Perhaps singer-actress Julia Murney put it best during the final evening's entertainment on the Norwegian Dawn. "Being neither gay nor a family," said Murney, "I wasn't sure what I would find [on this cruise]. I found joy."
Whether gay, straight or a little curved, passengers on board the cruise ship couldn't help but be moved by the experience, the first time a ship full of gay and lesbian parents and their children took a week-long excursion that began in New York City, traveled to Florida and the Bahamas, and then back to Manhattan one week later.
For me, there were several moving moments aboard the mammoth cruise ship, though the first that leaps to mind occurred one afternoon in the Garden Cafe, one of the ship's nine restaurants. While having lunch, suddenly 50 or so little kids dressed in pirate gear and as happy as can be came running through the buffet restaurant on their way to the outside pools. The joy on the faces of these kids — a mix of races and ethnicities, some adopted, some from surrogates and many born to their parents — was extraordinarily touching.
Broadway Belters As for the last night's entertainment, Seth Rudetsky — who had triumphed throughout the week with Rhapsody in Seth, Deconstructing the Brady Bunch Variety Hour and as accompanist to Billy Porter — assembled a group of terrific theatre performers for an evening simply titled "Broadway Belters." The aforementioned Julia Murney kicked off the concert with a thrilling version of "Life of the Party" from the Off-Broadway musical in which she starred, The Wild Party. Murney possesses one of the best belts of her generation, and the more and more I hear her, the more convinced I am that she should star as Eva, should the announced Evita revival, scheduled to kick off in London, happen.
Elaine Brier followed, reprising a comedic number she and Rudetsky often performed at Rose's Turn in the West Village: an audience-participation version of the Beatles' tune "All Together Now." Host Rudetsky then introduced Paul Castree and Gavin Creel, whose tenors soared on Side Show's "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" Originally sung on Broadway by conjoined belters Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, Rudetsky said he believes the Henry Krieger-Bill Russell ballad also speaks as a gay anthem.
A vivacious Andrea Burns — seen on Broadway in The Full Monty and on tour in Parade — followed with a rousing version of the seventies hit "Love Will Keep Us Together." And, what might have been the vocal high point of the cruise's entertainment followed, Darius de Haas' spectacular version of Dreamgirls' "I Am Changing." De Haas had told Rudetsky that he wanted to perform a song that would bring down the house, and the actor did just that. The audience rose en masse as de Haas belted the final lines, "And nothing's gonna stop me noooooooowwww!"
Jason Little took to the Stardust Theatre stage dressed in full Hedwig gear and explained that his song "is about knowing that you're different, but instead of hiding it, celebrating it." He also dedicated his performance of "Wig in a Box" to the men and women who were part of the famed Stonewall Riots, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement. "If it wasn't for them," said Little, "we wouldn't be here tonight."
Billy Porter let loose on Kander and Ebb's "And the World Goes 'Round," and Anika Larsen showed that she can belt with the best of 'em on "I Ain't Got Time" from Zanna, Don't!
The thrilling fight scene preceding the Dreamgirls anthem "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was performed by Virginia Woodruff (Effie), Darius de Haas (Curtis), Andrea Burns (Deena), Billy Porter (Jimmy), Paul Castree (C.C.) and Julia Murney (Michelle). Woodruff then wrapped her hefty tones around the Dreamgirls show-stopper, again bringing the house to its feet.
Before introducing the final number, Rudetsky thanked the crowd for raising a generation who would not be homophobic. Saying it's every gay man's fantasy to perform the title tune of Dreamgirls with the original Michael Bennett choreography, he introduced the evening's "Dreamgirls," Gavin Creel, Jose Llana and Paul Castree, who did the number justice.
Having never before been on a cruise, I have to say it's a terrific way to travel. Once your luggage is in your room, it's a completely hassle-free vacation. Should you forget anything, it's a quick trip back to pick it up, and other than the ship's casino, there's no need to carry any cash. For this cruise, all the meals were included in the initial fee (of the many restaurants there are a few that require an additional cover charge), and drinks and other merchandise are simply charged to your account, which is encrypted on your room key.
The ship itself was enormous. I was on board for a week, and I know I didn't get the chance to enjoy everything it offered. Here's a bit of what I did take in: the huge Stardust Theatre, a plush, comfortable theatre with great sound that housed most of the week's entertainment; the Spinnaker Lounge, a large cabaret with different arrays of chairs and tables and a bar; the Fitness Center, which was open 24 hours a day, and featured treadmills, a spin-cycle room, weight machines, free weights; numerous pools and hot tubs on the ship's top deck as well as a more private indoor pool downstairs from the health club; Gatsby's Champagne Bar, which adjoined the piano bar where several Taboo cast members performed; and an internet cafe with approximately 20 computers. Other features included the Dazzles Lounge and Night Club, the Java Café, the El Dorado Spa & Beauty Center, a jogging track and a basketball/volleyball court.
Next year's cruise, it was recently announced, will depart from Boston and then make stops in Oak Bluffs (Martha's Vineyard); Newport, RI; Provincetown; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, Maine; and then disembark in Boston. As soon as I get word about the entertainment for the 2005 cruise, I will post the news. For more information visit www.rfamilyvacations.com.
