DIVA TALK: Hairspray on CD, Gypsy Thoughts PLUS Buckley & Minnelli Discs

DIVA TALK: Hairspray on CD, Gypsy Thoughts PLUS Buckley & Minnelli Discs FOR THE RECORD Hairspray

FOR THE RECORD Hairspray

It's hard to imagine that there will be a more toe-tapping cast recording this season than Hairspray. In fact, if your toes don't start tapping as you're listening to "Good Morning Baltimore," then, "oh, oh, oh," you might want to consult the nearest podiatrist.

Now available on the Sony Classical label, the Hairspray recording — featuring a score by Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics) and Scott Wittman (lyrics) — is, simply, a pure joy. In fact, the first four tunes on the disc are back-to-back winners: the upbeat opening, "Good Morning Baltimore"; "The Nicest Kids in Town," featuring the smooth vocals of Clarke Thorell; the rousing "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," featuring three sets of mothers and daughters who demand, "Stop! Don't! No! Please!"; and "I Can Hear the Bells," a spirit-raising number that takes place in the mind of Tracy Turnblad, energetically sung by the winning Marissa Jaret Winokur. It's only the disc's fifth track that disappoints, "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs," which is neither particularly funny nor melodic, though Linda Hart gives it her all. After that, however, the score gets back on track with "It Takes Two," a delightful love song performed by the show's resident hunt, Link, sung with a warm, rich voice by Matthew Morrison. "It Takes Two" has an especially appealing melody — just listen to the song's intentionally sappy bridge, "That you're my girl/and I'm your boy/That you're my pride/And I'm your joy/That I'm the sand/And you're the tide/I'll be the groom/If you'll be my bride/It takes two, baby,/It takes two."

One of the highlights of the recording follows, the evening's first show stopper, "Welcome to the '60s," a tune that is both joyously life-affirming and completely moving. In fact, what's so appealing about Hairspray — both the musical at the Neil Simon Theatre and the recording — is it's ability to be not only funny, but moving as well. The show's warmth and its ability to evoke stronger emotions sets it apart, for me, from another recent laugh-filled blockbuster. Much of the production's warmth, it should be pointed out, comes from the honest performance offered by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, who may not sound pretty on disc, but is extremely touching onstage. When Fierstein comes out, dressed to the nines (well, maybe, sevens or eights) in "Welcome to the '60s," it's a memorably heartwarming moment.

Other highlights of the recording include Seaweed's (Corey Reynolds) "Run and Tell That!"; "(You're) Timeless To Me," the affectionate duet between Wilbur (Dick Latessa) and Edna Turnblad (Fierstein) that stops the show; "Without Love," the second act quartet that features some exceptional belting by Kerry Butler as Penny Pingleton (for me, Butler is the vocal standout in the show, especially in the musical's finale); "I Know Where I've Been," perhaps the show's most goosebump-inducing number, featuring the fierce Mary Bond Davis and glorious vocal arrangements for the chorus; and Hairspray's closing number, the infectious "You Can't Stop the Beat." The 17-track Hairspray recording is a must for the theatre lover or anyone who wants to be thrilled by a slew of upbeat melodies. GYPSY

Without question, the Broadway production I'm most excited about this season is the upcoming revival of Gypsy, which begins previews March 24, 2003, with an official opening set for April 24, 2003. I can hardly wait to see one of the finest performers Broadway has produced — Bernadette Peters — star in what is one of the finest musicals ever produced, the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents Gypsy. Having already witnessed Betty Buckley's Rose at New Jersey's Paper Mill (her "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" were both exciting and unsettlingly shocking at the same time) and Tyne Daly's Mama on Broadway (she acted it with warmth, humor and determination, though her singing, at least the night I caught her performance, was not of Broadway caliber), I am eagerly awaiting Peters' take on the character. What makes the event even more exciting is the director — Sam Mendes — whose production of another revival, Cabaret, was one of the most thrilling and shockingly rethought productions Broadway had seen in years. While riding the subway the other day, I began to wonder what Mendes has in store for Gypsy. How will he reinterpret the classic musical, how will it look onstage, how will he stage the climactic number, "Rose's Turn"? For some reason, I envisioned "Rose's Turn" being performed with mirrors on all three sides of the stage, so Rose is both the performer and her audience. And, perhaps her image in the mirror could grow more and more distorted as the song continues. One also wonders who will be cast in the role of Herbie. A slew of names have been mentioned, including everyone from Anthony Edwards and Hank Azaria to Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. Who would you like to be cast as Herbie, and what do you think Mendes should do to the classic tale of the stagestruck mother? E-mail me, and let me know your thoughts!

