DIVA TALK: In Good Company

DIVA TALK: In Good Company Hello, diva lovers! Well, after a month, my jury duty has finally ended. And believe it or not, the 14(!) cases that were being tried were all settled. . . Following are a few items as we go into this holiday weekend. Enjoy, and have a great 4th (and 5th) . . . .

Hello, diva lovers! Well, after a month, my jury duty has finally ended. And believe it or not, the 14(!) cases that were being tried were all settled. . . Following are a few items as we go into this holiday weekend. Enjoy, and have a great 4th (and 5th) . . . .

ELAINE PAIGE
Elaine Paige will make a special guest-star appearance during Cliff Richards' concerts this month (July 16-18) at London's Hyde Park. These performances are part of The Unique Concert Series of The Royal Parks Season. Paige is set to sing a few of her biggest hits ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Memory," et. al) and will join Richards on a few duets as well. For tickets and additional information, call 011 44 171 344 4040.


The dynamic performer has just returned from Sweden where she gave a series of thrilling concerts to standing-room-only crowds. As to the announcement that Paige will star as Anna in the upcoming West End production of The King and I, her press rep informs me it is true the producers have made her an offer, but it's just one of several she is considering. And, The King and I is not slated to open in London until May 2000.


And, finally, EP fans should be on the lookout for "The Official Elaine Paige Website," which is expected to be up and running by the end of this summer. Paige has personally spent a lot of time in the planning of this website, looking for special twists to make it as exciting as possible. Stay tuned for the web address! COMPANY
I must admit I was very disappointed by the Roundabout Theatre's production of Company a few years back. I had been a huge fan of the Stephen Sondheim score for years and was excited to see the musical on stage for the first time, especially with a cast that boasted La Chanze, Jane Krakowski, Debra Monk, Diana Canova and Boyd Gaines as Bobby. Perhaps I caught a performance that was particularly off, and, indeed, Boyd Gaines was out due to vocal problems, but at the time I found the dialogue very dated, and most of the scenes fell flat. Even the score couldn't save the production. So, although I was looking forward to see the performances of Norm Lewis, Alix Korey and Donna McKechnie, it was with a bit of skepticism that I attended the current production of the Sondheim Tony winner at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center last Saturday evening. And I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed the musical on this second viewing.


Many of the scenes that had seemed dated --the drinking/eating games of Sarah (Nancy Johnston) and Harry (Tom Demenkoff) or the pot-smoking scene between Jenny (Beverly Ward) and David (Kirby Ward) -- were much more humorously enacted by this company. And, if anyone can make more of the pre-wedding neuroses of Amy than Alix Korey or her tongue twisting "I'm Not Getting Married," I'd like to see it. Not all of the performances, however, were this stellar, especially the trio of women who all concur that Bobby "Could Drive a Person Crazy." Emily Rozek's kooky Marta was well-acted, but her singing was unexceptional (why give "Another Hundred People" to someone who cannot belt the whole range of the song?); Sara Gettelfinger's April had a beautiful voice but missed most of the comedy in the "Another Hundred People" park scene; and Kena Tangi Dorsey's Kathy lacked passion. But then, of course, there was Norm Lewis' Bobby, the just-turned 35-year-old bachelor whose friends won't rest until he is as "happily married" as they are. Lewis brought his creamy, rich baritone to three of Sondheim's most beautiful songs: His tone and phrasing of "Someone Is Waiting" were particularly moving, and if "Marry Me a Little" seemed a bit low-placed, his impassioned version of "Being Alive" was thrilling. I also felt his performance grew in texture throughout the two acts, culminating in the aforementioned "Being Alive." Similarly, Donna McKechnie brought her textured belt and sense of humor to the role of the aging, all-knowing Joanne. McKechnie has a face that you want to love, so it was a bit disquieting at first to adjust to her playing such a jaded, bitter woman. However, by the time she belted out "The Ladies Who Lunch," one was more than thankful for her star turn.


Company concludes its run at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, New York, this Sunday, July 4. For tickets, call (914) 358-6333.

IN OTHER NEWS Broadway and TV star Nell Carter will be one of the performers this Sunday on PBS's "A Capitol Fourth" holiday celebration. Carter is set to perform a Duke Ellington medley on this live program, which begins at 8 PM. Be sure to set those VCRs! . . . "I'm on the zone program. The food's delivered home in a cooler, dry ice. I take it to the theater -- 40 carbs, 40 proteins. Very balanced so it raises the insulin level. I don't drop. My energy's up." So said two-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters to columnist Cindy Adams in this Wednesday's New York Post . . . Tony Award winner Faith Prince will perform in concert at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) on July 15 and 16 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or by visiting The Public Theater box office. . . Baby Jane Dexter will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake, New York, on August 1 at 7 and 9:30. For reservations, call (914) 583-4114.

