I took a trip out to Westport, CT, this past Tuesday evening to catch Florence Lacey in An Evening with Jerry Herman at the Westport Country Playhouse. Directed by and also starring Lee Roy Reams, the evening saluted the Tony-winning composer of such classic musicals as Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles and a few near-misses like Dear World and Mack and Mabel.
Herman, seated center stage at a grand piano, supplied interesting recollections and anecdotes, which led into a collection of his songs performed by Reams, Lacey and, occasionally, Herman himself. Reams was in fine form, offering perfectly-timed comic moments, including impersonations of Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Mae West and even Tallulah Bankhead; while Lacey shone in some of the more dramatic pieces of the evening.
Reams and Lacey perfectly complement each other's performance styles: Lacey is best suited to the current genre of musical theatre--having triumphed in many productions of Evita-- possessing a wonderful knack for interpreting a song and a style that is as easily at home with Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim as it is with Herman's lush romanticism, while Reams seems to find his essence in the traditional musical comedy style.
Lacey, who some smart producer should bring back to Broadway as soon as possible, was in wonderful voice, and it was a real treat to hear her sing some of Herman's finest work. The high point of the first Act was her thrilling rendition of "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame. Lacey can sing with the best of them, and she built the tune from a slow, contemplative reading to a full-voiced, emotional climax that sent the final lyric--"If that boy with the bugle walked into my life today"-- soaring.
What is so great about Lacey's voice is not only a wide range that enables her to go for the high notes with great assurance, but an exciting, earthy vibrato that speaks passion. Lacey also scored in the first half with "Ribbons Down My Back" --which she has performed in two productions of Herman's Hello, Dolly!--and a touching duet (with Herman) of "We Need a Little Christmas," in which she shared the composer's piano bench.
In the second act Lacey stopped the show with a dramatic reading of "I Don't Want to Know" from the ill-fated musical Dear World. Her rendition of the song, and perhaps the song itself, made me realize how wonderful she would deliver some of Jacques Brel's songs, which require an emotional intensity for which she seems well-suited. She also scored with an impassioned "Time Heals Everything" -- to hear her belt the climactic "Time heals everything but loving you" was a sheer delight. A beautifully sung version of La Cage Aux Folle's "Song on the Sand" was also right on the mark, finding Lacey in a quieter, more introspective mode.
An Evening with Jerry Herman will continue at the Westport County Playhouse through Aug. 2. You can also catch the threesome at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME (Aug. 4-16) and at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA (Aug. 18-30). KAREN AKERS
Karen Akers will be the featured vocalist for two upcoming concerts at the Hollywood Bowl when the City of Lights comes to the Bowl in August. On August 22 and 23, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, under the direction of John Mauceri, will salute the city of Paris with selections from Cole Porter's Can-Can, Gershwin's "An American in Paris," and songs from the statuesque chanteuse Karen Akers. Akers, who has long included songs made famous by Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel in her cabaret act, is the perfect choice for the evenings, which will conclude with Ravel's "Bolero" and a dazzling display of fireworks. Tickets for Vive La France! can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 213-480-3232.
It was great to receive the many e-mails from those of you who were lucky enough to attend Betty Buckley's concert with the San Francisco Symphony Julyt 18 at Davies Symphony Hall. From all accounts, it seems that it was a sensational evening. For those of you who weren't able to attend, I thought you'd be interested in the songs BB performed:
"Hello Young Lovers"/"Almost Like Being In Love"
"Some Enchanted Evening"
"Come On, Come On"
"As Time Goes By/"Where Or When"
"As If We Never Said Goodbye" (STANDING OVATION)
"The Man That Got Away"
"Come Rain Or Come Shine"
"With One Look" (STANDING OVATION)
"It Must Be So"
"Memory" (STANDING OVATION)
"Amazing Grace" (STANDING OVATION)
"Send In The Clowns"
"Dreaming" (by Amanda McBroom)
Ms. B also received a rave review from Octavio Roca in the San Francisco Chronicle. Wrote Roca:
"The scene was wild near the end.
There was a spontaneous chorus of fans in the audience chanting, "We love you, Betty!" from the balcony, and a standing ovation stopped only after the singer nodded to her conductor that more music was in store. Betty Buckley, in her sold-out concert Friday night with the San Francisco Symphony, had just sung "With One Look" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard," magically.
It was a tour de force; it could easily have been the evening's highlight and the adoring fans would have been pleased. But there was much more, and Buckley was in a generous mood.
She mentioned simply that she now wanted to do a song that she had been privileged to introduce on Broadway and had sung there with spectacular success nightly for more than a year. To any jaded listeners who thought they had heard "Memory" from "Cats" a million too many times, her performance was a revelation. On the heels of Buckley's portrayal of the demented Norma Desmond from "Sunset Boulevard" at this Summer in the City pops concert, her way with a different sort of madness was a riveting spectacle. . . .Buckley re-created Grizabella's key scene with simple gestures and exquisite singing.
There was a devastating directness in the resignation drenching her line "I was beautiful then" . . . and an ecstasy of melancholy at recalling "a time I knew what happiness was." There were tears running down her cheeks by the end of the song, and there was a hush from the crowd before the roars began anew and encores including "Amazing Grace" capped this evening of song.
