LES MIZ THOUGHTS:
When I heard the news that Les Misérables will end its record breaking Broadway run in March, I began to think of the many times I've seen the Claude-Michel Schönberg/Alain Boublil musical over the past two decades. I was introduced to the show while on my first trip to London during my senior year in high school. At the time, my sister was spending a semester in college in the U.K., and my mom and I went to visit. I think we managed seven shows in six days, and one of the first was Les Miz (the other musicals we saw were Lennon, Starlight Express and the forgettable Time and Mutiny). I was already a huge Patti LuPone fan, and Les Miz marked the first time I'd seen the actress in a stage musical since her Tony-winning turn in Evita. I can still hear La LuPone, as the ill-fated Fantine, belting "as they tear your hope apart, as they turn your dream to sha - a - a - a - AME!" Her voice filled the cavernous theatre and was, for me, the highlight of the show. I have to admit, though, I was a bit disappointed when she died in the next scene — only a quarter of the way through the epic production! I bought the original London cast album (I didn't have a CD player yet) immediately after the performance, and my appreciation for the score grew and grew.
If Evita was the most thrilling and Miss Saigon the most moving of the pop operas of the past two decades, Les Misérables was the most ambitious and probably the one that offered the most great tunes. It's a score that we now take for granted, but this week I listened to the show again, and it reminded me of just how many great songs comprise the score. I think very few other musicals could boast a list like this: "What Have I Done?," "At the End of the Day," "I Dreamed a Dream," "Who Am I?," "Come to Me," "Stars," "Red and Black," "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "A Heart Full of Love," "One Day More," "On My Own," "A Little Fall of Rain," "Drink with Me," "Bring Him Home" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."
Although Valjean is the heart of the show, it was the casting of two of the major female roles — Fantine and Eponine — that brought me back to the theatre again and again. Some of the performers I was lucky enough to see throughout the show's lengthy run include the Fantines of Randy Graff, Florence Lacey and Melba Moore and the Eponines of Frances Ruffelle, Deborah Gibson and Lea Salonga — and, of course, the definitive Cosette of Judy Kuhn. I'll certainly make it back to the Imperial to catch the show before it departs this March and experience the joys and the sorrows of Les Miz.
FOR THE RECORD: Christine Andreas : On her new recording, Christine Andreas — star of The Scarlet Pimpernel (round one) and the revivals of My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! — pays tribute to some of the great women of the musical theatre. Appropriately titled "Heres to the Ladies," (PS Classics label) Andreas' disc features songs originated by Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Gertrude Lawrence, Helen Morgan, Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews and Barbara Cook.
In the liner notes for the disc, Andreas writes, "I confess I have never been happy being labeled a 'soprano.' You see, sopranos often suffer from the prejudice that if your voice is higher or lighter in timbre, it will weaken the emotional impact of the song — some people actually think that! But trust me, we don't all squeeze our palms together swaying back and forth with a vague look on our face when we sing. I have always instinctively sought out voices that were colored by the intent of the lyric. Soprano, shmano...never thought about it."
Andreas' voice — call it soprano, shmano or whatever — is a remarkably facile one, soaring to glorious heights while also handling beltier tunes quite well. Her vibrato is also unique, possessing a fluttery sound that suits her Broadway salute well.
Andreas begins her disc with two songs from Annie Get Your Gun, offering lovely renditions of "Moonshine Lullaby" and "They Say It's Wonderful." She continues to charm with Peter Pan's "I'm Flying" and My Fair Lady's "I Could Have Danced All Night," and if Lillias White's recent rendition of "Don't Rain On My Parade" has spoiled me for all others, Andreas offers a fine version of one of Streisand's signature tunes.
Three of the disc's highlights follow a medley of Jerry Herman's "My Best Beau" and "If He Walked Into My Life": a wonderful version of "Bill," perhaps my favorite showtune of that era; a rousing "Some People" that lets Andreas portray a character she would not be ideally suited for onstage (I particularly like the way she holds the word "rot" and her choice to take the higher note on "not Roooose"); and a joyous "A Wonderful Guy," the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from South Pacific. Other highlights include the Funny Girl ballad "The Music That Makes Me Dance" and the disc's closing tune, Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin's "My Ship."