BARBARA COOK

How wonderful that Barbara Cook's Tony-nominated concert, Mostly Sondheim, will be preserved on DVD. The salute to Stephen Sondheim — featuring songs written by the composer as well as tunes he wished he had written — will be recorded live for the DRG label in October. The DVD, expected to be released in February/March 2003, will also include bonus material — interviews with Cook and other theatre stars as well as footage from her recent master class in Washington, D.C. Cook fans will also be happy to learn that her long out-of-print 1980 Carnegie Hall concert, "It's Better With a Band," is now available, also on the DRG label. That recording features such tunes as "Another Mr. Right Left," "Come in From the Rain," "I Love a Piano," "Marianne," "Remember," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Them There Eyes" and many more. Go to www.drgrecords.com for more details. Also, I recently received Cook's updated concert itinerary, which follows:

Oct. 1-5 at the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 19 at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
Nov. 2 at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 7 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Nov. 9 at the Harriman Arts Program of William Jewell College in Kansas City
Nov. 22 at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT
Dec. 3-16 at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 20 at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 31, 2003 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Long Island, NY
Feb. 14-16 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA

UPCOMING CDs

Two stellar performers with completely different styles, Betty Buckley and Liza Minnelli, will offer new recordings in the not too-distant future.

Buckley's disc, "The Doorway," featuring a few tunes written by the multi talented actress-singer, is tentatively scheduled for a September release on the Fynsworth Alley label. The complete track list follows:

"The Doorway"
"With a Song in My Heart"
"An Interesting Person"
"Sycamore Trees"
Medley: "Meditation"/"I Concentrate On You"
"Autumn Leaves"
"A Loss of Heroes"
"St. Francis Prayer"
Medley: "America the Beautiful"/"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
"God Bless America"
"For the Beauty of the Earth"

The Tony-winning Buckley, who will play Feinstein's at the Regency from Oct. 22 through Nov. 9, has titled her Feinstein's gig "Deep in the Heart." Pre orders for her new recording will be accepted shortly by going to www.fynsworthalley.com.

Minnelli's recording, "Liza's Back," is set to reach record stores Oct. 29. Recorded live during Minnelli's recent engagements in London and New York, "Liza's Back" will be released as a single CD on the J Records label. The recording features a mix of new and old tunes, with a heavy smattering of theatre tunes and Minnelli standards. The complete track list follows:

"Liza's Back!"
"Something Wonderful "
"Cry"
"Don't Cry Out Loud"
"Crying Over You"
"City Lights"
"Don't Smoke In Bed"
"Some People"
"What Did I Have"
"Rose's Turn"
"Mein Herr"
"Money Money"
"Maybe This Time"
"Cabaret"
"The World Goes 'Round"
"New York, New York"
"I'll Be Seeing You"

