DIVA TALK: Front PAIGE News

DIVA TALK: Front PAIGE News Hi, all you diva lovers. Here's the latest news:

Hi, all you diva lovers. Here's the latest news:

ELAINE PAIGE

It was very exciting to receive Front Paige News, "The Newsletter of the Official Elaine Paige Fan Club" this week. Alan Vince, who took over the newsletter in 1986 from Elaine's sister, Marion, graciously sent us the last two issues. Some of the tidbits that graced the eight-page, photo-filled, glossy newsletter include:

(1) A South Bank Show television special devoted to Elaine's career will air in London on Easter Sunday, April 7. Elaine traveled to Buenos Aires, Paris and Hollywood to shoot scenes for the special, which will chronicle her award-winning stage career that includes Evita, Cats, Chess, Anything Goes, Piaf and Sunset Boulevard. (2) The Variety Club of London honored Paige with an award for Outstanding Stage Actress of the Year for her work as Norma D in Sunset.

(3) The Avon Cosmetics album An Evening with Elaine Paige has been reissued on BMG's Camden label and retitled Performance. The issue concludes with a note from Mr. Vince and one from Elaine herself, which reads:

"Dear All,
It's been wonderful to see so many of you at the Adelphi Theatre and to hear from others by way of cards and letters. Many thanks as always for your kind wishes, for your OBE congratulations and for the gifts and cards at Christmas.
I've had a great run in SUNSET, working with a superb team of people and in such an exciting role--I shall miss it. But not for long, I shall be back in her shoes on Broadway in the autumn, which I'm really looking forward to--meanwhile I'm enjoying a holiday!
I had a fascinating time re-researching the three characters of Eva Peron, Edith Piaf and Gloria Swanson for the South Bank Show back in the autumn.
We travelled to Buenos Aires to film and also to Los Angeles and Paris. The programme goes out on Easter Sunday, so look out for it!
Wishing you all good things for 1996 and hoping that I might see some of you in New York later in the year. Elaine

BERNADETTE PETERS
According to an item in this week's New York Post, that Tony-winning Song & Dance gal is engaged to stockbroker Michael Whittenberg. Peters and Whittenberg have been seen around town for the past nine months, and he recently presented her with a ring. No word yet on when the wedding will be; it will be Peters' first time down the aisle.

NORMAS-Present and Past
There was a very interesting article in this week's Village Voice by writer David Finkle. Finkle compared the many recordings of "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye" (including those by Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, Elaine Paige, Diahann Carroll, Helen Schneider, Shirley Bassey, Laurie Beechman and Barbra Streisand) in order to give the award for "Excellence in recorded performance by an actress singing the Norma Desmond songs from Sunset Boulevard.? The winner, Finkle believes, is none other than (may I have the envelope, please) . . . Betty Buckley.

We don't agree with everything Finkle says, although, of course, we do love Buckley's renditions, but Paige and LuPone's takes are equally lovable. It seems everyone has his or her own opinion about whose Norma is best. Here are a few quotes from Mr. Finkle's article:

on Betty Buckley:
"What Buckley brings to the recorded versions is a vocal and acting dynamism her colleagues don't or can't muster for that chin-first hauteur they're all asked to affect as Desmond. Broadway's current Norma has a clarion mezzo-soprano she can modulate to a girlish whisper when need be, but can also turn to silver bullets. Also, both onstage and in the studio, she's scrupulous about remaining in character as the frightening, frightened, one-time silent-screen star."

on Elaine Paige:
"The other Normas fail to match Buckley's skills, although Paige on Encore, where she reprises songs with which she's associated comes closet -- she's got metal in her tones and mettle in her readings."

on Glenn Close:
". . .possesses the acting chops to make Norma ghastly and grand, but her voice has a great divide -- soprano, alto. This means that where Buckley hits vocal home runs, Close settles for the carefully placed bunt."

on Patti LuPone:
"With her Juilliard training, she has the depth to portray Desmond, but acting doesn't seem her intention. Vocal production does. . .Nonetheless, she still sounds intent only on drawing attention to her melting legatos--attention getting that, in the long run, if off-putting."

on Barbra Streisand:
"'With One Look' on her 'Back to Broadway' disk is--rare for her--dull. Her spin on 'As If We Never Said Goodbye,' however, is a strong second to Buckley's. It has a conviction and urgency that makes you put down what you're doing and pay attention."

on Diahann Carroll:
"Perfectly acceptable but so much without particular personality that even her longtime fans might not guess who this curt, commanding singer is."

on Laurie Beechman:
" . . . handling her material as if she were cutting fabric for Armani suits, is so pure she shows these declarations up for what they are: limited in meaning when not delivered in character."

on Shirley Bassey:
" . . . The shocker is the extent to which Bassey's voice and breath control have deteriorated. Those who have always appreciated Bassey's supersonic approach to singing will be dazed and confused; she, like Close, sounds older than Norma's years."

on Helen Schneider (who has only recorded "The Perfect Year" as a single):
" . . . has pipes the Radio City Music Hall organ would envy. But her teasing version seems intended for commercial purposes rather than for acting accuracy."

BETTY BUCKLEY
And, don't forget that Betty B performs at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village this Sunday, March 24. She will perform two shows backed by her band that includes pianist Kenny Werner. Hope to see you there!

Next time, a discussion of Betty's concert plus news about Melba Moore and others. . .

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
(my e-mail address is andrew_gans@playbill.com.)