Tony Award winner Betty Buckley will return to the Cafe Carlyle in March 2005. From March 1-April 9, the Tony-winning performer will offer a brand-new program featuring musical director Kenny Werner at the piano. Buckley was most recently at the Carlyle in March 2004 when she performed her critically acclaimed program, "Portraits." The Cafe Carlyle is located within the Carlyle Hotel at Madison Avenue and 76th Street. For reservations, call (212) 570-7189; visit www.thecarlyle.com for more information. And, as previously announced, Buckley will play the York Hotel's Plush Room Sept. 7-26. Show times are Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 11 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. The Plush Room is located within the York Hotel at 940 Sutter Street in San Francisco. For reservations, call (415) 885-6800, ext. 127.
Miss Saigon's Claire Moore and Joanna Ampil are two of the West End theatre stars who will be part of One Day More, a world-premiere symphonic concert celebrating the works of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. The concerts, Sept. 16 and 17 at Birmingham's Symphony Hall, will also feature Stephen Tate (Les Misérables, Witches of Eastwick), Jerome Pradon (Pacific Overtures, Miss Saigon), Marie Zamora (Barnum, Les Misérables) and Hadley Fraser (Peter Pan, Les Misérables). Adrian Jackson will conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the evenings will also include the Midland Symphony Choir. Concertgoers can expect to hear works from Boublil and Schönberg's Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre and La Révolution Française as well as Schönberg's ballet, Wuthering Heights. One Day More will also include never-before-performed new music. Show time is 7:30 PM. For tickets, call 0121 780 333. For more information visit www.symphonyhall.co.uk/box office.
Laura Bell Bundy, who was recently the standby for Kristin Chenoweth's Glinda in Broadway's Wicked, will debut her new solo show this fall. On Oct. 4, the singer-actress will offer Shameless! The Life and Times of Laura Bell Bundy at Joe's Pub. Produced by Lynn Shaw, the 9:30 PM concert will be directed by Jamie McGonnigal with musical direction by John McMahon. Shameless! tells the story of "love and devotion, bitterness and betrayal. From Britney Spears and Natalie Portman understudying her in Ruthless, to performing in two of Broadway's biggest hits, the show will provide a bit of insight into her blond ambition." Cabaretgoers can expect to hear original tunes as well as songs from Bundy's theatre outings. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com. Those wishing to dine before the show should make reservations at (212) 539-8778.
The track listing has been announced for "In His Eyes," the solo debut recording of Ellen Greene and musical director/pianist Christian Klikovits: "I Love You" (S. McLachlan), "The Man with the Child in His Eyes" (K. Bush), "Pretty Pretty" (H. Hackady, P. Allen), "Only Women Bleed" (A. Cooper, R. Wagner), "Ready for Love" (B. Miller, I. Simpson), "Nothing Blues" (C. Brown, S. Clarke, B. Costa, D. Humperies), "Throwing Stones" (P. Cole), "Too Much Love Will Kill You" (F. Musker, E. Lamers, B. May), "Winter" (T. Amos), "When Love Is Gone" (Ch. Klikovits), "You Take My Breath Away" (F. Mercury), "Love Is Everything" (J. Siberry), "Rainbow Sleeves" (T. Waits) and "Pirate Jenny" (B. Brecht, K. Weill, R. Mannheim, J. Willett). The 14-track recording will be released on the Rainbo Records label; release date is still pending.
Maureen McGovern, who will play Marmee in the Broadway-bound musical Little Women, is set for a two-week run at Manhattan's Le Jazz Au Bar next month.The singer-actress will present "Sultry Songs on a Hot Summer's Night" Aug. 11-22 at the new jazz club. Accompanied by Jeffrey D. Harris on piano and Jay Leonhart on bass, McGovern will perform such standards as "When the Sun Comes Out," "Lazy Afternoon," "Embraceable You" and "Blues in the Night." Show times are 8 PM Wednesday through Saturday evenings with additional 10 PM shows on Friday and Saturday nights. There is a $35 cover charge on weeknights and a $50 cover on weekends but no minimum. Le Jazz Au Bar is located at 41 East 58th Street, between Madison and Park avenues. Call (212) 308-9455 for tickets or visit www.ticketweb.com. Ann Hampton Callaway, a Tony nominee for her performance in Broadway's Swing!, will release her latest solo recording next month. On Aug. 24 Shanachie Entertainment will release Callaway's new solo disc. Entitled "Slow," the CD is Callaway's first recording for the label and features several tunes written by the singer. The 12-track disc also includes guest appearances by sister Liz Callaway (on "Moondance") and composer Carole King (on the Callaway-King composition "Tonight You're All Mine").
And, finally, the 2005 Broadway Close Up season has been announced. The three-concert series kicks off April 4, 2005, with "Make Them Hear You!," an evening devoted to the works of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Hosted by Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally, the concert will offer an in-depth look at the works of the songwriting team, who will also be on hand. The duo's theatre scores include Ragtime, Once On This Island, My Favorite Year, A Man of No Importance and the animated film musical "Anastasia." "Sing for Your Supper" is the title of the May 2 program, which is subtitled "Ensembles in the Spotlight." Hosted by Forbidden Broadway creator Gerard Alessandrini, the concert will focus on Broadway's show-stopping trios, quartets and other ensembles. Audiences can expect to hear tunes from West Side Story, Les Misérables and Dear World. The Broadway Close Up season will conclude with Bound for Broadway V, an evening of songs from and interviews with the writers of developing shows. Miss Saigon and Cats star Liz Callaway will be the concert's host. Tickets for each concert are priced at $30, and a three-concert subscription is $70. Call (212) 501-3330 or visit www.kaufman-center.org. All concerts will be held at the Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!