Backed by a 45-piece orchestra, "Here's to the Ladies" features orchestrations by Doug Besterman, Michael Starobin, Chris Boardman, Larry Blank and Lee Musiker. Andreas will celebrate the release of her new CD, which hits stores Oct. 15, with a one-night-only performance at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room (59 West 44th Street) on Oct. 27 at 9 PM. Call (212) 840-6800 for reservations.
Who says that life slows down in one's eighties? Certainly not Carol Channing, whose autobiography for Simon & Schuster will make it to book stores on Oct. 15. Entitled "Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts," Channing's tome shares details about the Hello, Dolly! star's career, life and the celebrity friends "she made along the way." Recently, the Tony-winning performer admitted, "This is not a conventional autobiography and was never meant to be one. It is only what I remember of my life, and it is selective. I find I cannot relate anything at all if the memory is negative or critical of the places I have been, the people I've met, what I've learned, and, most importantly, what I've eaten."
In addition to her many triumphs — including her Tony for Hello, Dolly! and her Academy Award nomination for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" — Channing also details some of the obstacles she endured, including her long term food addictions, her battle with cancer and her first marriage to a struggling novelist, Ted Naidish.
Some of the more interesting anecdotes in "Just Lucky I Guess" include how Channing dealt with a co-star who kept distracting the audience during her laughs: "Well I warned 'Yenta' and I warned her . . . when she finally succeeded in killing the bit dead, I brought my wrist down on her head with the weight of one of those huge brass bracelets. As I say, I warned her."; her thoughts about drag queen impersonations of her: "There were seven boys doing me in Vegas at the time, all acting exactly alike, with not one tiny thing that resembled me, I felt. However, George Burns laughed his head off at them. All I could see on a couple of them was five o'clock shadow, but how come they all assumed exactly the same weird mannerisms?"; and her feelings about losing the film role of "Hello, Dolly!" to Barbra Streisand: "My opinion of Streisand is completely warped. What opinion would you have if someone got together with the agent Sue Mengers and kidnapped your baby? . . . Every time I went by the Harmonia Gardens [movie set] to do an episode of 'Love Boat,' I did a Dance of Death."
Channing, who will be presented with a star on the new Broadway Walk of Stars, will also take part in several book signings around the country. The schedule follows:
Oct. 9 at 5 PM at the Drama Book Shop in New York, NY
Oct. 14 at noon at Roundtable West event at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, CA
Oct. 17 at 6:30 PM at the Commonwealth Club at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, CA
Oct. 18 at 7:30 PM at Books Inc. in the Disney Store, Market Street in San Francisco, CA
Oct. 26 at 2 PM at Brentano's Century City in Los Angeles, CA
Fans can also catch Channing on TV and radio next week. Here's a partial sampling:
ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" Interview will air Oct. 9
CNN-TV's "Larry King Live" Interview will air Oct. 10
ABC-TV's "The View" Interview to air Oct. 10
Syndicated "Caroline Rhea Show" Interview to air Oct. 11
FOX-TV "Fox & Friends" Interview to air Oct. 11
WOR-RADIO "Joan Hamburg Show" Interview to air Oct. 11
WNBC-TV "Today in New York" Interview will air Oct. 11
WOR-RADIO's "Joe Franklin Show" Interview will air Oct. 12
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: On Thursday, Oct. 10 the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera will present its eighth Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theater to two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters. Peters will be presented with the award at a gala evening at the Omni William Penn Hotel; she joins an illustrious group who have received the award, including Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Harold Prince, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Stephen Sondheim, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gwen Verdon. About receiving the lifetime award at a relatively young age, BP recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune, "It's so terrific to get an award while you can still understand that you're getting it. It's fun to get a lifetime achievement award when you're still vital." Those interested in attending The Richard Rodgers Award Gala should call Cheryl at (412) 281-3973. For more information about the Pittsburgh CLO, go to www.pittsburghclo.org . . . The 24th season of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops will conclude in May with an all-star "Broadway Showstoppers" concert. Those scheduled to take part in the Broadway celebration on May 16 (8 PM), May 17 (2 PM) and May 18 (3 PM) include Alice Ripley, Liz