DIVA TALK: Lawrence Remembered, LuPone at the Beaumont and Lea Returns

News   DIVA TALK: Lawrence Remembered, LuPone at the Beaumont and Lea Returns TRIBUTE: STEPHANIE LAWRENCE
On Monday morning, a co-worker came into my office to look through the photo files for a picture of actress Stephanie Lawrence. When I asked him what show she would be appearing in, I was shocked and saddened to learn that the 50-year-old Lawrence had died over the weekend in her London apartment. Although I had seen the talented actress perform live only once — in the 1993 Broadway company of Blood Brothers — I had been a fan for about a decade, enjoying her vocal work on the London cast recording of Starlight Express as well as her renditions of several tunes on a handful of Andrew Lloyd Webber collection discs. Lawrence’s one-and-only Broadway appearance was in the aforementioned Brothers stint, but that was enough to garner the late singer a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. It was a very moving performance, and Lawrence acted the hell out of the role of Mrs. Johnstone, a poor woman who is monetarily forced to give away one of her newborn twins. By the end of the evening, Lawrence collapsed onstage in a sea of tears, belting the song’s finale “Tell Me It’s Not True.” It was a wonderful performance, one I’m now especially thrilled to have seen. If you’ve never heard Lawrence’s work -- she also starred on the London stage in Marilyn!, Evita and Cats -- you can hear her sing on the cast recordings of Starlight Express and Blood Brothers as well as on her solo CD, “Stephanie Lawrence: Footlights,” and these Lloyd Webber discs: “Andrew Lloyd Webber: Songbook,” “The Magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and “The Love Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber.” The 50-year-old actress will be much missed by fans around the world.

TRIBUTE: STEPHANIE LAWRENCE
On Monday morning, a co-worker came into my office to look through the photo files for a picture of actress Stephanie Lawrence. When I asked him what show she would be appearing in, I was shocked and saddened to learn that the 50-year-old Lawrence had died over the weekend in her London apartment. Although I had seen the talented actress perform live only once — in the 1993 Broadway company of Blood Brothers — I had been a fan for about a decade, enjoying her vocal work on the London cast recording of Starlight Express as well as her renditions of several tunes on a handful of Andrew Lloyd Webber collection discs. Lawrence’s one-and-only Broadway appearance was in the aforementioned Brothers stint, but that was enough to garner the late singer a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. It was a very moving performance, and Lawrence acted the hell out of the role of Mrs. Johnstone, a poor woman who is monetarily forced to give away one of her newborn twins. By the end of the evening, Lawrence collapsed onstage in a sea of tears, belting the song’s finale “Tell Me It’s Not True.” It was a wonderful performance, one I’m now especially thrilled to have seen. If you’ve never heard Lawrence’s work -- she also starred on the London stage in Marilyn!, Evita and Cats -- you can hear her sing on the cast recordings of Starlight Express and Blood Brothers as well as on her solo CD, “Stephanie Lawrence: Footlights,” and these Lloyd Webber discs: “Andrew Lloyd Webber: Songbook,” “The Magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and “The Love Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber.” The 50-year-old actress will be much missed by fans around the world.

PATTI LuPONE
By design, Patti LuPone’s current concert program at Lincoln Center is less vocally exciting than her one-woman Broadway show a few years back, Patti LuPone on Broadway. There isn’t a string of show stopping songs as the second act of the Broadway program provided: no “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Meadowlark,” “Anything Goes,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “As Long As He Needs Me” or “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” Instead, what is offered is a more personal exploration of the heart; in fact, in the intimate confines of the Vivian Beaumont, you feel that you’ve been invited to a private conversation with LuPone, where she’s pouring out her heart and soul in song. It’s a truly moving evening of song, the high point of which is a medley of tunes reflecting the growth -- both physical and emotional -- of a young child from childhood to woman/motherhood. This heartbreaking triumvirate begins with Randy Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl,” which segues into Judy Collins’ touching tribute to “My Father” and concludes with an open-hearted “Look Mummy, No Hands,” by Dillie Keane.


