DIVA TALK: Let Them Sing, And We're Happy

DIVA TALK: Let Them Sing, And We're Happy LAURIE BEECHMAN

LAURIE BEECHMAN

It was announced earlier this week that the tribute concert honoring the late Laurie (Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) Beechman will be held at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia on Monday, Nov. 30. Titled "Let the Memory Live Again: A Musical Celebration for Laurie Beechman," the concert will benefit Gilda's Club, where Beechman found support during her struggles with ovarian cancer.

It was also just confirmed that that pop diva of divas, Patti LaBelle, will co-host the evening with another powerful singer, Sam Harris, who received a Tony nomination two seasons ago for his work in The Life. Some of the other Broadway performers who have already lined up to salute Beechman include Douglas Sills, Rob Evan, Christiane Noll, Christine Andreas and Raymond-Jaramillo-MacLeod. Other names will be announced shortly.

U.S. Representative Jon D. Fox is responsible for organizing the concert and recently related, "I am pleased to announce that what was a dream for many will become a reality in November when some of the brightest stars of the musical stage will join to honor a colleague they loved, admired and miss terribly, Laurie Hope Beechman. It is no coincidence that Laurie's middle name was 'Hope,' because that is what she represented to everyone who has faced the deadly specter of ovarian cancer. Hope is also what Gilda's Club gives to women as they suffer through both the illness and the treatment prescribed to control it. On Nov. 30, we will honor Laurie while we enable Gilda's Club to reach out to more women with cancer and their entire family."

Call 202-226-1780 for more information or visit Congressman Fox's web site (http://www.house.gov/fox). BETTY BUCKLEY

Betty Buckley began previews earlier this week in the Paper Mill Playhouse Production of Gypsy, which also stars former pop star Deborah Gibson. There have been a few interviews with Buckley in both New York and New Jersey-based papers, and I thought you would be interested to read some of her quotes from an article by Playbill On-Line's Peter Filichia in New Jersey's Star-Ledger:

About her original take on Mama Rose in 1992:
"I did the role six years ago at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company in Tucson. . .I had to learn [the part] in two weeks time, and only did eight performances of it, so I wasn't as good as I wanted to be. . .The director made a video of it which he promised wouldn't get out -- but then he didn't keep his word. . .The other day I looked at a few parts of it, just as a reference, and I was very disappointed in what I'd done. [It was] just a surface version of what Mama Rose can be. . .Back then, I had yet to do Sunset Boulevard. I think I've grown over the past six years. So my hope is that I'm mature enough now as an artist to do a decent version of Rose."

About performing "Rose's Turn":

"I've performed 'Rose's Turn' a couple of times and have recorded it twice. I did (the piece) once in a London concert, and then in my 1996 Carnegie Hall concert, too. And those are pretty decent versions. So in the midst of my disappointment last Sunday after I viewed the Arizona tape, I listened to those recordings, and saw I'd made some progress. My hope is that I'll do better this time."

About her mother, Betty Bob Buckley:

"She totally was like Mama Rose. She says she wasn't, but she was. By the time she found out I could sing -- at two -- she had me singing in our local church [in Fort Worth, Texas]. Then, when I was three, she had me taking ballet, tap and jazz dancing lessons. My mother had me performing in every talent show around."

I've received a few e-mails requesting directions to the Paper Mill Playhouse for those of you who will be attending Gypsy. The official press release for the musical states: "Paper Mill Playhouse, located on Brookside Drive in Millburn, N.J., is easily accessible from both New York and New Jersey. From NYC: PATH train to Hoboken, change to NJ Transit Train to Millburn, or take Lakeland Bus from Port Authority to Main Street, Millburn. The theatre is a short walk from train or bus, and a 35-minute drive from NYC. Call (973) 376-4343 for further directions. NJ Transit's Midtown Direct offers nonstop service from Manhattan to Millburn on selected days and times, convenient for weekday matinees and Saturday and Sunday performances."

Also, a host of Betty Buckley concert appearances have recently been confirmed and are listed below. Phone numbers and venues -- as well as more concert dates -- will be posted shortly on the Betty Buckley website:
Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 1998 at the Bottom Line, in New York, NY
Nov. 6 in at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, PA
Dec. 28 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
Dec. 29 at the Kravis Center for the Perf Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec. 31 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL
Jan. 14, 1999 in Irvine, CA
Jan. 16, 1999 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17, 1999 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23, 1999 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3, 1999 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, IL.


