic Records label Sept. 28. Eder, who recorded the album while pregnant (Jake Ryan Wildhorn was born on Aug. 23), sounds wonderful, her tremendous voice soaring throughout the 14-track recording. In fact, most all of the songs build to belty, climactic finales, making full use of her incredibly rangy instrument. It's good, I guess, to have a song writer in the family: Husband Frank Wildhorn, the composer of Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War, wrote all but one of the songs on the chanteuse's new album, and several were written especially for her.


Eder's voice has justifiably been compared to another Broadway belter, Barbra Streisand: Just listen to the power of her sound at the end of "This Time Around" as she belts, "This time around, I'm gonna make it miiiine!" Thrilling. But don't be fooled: Eder's voice is not simply just for belting. Like Streisand and several other legendary singers, Eder uses her voice with great skill, gently caressing a note here or whispering a phrase there. The beauty of her softer tones can be heard on the first few verses of "Even Now." What's more, Eder seems to be finding a style that's more her own on this venture, tackling several swinging, jazz numbers with ease. She also previews four songs from Wildhorn's upcoming Broadway project, Havana, including the upbeat title tune; the plaintive ballad, "Why Do People Fall in Love"; a discoish, Latin-flavored "Never Dance"; and the aforementioned "This Time Around."


My favorite Wildhorn track, however, is one that the singer has recorded previously, "Vienna," which features a lyric by Gary Benson. Although "Vienna" appears on an earlier Eder CD, this arrangement is the one that Eder had always envisioned, and it is simply beautiful, a perfect blending of singer, song and orchestra. The former "Star Search" winner also tugs at your heartstrings with the lullaby "Anything Can Happen," which Wildhorn wrote for their new baby. And, finally, the talented chanteuse demonstrates that she is equally at home singing non-Wildhorn tunes with her gentle but powerful reading of the Harold Arlen classic, "One for My Baby," which concludes the album.


Now that she has recorded several mostly Wildhorn recordings, let's hope the singer will venture to record works by some of the many other Broadway composers. For the time being, however, diva fans should be content to sit back and listen to the mega-voiced Eder sing her heart out on "It's No Secret Anymore."


Following is the complete track listing; except where noted, all songs feature music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Jack Murphy:


It's No Secret Anymore
You Never Remind Me
Romancing the Blues
Havana (from Havana)
Why Do People Fall in Love? (from Havana)
I Guess I Love You
This Time Around (from Havana; music and lyrics by Wildhorn)
Looks Like You Started Something
Little Things
Even Now
Never Dance (from Havana)
Vienna (lyrics by Gary Benson)

Anything Can Happen (from Alice)
One for My Baby (music by Harold Arlen; lyrics by Johnny Mercer)

AUDRA McDONALD
Having just completed a week-long stint in London's "Divas at the Donmar" series, Audra McDonald -- former star of Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime -- is currently preparing for her first starring Broadway role in the new musical Marie Christine, which begins previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on Oct. 28. I thought you would enjoy reading several of McDonald's responses to questions posed by writer Mark Shenton in an article from the Donmar's program.

about realizing she could sing:
"I started singing at a very early age (around 4 or 5). I guess you could say it came naturally because I come from a very musical family. My father played many instruments; my mother played the piano and sang; my aunts all sing; my grandmothers both were piano teachers. . .you get the picture. I started singing in the church choir and was always louder than everybody else and that's when my parents realized that perhaps I had an above average voice. "


about winning her first Tony:
"The experience of winning the first Tony was an outer body experience. It was as if I was watching someone else's life that evening, certainly not my own! The fact that I even have the Tonys is still unfathomable to me. I don't even display them at home. They are in cupboards in my apartment, and in my sister's apartment. Too overwhelming!"


about having a musical (Marie Christine) crafted for her:
"It feels incredible to have a musical written for you. It is like having a suit tailor made. The most incredible part is that, in the case of Marie Christine at any rate, it feels incredibly collaborative. I am able to tell the composer what I think works and doesn't work or how a certain vowel would sound better, etc. . .and while I have no talent for composition or writing I do feel that I help give them insight to the character both technically and creatively."


about her first solo album and plans for future recordings:
"The idea to concentrate on new composers for my album came from Bob Hurwitz who is the head of Nonesuch Records. Upon hearing the idea I knew what and whom the entire album would contain. I had done workshops, readings, and benefits with many of these composers. We never saw it as a risky adventure to concentrate on the 'new generation'; we just truly loved the music and believed in their talent. I find so much of their music a joy to sing. This is not only because of the sheer musical beauty but because of the dramatic content of the material. Each of these songs is like a monologue or a full dramatic scene. The characters in each of the songs feel so very rich and fully developed that they are so satisfying to explore. I find something new each time I sing them. I will absolutely be singing and recording more traditional Broadway songs in the future. What's wonderful about having really delved in to these new composers is to go back to the standards and see the bridge between the two; where one influenced the other; where one took an old idea and took it that much further."