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Singer-actress-composer Amanda McBroom, best known as the composer of the Bette Midler hit "The Rose," will star in the title role of Jerry Herman's Mame for the Cabrillo Music Theatre. McBroom will play the infamous Auntie Mame in a limited run at the California theatre from Nov. 1 to Nov. 10. The Cabrillo Music Theatre will present Mame in The Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, which is located at 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Tickets, priced between $16 and $34, are available by calling TicketMaster at (805) 583 8700, (213) 480-3232 or (714) 740-2000 . . . A host of theatre and cabaret favorites will perform in concert at Long Island's Tilles Center during the 2002-2003 season. Chicago's Ute Lemper kicks off the season on Saturday, Sept. 21 with a concert that is part of the Cabaret at "Club T" series. The remainder of the series' roster includes Jane Monheit (Nov. 23), Karen Saunders (March 14), Peter Cincotti (April 5), Mary Cleere Haran (April 25) and cabaret veteran Andrea Marcovicci, who concludes the season on May 17. Tony winners Audra McDonald and Barbara Cook are both part of the Tilles Center's Showcase Series. McDonald will offer her evening of "Happy Songs" on Sept. 28, and Cook will bring her Mostly Sondheim evening to the New York theatre on Jan. 31. Another event of interest to diva lovers is a concert by Tony and Olivier Award winner — and one of this column's very favorite gals — Patti LuPone, who will perform her acclaimed concert, "Coulda Woulda Shoulda." Backed by the Long Island Philharmonic, LuPone will sing tunes from West Side Story, Peter Pan, Evita, Hair and several other musical favorites. The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts is located on the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University in Brookville. For customer service, please call (516) 299-3100. For more information, go to www.tillescenter.org . . . I was disappointed to learn that Michael Grandage, who will assume the role of Donmar Warehouse artistic director in December when Sam Mendes leaves the position, has announced that the theatre will no longer set aside a month for the annual Divas at the Donmar series. The acclaimed series, which Mendes launched several seasons ago, has offered performances by a host of grand women from the West End and Broadway. Among the divas who have performed in the intimate confines of the Donmar are Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, Barbara Cook, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth and Janie Dee. Grandage, who recently announced the Donmar's upcoming season, told Whatsonstage.com, "We have every intention of continuing cabaret at the Donmar as it is clearly a natural home for such an event. We will be doing it in a more ad hoc way in the future, tailoring events to suit the availability of artists and our own programming of other work. This, hopefully, will allow us an even greater diversity of performers who come to work at the Donmar . . . The last five years of Divas has been the most perfect springboard to show the skills of great artists at this theatre, and we hope our loyal supporters will keep a keen eye on our programming over the coming years as we plan further such events in the less formal surroundings of a traditional 'diva' season."

REMINDERS

Betty Buckley in Concert:
Sept. 20 and 21 in Brisbane, Australia
Sept. 28 at the Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
Oct. 3-6 at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 22-Nov. 9 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
Nov. 16 at the Performing Arts Center of SUNY-Purchase in Purchase, NY
Dec. 6 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

Liz Callaway in Concert

September 23 at the 100th Anniversary of Macy's Herald Square in New York, NY
September 30 in the Merrily We Roll Along Reunion Concert in New York, NY
October 5 with the Westchester Philharmonic concert of Richard Rodgers music
May 16, 2003 in "Broadway Showstoppers" with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA

Linda Eder in Concert Sept. 19 at Humphrey's By the Bay in San Diego, CA
Sept. 21 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
Oct. 25 & 26 at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC
Nov. 1 & 3 at the Kimmel Theatre in the Verizon Center (with Peter Nero and Philly Pops) in Philadelphia, PA
Nov. 2 at the War Memorial (with Peter Nero and Philly Pops) in Trenton, NJ
Nov. 8 at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, RI
Dec. 1 at the Bass Hall in Austin, TX
Dec. 20 & 21 at the Symphony Hall (with Atlanta Symphony) in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 3 & 4 at the Meyeroff Hall (with Baltimore Symphony) in Baltimore, MD

Patti LuPone in Concert

Sept. 14 at the Charles W. Eisemann Center ("An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin") in Richardson, TX
Oct. 4 at the Tillis Center at Long Island University in Greenvale, NY ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
March 27, 2003 at the East County Performing Arts Center in Cajon, CA ("Matters of the Heart")
March 28-29 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA ("Matters of the Heart")
March 30 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV ("Matters of the Heart")
April 5 at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")

Maureen McGovern in Concert:

Sept. 20-22 with the Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI
Sept. 26 - 29 with the North Carolina Symphony at Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, NC
Oct. 24 at the annual Cabaret Convention in New York, NY
Oct. 30-Nov. 3 at the American Music Therapy Association Conf. in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 2 at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 9 at the Landmark Theatre Gala in Port Washington, NY
Nov. 10 at the Hanford Civic Auditorium in Hanford, CA
Nov. 19-Dec. 1 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA
Dec. 6 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
Dec. 8 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
Dec. 9 Laurie Strauss Leukemia Benefit at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Dec. 14 at the Boca Pops Big Band Series in Boca Raton, FL

Bernadette Peters in Concert:

Sept. 28 at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI
Oct. 5 Sundome Center in Sun City West, AZ
Oct. 24 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 26 at the Kleinhans Auditorium in Buffalo, NY

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

—By Andrew Gans