PATTI LuPONE

Patti LuPone presented an almost entirely new two-act program Aug. 28 and 29 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Dressed in two beautiful all-white outfits, LuPone was backed by Dick Gallagher on piano, and the word from several diva lovers is that La LuPone was wonderful. LuPone's new show is titled "Matters of the Heart," which was written by Jeffrey Richman and conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, the man also responsible for Patti LuPone on Broadway. I thought you would be interested to see the eclectic list of songs from her recent concert:
"Ridin' High," Cole Porter
"I've Still Got My Health," Cole porter with additional lyrics by Marc Shairman
"Let's Face the Music and Dance," Irving Berlin
"A Mile Down the Highway (There's a Toll Bridge)", Bob Hilliard/Dave Mann
"Where Love Resides," Jimmy Webb
"Storybook," Nan Knighton/Frank Wildhorn
Theme from Carnival ("Love Makes The World Go 'Round"), Bob Merrill
"A Cock-Eyed Optimist," Rogers and Hammerstein
"I Want a Man," Vincent Youmans/Oscar Hammerstein II
"It's For You," John Lennon/Paul McCartney
"I'm In Love with a Wonderful Guy," Rodgers and Hammerstein
"Shattered Illusions," Adele Anderson/Dillie Keane
"They Say It's Wonderful," Irving Berlin
"Not a Day Goes By," Steven Sondheim
"Playbill," John Bucchino
"Bewitched," Rodgers and Hart
"I Will," John Lennon/Paul McCartney
"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 Bloch
"I Never Do Anything Twice," Stephen Sondheim
"I Regret Everything," Susy Williams/Bill Burnet
"Real Emotional Girl," Randy Newman
"My Father," Judy Collins
"Look Mummy, No Hands," Adele Anderson/Dillie Keane
"My Son," Rupert Holmes
"Back To Before," Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty
"Same Old Lang Syne," Daniel Fogelberg
"Hello Young Lovers," Rodgers and Hammerstein
"If These Walls Could Speak," Jimmy Webb
"Don't Cry For Me Argentina," Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice
"As Long As He Needs Me," Lionel Bart
"I Dreamed a Dream," Claude-Michel Schonberg/Alain Boublil
"The Way You Look Tonight," Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern


Additional LuPone concert dates are to come soon...

CHRISTIANE NOLL

The first solo album from the star of Jekyll & Hyde uses songs from the musical theatre to tell a love story from beginning to end. Entitled "A Broadway Love Story," the CD from Varèse Sarabande combines well-known theatre tunes with some less-recorded works. In the liner notes for the CD, Noll explains, "In this story, 'happily ever after' doesn't necessarily include a shining knight and a white horse, but there is definitely a breathtaking sunset and beautiful stroll in it. What struck me most as this story unfolded was that it became not so much a search to find someone else but the discovery of love and trust inside one's own self."

Noll possesses a sweet but belty voice that is especially lush in its middle register, and her sound is often reminiscent of another Broadway performer, Liz Callaway. Noll begins her journey with a medley of Mack and Mabel' s "Wherever He Ain't" and "No More" from the ill-fated The Goodbye Girl, and it was good to hear a song from this underrated Marvin Hamlisch/David Zippel score. Along the way she performs songs by Sondheim, Wildhorn, Berlin, Kander and Ebb and more, and some of my favorite tracks include her beautiful rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Unexpected Song;" an upbeat take on a pairing of "Things Are Looking Up" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It;" and a heartfelt version of Maltby and Shire's "I Don't Remember Christmas." The complete song list for "A Broadway Love Story " follows:
"Wherever He Ain't"/"No More"
"Times Like This"
"Tonight at Eight"/"Look at That Face"
"Things Are Looking Up"/"Nice Work if You Can Get It"
"You're Just in Love"
"A Quiet Thing"
"Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin'"
"Unexpected Song"/"The Last Man in My Life"
"Who Are You Now?"
"Marry Me a Little"
"Good Thing Going"
"Now When the Rain Falls"
"I Don't Remember Christmas"
"The Next Time It Happens"


IN OTHER NEWS
There's a wonderful interview with the Tony-winning Miss Saigon star, Lea Salonga, on the Tony Awards website (http://www.tonys.org). Salonga was interviewed by writer Stephane Ly Cuong and discusses her current and past projects as well as meeting the two original Evitas, Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige. Says Salonga, "It was really cool that I got to meet both of them. I didn't ask either of them about Evita though...it would have made me look like a groupie! However having said that, I did ask for Patti's autograph when she came to my dressing room after Miss Saigon's opening night, as well as had my picture taken with her. She's really cool. I also got Elaine's autograph and a photo with her as Grizabella backstage at `Hey Mr. Producer!"'

Lillias White, who's currently portraying Dinah Washington in Off-Broadway's Dinah Was, will be a guest on the "Rosie O'Donnell" show this coming Thursday, Sept. 17. Set your VCRs!

End thought: With all the names being bandied about for the upcoming 20th anniversary tour of Evita, how about that Side Show star, now playing Fantine in the Broadway company of Les Misérables, Alice Ripley? Wouldn't it be a thrill to hear Ripley belting "Rainbow High" and the three go-for-the-throat passages in "A New Argentina?" REMINDERS:

PETULA CLARK
Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City from Sept. 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:

Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)


KAREN MASON

On Sept. 10, the former Sunset Boulevard standby-to-the-stars will perform at The Manor (973) 731-2360) in West Orange, New Jersey, and she will follow that by opening the Bay Street Theatre season on Sept. 26 (516) 725-9500; tix are $25). An appearance at the upcoming Cabaret Convention brings Mason to New York's Town Hall on Oct. 13. Mason will teach a master class at UCLA Oct. 14, and then she will sing in concert at that University Oct. 17, a concert that is being presented by Michael Kerker and ASCAP. And, Nov. 4-14, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago.

AUDRA McDONALD
Audra McDonald will perform in concert with the San Francisco Symphony on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 8:30 PM. Brian Stokes Mitchell and opera singer Frederica von Stade will also perform at Davies Hall that evening; call (415) 864-6000.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Sept. 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Missouri
Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)


RAINBOW & STARS
Cybill Shepherd Now through Sept. 19, 1998
Kathie Lee Gifford Oct. 6 - Oct. 10, 1998
David Campbell Oct. 13 - Oct. 31, 1998
Ann Hampton Callaway Nov. 3 - 14, 1998
Karen Akers Nov. 17-5, 1998


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

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com