Callaway, John Barrowman and Ron Raines. The concerts will feature the tunes of the Gershwins and Andrew Lloyd Webber from such musicals as The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Strike Up the Band and Evita. Tickets for the "Broadway Showstoppers" concerts range from $19 to $80 and may be purchased by calling (215) 546-6400. The concerts will be held in the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which is located on Broad and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, go to www.phillypops.com . . . The "divas" are lining up for the 12th anniversary concert "Divas . . . Simply Singing!," the annual star studded concert presented by Thoroughly Modern Millie's Sheryl Lee Ralph. Scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, those gals expected to perform include such Broadway names as Liz Callaway, Loretta Devine, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jenifer Lewis, Valarie Pettiford as well as Tisha Campbell Martin, E.G.Daily, Rebekah Del Rio, Moe Daniels, Joanna, Alexis, Elizabeth Berkley and China Forbes. Tickets, priced between $35 and $250, are available by calling Ticketmaster at (213) 480- 3232 or (805) 583-8700. For more information, go to www.divassimplysinging.com . . . Tony winner Karen Ziemba, who is currently starring as Beatrice in the Hartford Stage production of Much Ado About Nothing, will reprise that role for a production of the William Shakespeare play at Washington, D.C.'s famed Shakespeare Theatre. Ziemba ends her run at the Hartford Stage on Oct. 6, and she will begin performances at the D.C. theatre Nov. 5. That production will run through January 5, 2003. The Shakespeare Theatre is located at 450 7th Street NW in Washington, D.C. Tickets are available by calling (202) 527 3230. For more information, go to www.shakespearetheatre.org . . . And, finally, Polly Bergen received a glowing notices for her recent cabaret act, which she performed at Costa Mesa's Orange Country Performing Arts Center. About her performance, which was directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, the L.A. Times' David C. Nichols wrote, "From her first offstage bars of Jerry Herman's 'It's Today' from Mame to her dove-toned encore of 'The Party's Over' (her signature recording hit), it's magic time. . . . Perched on the piano, she pours open throated emotion into 'Why Was I Born?' and 'Bill,' and it's 1957 all over again. Time's effect on Bergen's chops is negligible, and she has developed a force approaching Judy Garland levels and an interpretive depth worthy of Mabel Mercer. Janis Ian's 'Stars' has the power of an elegiac one-act play, while Kander and Ebb's 'So What?' from Cabaret raises goose bumps. She has a comic field day with 'He Ain't Mr. Right (But He's Mr. Right Now),' borrowed from Broadway's Sally Mayes, one of Bergen's many gracious acknowledgments throughout. Her syncopated take on Stephen Sondheim's 'The Ladies Who Lunch' from Company is stunning, a potent alternative to Elaine Stritch's iconic original. Bergen follows this with a definitive reading of 'I'm Still Here' from Follies."
Betty Buckley in Concert:
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 October 5 with the Westchester Philharmonic in a concert of Richard Rodgers music
October 14 in Broadway: The Concert in Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
October 21 in Other Voices 6! at Caroline's on Broadway in New York, NY
October 26 in Divas: Simply Singing in Los Angeles, CA
May 16, 2003 in "Broadway Showstoppers" with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA
Barbara Cook in Concert:
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
Linda Eder in Concert:
Oct. 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ
Oct. 25 and 26 with the Charlotte Symphony in Charlotte, NC
Nov. 1-3 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA
Nov. 8 in Providence, RI
Nov. 20 at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ
Nov. 23 at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT
Dec. 1 at the Bass Hall in Austin, TX
Dec. 3 at the Verizon Wireless Theatre in Houston, TX
Dec. 4 at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, TX
Dec. 12 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, FL
Dec. 16 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 17 at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL
Dec. 18 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
Dec. 20 and 21 with the Atlanta Symphony at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 3 and 4, 2003 with the Baltimore Symphony in Baltimore, MD
Jan. 25 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT
Jan. 30 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, CA
Feb. 1 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO
Feb. 14 at the Proctor's Theatre in Albany, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert
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:
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:
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