IN OTHER NEWS "I can sing the songs I've wanted to sing throughout my career -- songs that are surprising and a little risque. Songs you can't perform in a larger venue. Songs that are near and dear to my heart. And, of course, it's so much fun to wear those fabulously sexy and elegant gowns. It takes you back to another era." So says, the Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Rita Moreno, who will make her highly-anticipated New York cabaret debut next month at the famed Oak Room of the legendary Algonquin Hotel. Moreno, who recently received an Image Award nomination for her brilliant work in the HBO series "Oz," will perform at the Oak Room from October 19 to November 13 (Tuesdays through Thursdays at 9 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 PM and 11:30 PM). Tickets are priced at $45, and there is a $15 food/beverage minimum; call (212) 840-6800 for more information . . . Former Chicago star Bebe Neuwirth currently heads the company of the American Conservatory Theatre's production of The Threepenny Opera. During rehearsals for the Kurt Weill musical, Neuwirth took time out to speak with writer Nevo Chonin for an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The two-time Tony winner had this to say about her role as Pirate Jenny: "I still haven't figured out what I'm doing. Every time I try to approach this as an organic, linear experience, it sort of gets caught up. It's a very awkward character and evening to track. I have a feeling there are moments where it becomes presentational. So how does the character accommodate that? It's a complex problem. It's not like other shows I've done. The time is weird, the medium is weird. But the music and the conveyance of the songs I don't have any problem with. Right from the beginning I've understood what and how and who. I have always loved the Weill music. It resonates very deeply with me, so I'm excited to have a chance to perform." The Threepenny Opera plays through October 3 at the Geary Theater. Tickets are available by calling (415) 749-2228 . . . And, speaking of Threepenny Opera, another star of this production, Broadway veteran Nancy Dussault, will take part in the ongoing "Conversations" series at PALM, the Performing Arts Library and Museum at 401 Van Ness Avenue (4th floor) in the Veterans Building. The conversation will be hosted by theatre/dance writer Sheryl Flatow, who will interview Dussault --last on Broadway in Into the Woods -- this Monday, September 13 at 6:30 PM. The evening is open to the public, and ticket information can be obtained by calling (415) 255 4800. You can also visit the PALM website at www.sfpalm.org.

REMINDERS


SARAH BRIGHTMAN
Sarah Brightman's complete U.S. tour listing follows:


September 10 in Santa Barbara, CA at the Santa Barbara Bowl
September 11 in San Diego, CA at the SDSU Open Air Theater
September 14 in San Jose, CA at the Center For Performing Arts
September 16 in Seattle, WA at the Opera House
September 17 in Portland, OR at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall
September 19 in Sacramento, CA at the ARCO Arena
September 21 in Denver, CO at the Temple Buell Theater
September 23 in Chicago, IL at the Chicago Theatre
September 25 in Detroit, MI at the Opera House
September 26 in Akron, OH at the EJ Thomas Hall
September 28 in Pittsburgh, PA at the Benedum Center
September 29 in Cincinnati, OH at the Aranoff Theater
October 1 in Buffalo, NY at the Sheas Theatre
October 2 in Hartford, CT at the Bushnell Auditorium
October 3 in Portland, ME at the Civic Center
October 6 in Newark, NJ at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
October 8 in Boston, MA at the Wang Center
October 10 in State College, PA at the Bryce Jordan Center
October 12 in Washington, DC at the Constitution Hall
October 13 in Greensboro, NC at the War Memorial Auditorium
October 15 in W. Palm Beach, FL at the Kravis Center
October 16 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd
October 17 in Miami, FL at the Jackie Gleason Theater

BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley currently heads the cast of Camino Real at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, Connecticut. The Tennessee Williams play officially opens on September 15, and tickets may be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151. Camino Real runs through October 10.


A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
September 24 Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA
October 2 South Street Theater Company in Morristown, NJ
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 23 Foellinger Great Hall in Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon State University Aud. in Springfield, IL
October 27 Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, NY (Benefit dinner)
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 12 Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
November 14 Music Hall in Cincinnati, OH
December 13-14 St. Barth's Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Aud. in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
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
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
And, "Bravo Profiles: Betty Buckley," an insightful documentary that includes an interview with the Tony Award-winning actress as well as footage from Buckley's recent sold-out Bottom Line concert will air on Bravo November 1 at 10 p.m.

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone will perform highlights from her new "Matters of the Heart" act for New York audiences in a special, one-night-only gig at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street between East 4th Street and Astor Place). La LuPone brings her evening of song (soon to be available on CD from Varese Sarabande) to the Public Theater's new cabaret space on Sunday, September 26 at 9 pm. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. There is also a two-drink minimum.


Tickets are also now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500.

KAREN MASON
Karen Mason's Christmas album, simply titled "Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" will be available this fall. On September 25 Mason will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas. . .Also, Mason will open a brand-new night-club space in New York City on November 3. She'll play through Nov. 27 at Arci's Place, 450 Park Avenue South (between 30th and 31st Sts.). Performances are Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 pm, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8:30 and 11 pm There will be a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; for reservations, call (212) 532-4370.

ELAINE PAIGE
What follows are some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
October 30 and 31, 1999 at the Sun City Superbowl in South Africa
November 5, 1999 at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa
January 21 and 22, 2000 with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah

BERNADETTE PETERS
The two-time Tony winner currently stars as the gun-toting Annie Oakley in the acclaimed revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com