Amazing she was, in many ways. In "Cats" decades ago, and recently in "Sunset Boulevard," in the music not only of Lloyd Webber but also of Stephen Sondheim, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Harold Arlen and more, Buckley shone. Like precious few otherwise different cabaret singers from Zizi Jeanmaire to Lotte Lenya, Buckley has been blessed with a seductive timbre that is both youthful and fragile. It is the seeming vulnerability of her perfectly controlled vibrato that makes the considerable power of her belt such a surprise, and it is was in some of Lenya's repertory that Buckley made the strongest impression in this San Francisco concert. . ."
Eder, who recently performed to a jam-packed room at New York's Supper Club, will appear on the QVC Network this Sunday, July 27 at 4 PM (eastern time). The Jekyll & Hyde star is slated to perform two songs and will also chat live with a few fans who phone into the station. Those calling in to order Eder's new CD, It's Time (on Atlantic Records), may get the chance to speak with the rising star. The phone number is 1-800-345 1515. QVC will be offering a choice of cassettes or CDs in an exclusive set of her new album and the original Broadway cast recording of Jekyll & Hyde.
I receive a lot of e-mails about the upcoming projects of Rebecca Luker, the star of The Secret Garden and Show Boat, who possesses one of the most beautiful sopranos around. Many of your questions should be answered when the recent star of City Center's The Boys from Syracuse guests this Saturday on Marta Sanders' radio program. "The Marta Sanders Show" airs from 11 AM to noon on New York's WLIR, 1300 AM.
DIVA CHALLENGE II (THE ANSWERS)
Which diva (or divas) fits the description given? (Questions in last week's column.)
Choose from the following ladies (you may have multiple answers):
(A) Betty Buckley (B) Patti LuPone (C) Elaine Paige (D) Bernadette Peters
(1) Real last name is Lazarra (Peters)
(2) Middle name is Lynn (Buckley)
(3) Tony winner for Best Actress in a Musical (LuPone and Peters; Buckley won for Best Featured Actress)
(4) Has an album entitled "Now Playing" (Peters)
(5) Broadway debut in 1776 (Buckley)
(6) First to record "Memory" (Paige)
(7) Star of Cats and Sunset Boulevard (Paige and Buckley)
(8) Star of Evita and Sunset Boulevard (Paige and LuPone)
(9) Star of Anything Goes and Evita (Paige and LuPone)
(10) Star of Anything Goes, Evita and Sunset Boulevard (Paige and LuPone)
(11) Recorded "Wind Beneath My Wings" before Bette Midler (Buckley)
(12) "Eight is Enough" star (Buckley)
(13) Sang "Over You" in a film (Buckley)
(14) "All's Fair" star (Peters)
(15) Real last name is Bickerstaff (Paige)
(16) Her brother starred in A Chorus Line (LuPone)
(17) Sang much of a musical in French (Paige)
(18) In one show she dated Chuck, Sheldon, Joe and Paul (Peters and Buckley)
(19) Portrayed a silent movie star (Paige, Peters, LuPone, Buckley)
(20) Sang at Sondheim Carnegie Hall Celebration (Peters, LuPone, Buckley)
(21) Uncredited singer on the soundtrack for the Hair film (Buckley)
(22) Locked daughter in the cellar in one show (Buckley)
(23) Starred opposite Mandy Patinkin in a musical (LuPone and Peters)
(24) Was a professional chess player in a musical (Paige)
(25) Married to a bread maker in a musical (LuPone)
(26) Journeyed to the heavyside layer in a musical (Buckley and Paige)
(27) Starred opposite Robert Preston in a musical (Peters)
(28) Has a dog named "Tugger" (Paige)
(29) Starred with Howard McGillin in a musical (Buckley, LuPone, Paige)
(30) Composed a song titled "Dark Blue-Eyed Blues" (Buckley)
(31) Was killed by her onstage daughter in a musical (Buckley)
(32) Marti Webb took over for this actress in Evita (Paige)
(33) Julie Covington created on album a role this actress would play onstage (Paige and LuPone)
(34) Made her Broadway debut within the last 12 months (Paige)
(35) Recorded the song "Supermarket in Old Peking" (LuPone)
(36) Recorded the song "Chico's Girl" (Peters)
(37) Has a little boy named Josh (LuPone)
(38) Her Evita alternate was recently in the Off-Broadway musical Bed and Sofa (LuPone)
(39) "Life Goes On" star (LuPone)
(40) Backup singer on a Roberta Flack album (Buckley)
(41) Miss Fort Worth 1966 (Buckley)
(42) "Carol Burnett Show" regular guest (Peters)
(43) Got married on a Broadway stage (LuPone)
Patti's LuPone's dynamic one-woman show, An Evening with Patti LuPone, will be broadcast on PBS stations beginning on August 20.
The Evening at Pops series that features Paige singing six of her hit theatre tunes ("As If We Never Said Goodbye," "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "The Ballad of Poor Old John," "If You Love Me," "No Regrets" and "Memory") will air on PBS stations throughout the country beginning this Monday evening, July 28.
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org