I thought I'd close today's column with a bio that was recently sent to me by a devoted diva lover. The following is Lauren Bacall's Playbill bio during her run in Applause. Thought you would get a kick out of this "modest" description:


LAUREN BACALL (Margo Channing) who, with this role, has captured the 1970 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, was born in several trunks: a trunk backstage at the St. James Theatre where she was born as an usher, a trunk in the back office of Harper's Bazaar, where she was born as a high fashion model, a trunk on the back lot at Warner Brothers where she was born as a big movie star, a trunk in the back salons at both Norell and St. Lorent where she was born as one of the Ten Best Dressed Women in the World, and a now a trunk backstage at the Palace Theatre where she has just been born as a devastating song-and-dance girl in this, her first musical, Applause. Before, during and in-between these overlapping reincarnations, she graduated from Julia Richman High School, studied art at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, married twice, had three children, and became a noted public figure involved in humanitarian causes, and a close friend of most of the political greats of these times. Her personal beauty, intelligence, and magnetism have made her a much desired social plum everywhere -- certainly the plum with the deepest voice. This voice, a rare liquid, distilled in some undersea cave, could earn billions for anyone who could bottle it, but as in the case of the Coca-Cola secret formula, no one has been able to break the code. Another of her basic weapons is her famous side-long look, which can convey anything from girlish capriciousness to murder, without any apparent change of expression. It serves as both lethal long-range missile, and potent aphrodisiac. She is also one helluva actress. In films, with her first husband the late Humphrey Bogart, she enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame while still a teenager in "To Have and Have Not," "The Big Sleep," "Dark Passage" and "Key Largo." Later, on her own, she was smashing in "How To Marry A Millionaire," "Designing Woman," "Harper" and a brace of others. On the stage, she scored a brilliant success in Cactus Flower, and unlike many a star, appeared in it for over two years without ever missing a performance. And now, here she is doing her first musical. Secretly she has been training for it all her life. Her favorite position has always been with her long whippet-slim body slouched against a piano, as she happily sings away for hours at a time every show tune every written, obscure verses included. She has always moved like a dancer, has studied ballet, and has recently been training vigorously in both voice and body movement. It's all spontaneous up there, and as if she's having the time of her life, which she is -- but try not to cough. She could throw you one of those side-long looks, and you just might turn to stone.

REMINDERS:

SARAH BRIGHTMAN
Following is Brightman's "One Night in Eden" U.S. concert tour schedule:
July 2 and 3 Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ

BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.


July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone will also join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.

KAREN MASON
On September 25 Mason will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.

MAUREEN McGOVERN
On July 4, you can catch the singer on PBS's broadcast of "A Capital Fourth" performing a medley of songs by the late Hoagy Carmichael. From July 15 through the end of that month, McGovern will appear in a production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Sundance Summer Theatre in Sundance, Utah. Other concert dates follow:


August 14 Maureen McGovern and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (100th Anniversary Salute: The Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove, NJ
August 19-20 Midway Stage at 1776: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
August 23 SCERA Amphitheater: Orem , Utah
August 24 Kenley Centennial Amphitheater: Layton, Utah
September 5-6 Jerry Lewis Telethon (check local listings) BERNADETTE PETERS Peters will deliver a pre-recorded message on the Macy's Fireworks Show on WPIX (Channel 11 in the metropolitan area) at 9 p.m. And, on Saturday, August 7 at 8p.m. (PBS), don't forget to watch her thrilling, live solo concert, which was taped last year in London to a standing-room-only audience.

DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from August 9 through August 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from August 23 to August 28, and Sam Brown will open on August 31 and close September 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday at 4pm. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.

DIVAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
This summer's San Francisco Pops series will include appearances from Patti LuPone and Marin Mazzie. La LuPone will perform her new one-woman show, "Matters of the Heart," on July 1 and 2 with Rob Fisher as musical director. On July 10, an evening entitled "Rodgers and Hammerstein and Friends" will feature performances by the husband-and wife team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. Tickets are available through the San Francisco Symphony Ticket Service (415) 864 6000) or by visiting the symphony's website at www.sfsymphony.org. . . .

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com