Like all good artists, LuPone has taken the time to hone her new act, Matters of the Heart, which she premiered a couple of years ago in California and at London’s Donmar Warehouse. A few songs have vanished and some new treats have been added, but all are now more deeply felt and expressed, LuPone having found the essence of each tune. Highlights of the evening include several Sondheim tunes: “Not a Day Goes By,” which LuPone builds to an exciting climax; her show-stopping rendition of “Being Alive,” which concludes the first half of the program; and a deliciously funny version of “I Never Do Anything Twice,” complete with an aggressive use of a black whip. The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress also scores with the Ragtime anthem, “Back to Before,” and her vocal tones are at their most beautiful on Albert Hammond and Michael Hazelwood’s “Air That I Breathe” and John Bucchino’s aching love-search, “Unexpressed.” Don’t miss your chance to see LuPone’s limited engagement at the Beaumont; it’s a rare opportunity to watch an artist bare her soul in song. What follows is LuPone’s complete song list from Matters of the Heart:
Theme from Carnival (Love Makes the World Go Round) Bob Merrill
“I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy” (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
“God Only Knows” (Brian Wilson)
“Easy To Be Hard” (James Rado, Gerome Ragni & Galt MacDermott)
“The Last Time I Saw Richard” (Joni Mitchell)
“Where Love Resides” (Jimmy Webb)
“Shattered Illusions” (Adele Anderson & Dillie Keane)
“Unexpressed” (John Bucchino)
“Not a Day Goes By” (Stephen Sondheim)
“Playbill” (John Bucchino)
“Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan)
“Better Off Dead” (Randy Newman)
“Air That I Breathe” (Albert Hammond & Michael Hazelwood)
“Sand and Water” (Beth Nielson Chapman)
“Being Alive” (Stephen Sondheim)
“When the World Was Young” (Johnny Mercer, Angele Vannier & Phillipe Bosch)
“I Never Do Anything Twice” (Stephen Sondheim)
“Back to Before” (Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty)
“Real Emotional Girl” (Randy Newman)
“My Father” (Judy Collins)
“Look Mummy, No Hands” (Dillie Keane)
“Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman)
“Another Auld Lang Syne” (Dan Fogelberg)
“Hello Young Lovers” (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein)
“My Best To You” (Gene Willadesen & Isham Jones)


**By the way, you can hear LuPone discuss her new one-woman show at Lincoln Center's "Platform Series" on Wednesday, Nov. 15 in the Vivian Beaumont Theater lobby at 6:30 PM. The former Evita star will also sign copies of her CD after the discussion. QUOTABLE QUOTES
The inimitable Betty Buckley discusses her musical theatre hopes with writer Judith Newmark in a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
“[I’m] on a quest for an idea for a great musical . . . I want to be taken on a journey. I want to be pulled in by the expertise of the players and the creative team. I want to be transported into another world. I want to be moved. I want magic. And I want to come out of that on the other end renewed and refreshed and ready to come back into my world believing that anything is possible.”


During a recent dress rehearsal for her current run at Feinstein’s at The Regency, the legendary Barbara Cook made this comment after singing one of her signature tunes, “Ice Cream,” which has a very high note right at the end:
“I have to confess something. That B natural is getting harder and harder to hit! I have to tell you this. This is the absolute truth. Kiri Te Kanawa, I can’t say she’s a real friend, but she’s certainly a good acquaintance. I don’t know how else to put it. So, when I take my breath to do that [B natural], in my head, I say, ‘Okay, Kiri, hit it!’ You know, it takes a lot of the pressure off me! ‘Okay, honey, it’s yours.’”

IN OTHER NEWS On Thursday, Nov. 9 “Theater Talk,” the PBS/WNET talk show welcomes Rocky Horror Show co-stars Lea DeLaria and Dick Cavett . . . A few Broadway gals will be singing the “National Anthem” during the upcoming Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden. Chase is the women’s tennis world championships, and those divas scheduled to sing include Rebecca Luker on Nov. 11, Karen Ziemba on Nov. 16 and Tovah Feldshuh on Nov. 17 . . . A few new dates to add to Maureen McGovern’s concert schedule: Jan. 12 and 13 at Alice Tully Hall in the American Songbook Series salute to Arthur Schwartz; and Jan. 20 at the Pantages Theatre in Tacoma, WA . . . Katie Finneran, who has appeared on Broadway in the Kevin Spacey Iceman Cometh revival as well as in Neil Simon's Proposals, will assume the role of Sally Bowles in the Broadway production of Cabaret on Tuesday, Nov. 21 . . . Karen Mason will be making special guest appearances with lyricist Alan Bergman (“The Way We Were,” “Ordinary Miracles,” etc.) during his upcoming run at the Algonquin Hotel from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2; Mike Renzi will be on piano.

Endnote: How exciting that Lea Salonga will return to the role of Kim for the final month of the Broadway production of Miss Saigon! The Tony-winning actress will assume the role of the ill-fated Vietnamese woman in love with an American G.I. on New Year’s Eve, and will continue in the role that made her name until the production ends its nearly ten-year run on January 28, 2001. Stephane Ly-Cuong, a good friend of mine, who’s a French film director, writer and diva fan, recently attended the production of Miss Saigon in the Philippines, in which Salonga, a native of Manila, starred. I asked him to write a bit about that production, and this is what he had to say:


“One wouldn't think of Manila as a major city in terms of musical theatre. Yet the capital of the Philippines has provided most of the Asian artists for the different productions of Boublil and Schonberg's Miss Saigon worldwide. Now the blockbuster musical is having a sold-out run in Manila with diva Lea Salonga in the title role.


The Manila production has no reason to envy either its Broadway or London counterparts. The fresh, new ensemble conveys the appropriate mix of energy and tension. The sets, created by Hungarian designer Kentaur, are different from the ones used on Broadway and bring some interesting changes to the staging. The end of Act One, with its red sunset, is impressive and moving, with a nice reference to the now famous poster of the show.


