Betty Buckley fans will be thrilled with the just-released cast recording of Triumph of Love, the Susan Birkenhead/Jeffrey Stock/James Magruder musical loosely based on the Marivaux play. Buckley sounds terrific on the CD, whether she's belting the opening lines of "This Day of Days," tenderly caressing the notes in the quartet of "Teach Me Not to Love You" or bringing an emotional intensity to her duets with Susan Egan ("You May Call Me Phocion") and F. Murray Abraham ("The Tree"). And, her two solo pieces, "Serenity" and "If I Cannot Love," are masterfully crafted and delivered. Just listen to the way she builds "Serenity" from a quiet remembrance of her youth to a full-voiced declaration of love's surprise arrival. She is also equally effective on "If I Cannot Love," which was unfortunately cut during previews but is thankfully preserved on this JAY Records release.
There is fine work from the rest of the Triumph cast, particularly Susan Egan (especially effective on "Anything" and "What Have I Done?") and F. Murray Abraham (who doesn't possess a particularly good instrument but manages to bring an emotional honesty to his songs). Additionally, the recording includes several spoken passages -- including the wonderful final line, deliciously articulated by Buckley -- and a CD booklet featuring complete lyrics and a dozen or so photos.
And, don't forget that Buckley returns to her favorite downtown haunt, The Bottom Line, this weekend for six performances beginning tonight at 7:30. As reported in last week's column, Ms. B has special tricks-and-treats lined up for her fans. In addition to performing songs from the cult musical Carrie, Buckley will also welcome special guest stars for her two shows on Friday and Saturday: comedian/pianist Seth Rudetsky and Varla Jean Merman, the drag personality who bills herself as the "illegitimate daughter of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine." Buckley's shows on Saturday (Halloween) will also feature a costume contest (boasting celebrity judges), and audience members are invited to don their spookiest finery. And, Sunday's afternoon show will be an all request program, where fans can request songs from BB's wide-ranging repertoire of show tunes, standards, country favorites and pop classics.
The Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street at the corner of West 4th and Mercer. Tickets, which are priced at $30, are only available at the box office between the hours of 10 PM and 11 PM. Show times are Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday Oct. 31 at 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 1 at 4:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Be sure to catch Buckley in action at the Bottom Line -- it is never less than a thrilling experience.
* Buckley will also be among the select group of talents who will perform at the star-studded Actors' Fund of America Gala, which will honor Shubert Organization Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld. Others lined up for the Nov. 2 event include Nell Carter, Judy Kuhn and Chita Rivera. Tickets, which begin at $500, are available by calling (212) 221-7300, ext. 129.
La LuPone is a multi-media gal these days, performing her new concert act all over the globe, while creating roles on both the big and small screens. In fact, LuPone recently completed filming roles in two movies: She portrays Adrian Brody's mother in Spike Lee's new film, Summer of Sam, and she also co-stars with Gretchen Mol in Jason Alexander's Cherry Pink, which was produced by Jean Doumanian. And, in January 1999, The Shooting Gallery will release The 24 Hour Woman, the Nancy Savoca movie that Patti filmed last fall with Rosie Perez and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
For those of you who need a dose of LuPone quickly, she will be featured this week in the new Nathan Lane sitcom, "Encore! Encore!" The Tony-winning performer will portray a wine critic in the Nov. 3 episode, which airs on NBC at 8:30 pm.
And, as reported in last week's column, LuPone will bring her acclaimed, new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," to the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia on January 11 and 13. The new act, which premiered this past August in California, was conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, the same man responsible for her Broadway concert, Patti LuPone on Broadway. The new act is an evening of original and contemporary music and boasts an eclectic mix of songwriters, including works by Lennon and McCartney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Randy Newman. For ticket info and orders, go to www.tickettek.com.au/Sydney Festival Home Page or www.sydneyfestival.org.au. Trivia buffs will recall that Patti has performed in Australia on one other occasion: when she received critical acclaim in the Australian production of Evita in the early eighties.
After her Sydney engagement, LuPone will bring the new act to the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, California on Jan. 29 and 30, 1999. Call the McCallum's box office at (760) 340-2787 for tickets. And, on March 5, 6, and 7, 1999 she will appear with the Baltimore Symphony in Baltimore. Tickets go on sale January 4, 1999 but they may be purchased during the Symphony's early sale from Dec. 1 to 23; call (410) 783-8000.
It's shaping up to be a perfectly Patti winter.
Rehearsals began this past Monday for the upcoming U. S. national tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Don Black/Christopher Hampton musical Sunset Boulevard, which stars Petula Clark in the role of the faded silent screen star Norma Desmond. The tour is set to begin at the Benedum Performing Arts Center in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1, 1998, and will then travel the country through April 2000! This production will be directed by Susan H. Schulman, whose Sound of Music revival is still packing 'em in at the Martin Beck Theatre.
I had the chance to chat on the phone with Clark last week, and the lovely actress/singer spoke about returning to the role that she played for over a year in London to enthusiastic response. Next week's column will feature the interview with the star of stage, screen and the concert stage, but for those of you Clark and Sunset fans, here's a tidbit of information from the interview: According to Clark, the music and the dialogue will be exactly the same as the original production, although a less-overwhelming set will be featured . . .
By the way, Clark's newest CD, Here for You, is now available in record stores on the Varese Sarabande label and features four songs by Stephen Sondheim: "Not a Day Goes By," "I Never Do Anything Twice," "Children Will Listen," "Losing My Mind." "The thing is," Clark explains, "is how to do an album that is not all Sondheim. There's just so much. . . I did a thing called 'I Never Do Anything Twice,' which I thought, 'This is a bit naughty.' But it's such fun, I couldn't resist it!"
The current Grizabella in the Broadway production of Cats can also be heard singing the role of Simba's daughter in the animated sequel to Disney's The Lion King. Entitled Lion King II: Simba's Pride, the home video was just released on Tuesday (October 27). A soundtrack, Return to Pride Rock, is also available for the sequel and features Callaway singing two songs, "Upendi" and "Love Will Find a Way."
This year's Melbourne Festival featured the Australian cabaret debut of Andrea Marcovicci, and according to our diva lover Down Under, her performance at the Myer Mural Hall was spectacular. Thought you would enjoy reading some of the reviews from the Australian critics:
Jeremy Vincent in The Australian:
"Add an entertainer of the calibre of Andrea Marcovicci and there's little else that need be done. Hers is a perfectly wonderful, wonderfully perfect tribute. Marcovicci, the latest in the Melbourne Festival Myer Mural Hall entertainment series . . . is perhaps the most sophisticated performer we've encountered.
. . .With a substantial acting career matching her singing agenda, Marcovicci takes no shortcuts in her interpretations. Her performance unashamedly communicates the soul of each item she encounters. Traveling through some of music theatre's most popular songs, it's easy to see her motivation is the lyrics. And mindful of these key emotional sign-posts, she subtly asks familiar rhythms to take a back seat. She lingers on the story, sometimes injecting fascinating insights into tunes that have long been labeled hackneyed.
The great songs of Rodgers and Hart suddenly sound fresh, as the vivacious Marcovicci tucks up her gown and sits cross-legged on the grand piano, seemingly singing her message to each individual in the packed cabaret venue. Comedy appears second nature to her. After a somewhat nervous start, Kern's 'How'd You Like to Spoon with Me?' was the ideal leveller. There's personality to burn in this cheeky stage ditty, and Marcovicci lapped it up.
Through the emotional essence in songs such as 'My Romance' and 'Where or When', this classic performer had the audience hook, line and sinker -- her voice rustling in a seductive way, like the sensual, tactile properties of satin; glossy, but with a strong, almost imperceptible intellectual weave.
As a torch-singer, she's certainly versatile and not afraid to indulge in a little hard-luck honesty, playing the wall-flower to take the mickey out of 'Some Enchanted Evening' or to caress 'All The Things You Are' as if Kern and Hammerstein had penned the piece especially for her.
Then, totally at home, she contrasted the sentimental 'How Are Things in Glocca Morra?' superbly with the Yiddish-inspired 'Springtime' and the scenic beauty of 'Finishing the Hat', in 10 minutes taking the audience through three diverse worlds of the music-theatre catalogue, each time detailing the lyrics with astonishing clarity and depth of feeling.
Dina Ross in The Age:
". . .And that was it, she had us in the palm of her hand. Marcovicci is a star all right; a witty, luminous entertainer who captivates and enchants.
. . .Whether she's working her way through a wistfully nostalgic number such as 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' or the complex articulation of Stephen Sondheim, every nuance of text is interpreted with an intelligence that is breathtaking. Take the standard wish-fulfillment song, 'Someone To Watch Over Me'. Most singers stress the word 'me' in the refrain. Marcovicci doesn't - her emphasis is on the word 'watch'. The rhythm is broken, halted, which totally reinvents the song and its meaning, so you feel you are hearing it for the first time.
It is this keen sense of phrasing, timing and acting ability that has had critics liken her to Frank Sinatra, but the comparison is only half accurate. Marcovicci is a direct descendent of the great torch singers of 40 or 50 years ago, legendary entertainers such as Ruth Etting and Mabel Mercer. For them, too, melody comes almost secondary to the importance of the libretto, and to hear a singer today make every word count is both rare and thrilling.
. . . Marcovicci is accompanied by Glenn Mehrbach on piano, who perfectly understands the ebb and flow of her style. Her songs are interspersed with an amusing, and seemingly extemporised [sic], patter of wry asides and throw away anecdotes. And she's no prig. Refreshingly, she can also express herself with a raunchiness that is at complete odds with her rather regal demeanor and elegant gown.
One bracket of songs, headed by the saccharine 'Some Enchanted Evening', she described, memorably, as 'Songs that f*** you up'. And, for one of her four encores, she threw herself heart and soul into Peter Allen's delicious celebration of carnal appetite, 'It's Great to be Unzipped Again'."
Damien Woolnough in the Herald Sun:
Now I get it. For years I've tried to figure out what cabaret is, but Andrea Marcovicci has finally delivered the answer. It's not just about singing show tunes, and the obligatory Stephen Sondheim and Peter Allen song. It's not even about sitting astride a bentwood chair in fishnet stockings, a la Liza Minnelli. Cabaret is when an elegantly dressed American strides through the beautifully lit Myer Mural Hall and seduces you through song.