To top it all, the production is led by a first-class cast. Tony winner Lea Salonga, the original Kim in London and New York, reprises her signature role in her home country to rave reviews. She is as talented as usual, strong and clear in her higher notes, rich, deep and extremely expressive in her lower ones.


Opposite Salonga, Filipino artist Leo Valdez as The Engineer, often quoted as “Cameron Mackintosh's favorite Engineer,” delivers a unique and flamboyant performance. Other Saigon vets such as Will Chase (Chris, Broadway), Ronn K. Smith (John, U.S. tour) and Robert Sena (Thuy, London, Stuttgart) complete this talented cast.


No need to go that far, however, to see Salonga in the role she has made her own (and her Manila run is sold-out anyway!). The Asian diva will soon be back as Kim on Broadway. Now, after Miss Saigon closes in New York, let's hope that we will get to see Salonga in new roles. It's time for new Lea material.

REMINDERS:

SARAH BRIGHTMAN
U.S. Concert Schedule:
Nov. 11 in Chicago, IL at the Arie Crown
Nov. 13 in St. Louis, MO at the Fox Theatre
Nov. 14 in Grand Rapids, MI at the Van Andel Arena
Nov. 15 in Milwaukee, WI at the Riverside Theatre

BETTY BUCKLEY
Nov. 10 & 11 University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT
Nov. 19 Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (Performing with Michael Feinstein)
Nov. 27 The Millennium Broadway and Hudson Theater in New York, NY (Presenting Award at the “Music Has Power” Awards)
Dec. 31 The Cuillo Center for the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Jan. 5, 2001 Koger Center for the Arts (Univ. of SC) in Columbia, SC
Jan. 6 Georgia Institute of Technology Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 19-29 Florida Condo Tour in Florida
March 3 Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
May 12 College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
June 17 Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA

BARBARA COOK
Cook’s concert itinerary follows:

Dec. 5 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ
Jan. 12, 2001 at Alice Tully Hall in New York, NY (“The Music of Arthur Schwartz” with Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli and more)
Feb. 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Feb. 23 and 24 with Michael Feinstein at the Cerritos Center for the Perf. Arts in Cerritos, CA

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
Nov. 17 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ; call (732) 246-SHOW
Nov. 18 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA; call (610) 252-3132
Nov. 19 at the Strand-Capitol Theatre in York, Penn.
Dec. 6 at the Ordway Center for the Perf. Arts in St. Paul, MN (651) 224 4222
Jan. 12 & 13, 2001 in Charlotte, NC at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; (704) 372-1000
Jan. 20, 2001 with the Boca Pops at Florida Atlantic Univ in Boca Raton, FL; go to: www.bocapops.org
Jan. 21 in Naples, FL at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts; (941) 597 1900
Feb. 1 & 2 in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
Feb. 3 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO; (888) 920 2787
Feb. 15-17 in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; (202) 467-4600
Feb. 23 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
Feb. 24 at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ; (973) 539-8008
March 8 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd Hall; (727) 791-7400
March 9 in Sarasota, FL at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; www.vanwezel.org
March 10 in Melbourne, FL at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts; (407) 242-2219
May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392-4900

PATTI LUPONE
Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
Now through Dec. 17 (“Matters of the Heart”; Sunday and Monday evenings only) at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, NY; (212) 239-6200
Nov. 3 ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda") with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky (502) 583-4555
April 8 ("Matters Of The Heart") at Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina; (919) 684-4444
Jan. 5-7, 2001 at the Morton J. Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX (214) 871-4000

KAREN MASON
What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
Nov. 1-12 Appearance at The Plush Room in San Francisco’s York Hotel; (415) 885-2800
Nov. 5 Special appearance at MaraLago in Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 6-10 Karen performs her Christmas Show at Davenports in Chicago, IL (773) 278-1830
Dec. 15-17, 22-23 Karen celebrates Christmas with conductor John McDaniel and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis, MO
March 17 Appearance at 92nd Street Y with Craig Carnelia in New York, NY

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Dec. 8-11 Holiday concert with the Oregon Symphony in Portland, OR
Dec. 12 Holiday concert with the Oregon Symphony in Salem, OR

CHRISTIANE NOLL
Former star of Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde, Christiane Noll will be hitting the concert circuit, performing throughout the USA. Noll will join other Broadway names in this concert tour, backed by some of the world’s greatest orchestras. Her complete schedule follows:
Dec. 2 with Doug LaBrecque and Michael Maguire and the New London Symphony in New London, CT
Dec. 7-17 The Magic of Christmas with the Portland Symphony in Portland, ME; (207) 842-0800

BERNADETTE PETERS
The two-time Tony winner, who recently concluded her run in Annie Get Your Gun, is now on a U.S. concert tour:
Jan. 5, 2001 at PAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with symphony)
Jan. 11 at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee
Jan. 13 at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
March 29 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY
April 6 at the Bass Perf. Hall in Fort Worth, TX (with symphony)
April 7-8 at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX
April 19 at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (with symphony)
April 28 at the Pasquerilla PAC in Johnstown, PA
May 11-12 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN (with symphony)
May 18-20 at the Myerson Hall in Dallas, TX (with symphony)

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

By Andrew Gans