The material helps, with songs such as 'Someone To Watch Over Me' and 'My Funny Valentine' fulfilling the evening's theme of Love Songs from the Theatre. But with Marcovicci, an accomplished actor, it's all in the delivery. She takes a standard such as 'Some Enchanted Evening' and pokes fun at it's romanticism and still has you weeping by the song's conclusion. Her voice lacks the polished perfection of Barbara Cook, the smile is less fixed than Michael Feinstein and the resume less impressive than Joel Grey's, but she banishes the echoes of the hall's former occupants and makes it her own."
IN OTHER NEWS
Kay McClelland and Barbara Walsh will lend their talents to a reading of Together Tulane, a new play by Stuart Warmflash about a rock band's reunion. The reading will be held at the YM-YMHA Educational alliance (344 East 14th Street) on Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 780-0800, ext. 278 . . . The late Anita Morris can be heard on the just-released CD of The Magic Show, the 1974 Broadway musical by Stephen Schwartz that also starred Doug Henning and David Ogden Stiers. The CD is available from January Records . . . In the upcoming Dec. issue of PLAYBILL, Chicago's new star, Ute Lemper, has this to say to writer Harry Haun about replacing Bebe Neuwirth: "Bebe was completely fantastic, and, believe me, it's not easy to follow in her footsteps . . . It was safer in London. I just did my thing, and there was nobody I was compared to. Here, people might object--'this blonde woman comes on, who is she?'--but I don't think about it very much. It's just different because we're different."
Next month, Akers will return to Rainbow & Stars, the plush cabaret room high atop Rockefeller Plaza, for her annual New York cabaret engagement beginning Nov. 17 and continuing through Dec. 5 (call (212) 632-5000). Before her Rainbow & Stars stint begins, the statuesque diva will join Tom Andersen, Seth Rudetsky and Lumiri Tubo to raise money for the Girls' Choir of Harlem. The fundraiser will be held at Danny's Skylight Room on Nov. 16 at 9:15p.m. There is a music charge of $15 and a $10 food and drink minimum. Danny's Skylight Room is located at 346 W. 46th Street, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 265-8133.
LAURIE BEECHMAN TRIBUTE
The list continues to grow: More names are being added on a daily basis to the list of performers who will salute the late Laurie (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Les Miserables) Beechman this Nov. 30 at a concert held at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Entitled Let the Memory Live Again: A Musical Celebration for Laurie Beechman, the evening will benefit Gilda's Club, where Beechman found support during her struggles with ovarian cancer. The most recent performer who has signed on is Phantom of the Opera star Davis Gaines, who will join two other masked Phantoms, Kevin Gray and Brad Little, on stage to perform "The Music of the Night." Others scheduled to perform include Betty Buckley, Sam Harris, Christiane Noll, Douglas Sills, Andrea McArdle, Melissa Hart, Robert Evan, Raymond Jarimillo McLeod, Kevin Gray, Dodie Pettit, Grant Prickett, Karen Mason, Ken Page, Dan Schiff, Brad Little, Lisa Kain Marcelli, Christine Andreas, Terrence Mann, Linda Eder, Mary Testa, Amy Jo Arrington and more ( Patti LaBelle was forced to withdraw due to booking commitments). Call (202) 226-1780 for more information or visit Congressman Fox's web site (http://www.house.gov/fox).
BB concert line-up:
Nov. 6 in at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, PA
Dec. 28 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
Dec. 29 at the Kravis Center for the Perf Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec. 31 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL
January 14, 1999 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA
January 16 at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
February 6 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, Ill.
Oct. 29-31 at the Orange Country Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
Nov. 13 at the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
Nov. 14 at the Colden Center at Queens College in New York
Nov. 20 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, PA
Nov. 21 at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, OH
Dec. 8-9 at the FAU Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
Nov. 11-21, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago.
Below are a few concert bookings for the star of stage and screen:
Nov. 11-22 in a production of "Of Thee I Sing" at the UCLA Freud Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 10-13 with the Phoenix Symphony in Phoenix, Arizona
Peters will return to The Great White Way in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. Previews begin at the Marriott Marquis Theatre Feb. 2, 1999. Call (212) 307-4100 for tickets.
ALICE RIPLEY and EMILY SKINNER
Fans of the Side Show gals will have the chance to see these talented ladies perform live at the HMV Records store on 72nd Street and Broadway on Nov. 2 at 6pm. The talented duo will be on hand to autograph copies of their new recording, Duets, and they will also sing a few of the CD's tracks. You can get an evening-long dose of Ms. Ripley on Nov. 15 when she performs at the China Club. Half of that evening will be devoted to her original compositions, and she will be joined by Skinner for some "Duets" for the second portion. Call (212) 398-3800 for reservations.
RAINBOW & STARS
David Campbell Oct. 13 - Oct. 31.
Ann Hampton Callaway Nov. 3 - 14
Karen Akers Nov. 17 - Dec. 5
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976-1998.