DIVA TALK: Lovin' Lillias & More

News   DIVA TALK: Lovin' Lillias & More LILLIAS WHITE
Lillias White has one of the most expressive faces of anyone in the musical theatre today -- big, flashing eyes plus a joyous smile that won’t quit -- not to mention a body (arms, hands, legs, hips) that gets as much of a workout in a performance as her phenomenal vocal chords. There’s a palpable sense of energy that radiates from White even when she is standing still, and when you mix that energy with her explosion of voice, thrilling moments ensue. In her 90-minute set this past Saturday night at Arci’s Place, one of New York’s newest cabaret rooms, White demonstrated why she easily made the transition from a young, talented Brooklyn girl to a Broadway Tony winner. In fact, White’s new act is titled just that, “From Brooklyn to Broadway,” and features an able trio composed of Timothy Graphenreed on piano, Gary Haase on bass and Buddy Williams on drums.
Lillias White.
Lillias White.

LILLIAS WHITE
Lillias White has one of the most expressive faces of anyone in the musical theatre today -- big, flashing eyes plus a joyous smile that won’t quit -- not to mention a body (arms, hands, legs, hips) that gets as much of a workout in a performance as her phenomenal vocal chords. There’s a palpable sense of energy that radiates from White even when she is standing still, and when you mix that energy with her explosion of voice, thrilling moments ensue. In her 90-minute set this past Saturday night at Arci’s Place, one of New York’s newest cabaret rooms, White demonstrated why she easily made the transition from a young, talented Brooklyn girl to a Broadway Tony winner. In fact, White’s new act is titled just that, “From Brooklyn to Broadway,” and features an able trio composed of Timothy Graphenreed on piano, Gary Haase on bass and Buddy Williams on drums.


Saturday’s early show began with a wonderful medley of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “Blue Moon” and Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg’s “Old Devil Moon,” and White easily sailed through a program that included a sensual “Ooh, What You Said!”; “When You Think of Me,” a tune that she mockingly dedicated to all of her ex-lovers; the Harry Belafonte song “Mama Look a Booboo” (by Lord Melody) that incorporated some hilarious audience participation; a beautiful, toned-down take of the Hercules tune, “Born for You”; a thrilling, intense delivery of “Fairy Tales,” the Anita Baker tune by Gordon Chambers, which explores a life where fairy tales don’t necessarily come true; and a belty version of Cher’s recent hit, “Believe,” where White proved she can sing pop music as well as she sings both standards and show tunes.


The final segment of the evening and, of course, my favorite, included a medley of songs from White’s various Broadway outings: What was so enjoyable about this portion of the act was White not only sang the hell out of these songs, but she inhabited the character from each of the shows she presented. First up was the upbeat “Thank God I’m Old” from Cy Coleman’s Barnum. White followed that with a medley of “Dreamgirls” and “One Night Only” from the Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen hit, Dreamgirls (she starred as Effie in the B’way revival). I do wish White had included her show-stopping “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” which she sang so brilliantly at last season’s salute to Krieger and David Friedman. That aside, however, White also offered parts of both “Mama Will Provide” from Once on This Island and “Brotherhood of Man,” her roof-raising number from the Matthew Broderick revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The evening ended with the jazzy “The Oldest Profession,” a song from the Cy Coleman musicalThe Life, and White sang the tune for all it’s worth, showing just why she won the Tony for her portrayal of Sonja, a prostitute who’s “getting too old for the oldest profession.”


White will continue at Arci’s Place (450 Park Avenue South) through April 1. Show times are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:30 and 11 PM. There is a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 532-4370 for reservations.

LINDA EDER
Linda Eder concludes her run at Feinstein’s at the Regency in N.Y.C. tomorrow night, March 25. What follows are a few new concert dates for the former star of Jekyll & Hyde, and Eder will be joined by Michael Feinstein on all of the dates below:
July 8 with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14 with Michael Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15 with Michael Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274-6564
July 16 with Michael Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
August 6 with Michael Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
August 9 with Michael Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
August 25 with Michael Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org

ALICE RIPLEY
I must admit I enjoy occasionally stopping by Alice Ripley’s official website. She’s one of the few actresses who take the time to write personal greetings to her fans -- and not just a quick “hello,” but lengthy, thought-provoking messages. I thought you’d enjoy reading her current bulletin; for more Ripley, go to www.officialaliceripley.com:


“When was the last time you did something so scary that it made your knees shake?

What terrifies you? Roller Coasters? Mid-air turbulence? Speaking in public? Reaching out and saying you're sorry in the middle of a fight? Riding in a NYC Taxi? Wearing a bikini?

Today I say unto you . . . go forth and do that which frightens you. Well, don't climb to the top of the Empire State Building, believing you can fly, and jump off to the mantra ‘Alice said I can do it.’ No, the acts of valor I am talking about do not include those which might very well take your life, even though they may feel that way. I'm talking about death-defying acts of the spirit. And yes, I believe wearing a bikini is definitely a death defying act of the spirit.

Have you ever felt your knees knocking together from fear? I've only experience that feeling a few times in my life and the last time was just a few weeks ago.

I sometimes write songs on the piano, even though I don't actually PLAY the piano. I always hire someone to play for me whenever I decide to sing a song I have written on the piano. My song ‘Rosa’ is one. A few weeks ago I sang a few of my tunes at a gig and I wanted to sing ‘Rosa.’ I decided I was going to learn it and accompany myself. I spent a few weeks practicing to get it right.

When the time came to play it and I sat down at the baby grand I realized I had never in my entire life played the piano and sung at the same time in front of anyone except my cats, who by the way are an excellent audience. Quiet, attentive, intense and appreciative. And there's only a small chance they will turn and lick themselves in the middle of a tender moment.

I was having a breakthrough moment...was it my own homemade therapy? Maybe. I sat. I played. I sang. I shook. My legs were literally knocking together, I could barely keep my foot on the pedal. I never get nervous about performing EVER. But here I was trying to be Carole King and it was a terribly joyful moment. I felt the years of fear about playing my own song on the piano in public tremble up through my legs and torso, toward my arms and the top of my head. Everything that I believed was dark and suffocating was actually translucent and weightless. I felt the energy lift off and fly away like butterflies from my shoulders. Like angel's wings made up of a hundred sky blue butterflies that had alighted on my shoulders.

I remember something else, too. The audience was absolutely crackling quiet. They must have sensed that something big was happening for me in a small way.

Or maybe they were all in the bathroom.

Or maybe they were all licking themselves.

The last time I felt that afraid was a few years ago when I forced myself onto what I considered an extremely scary looking ride down on the Jersey Shore. Hell, just going to Jersey is scary enough. Hee Hee. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

That night at the piano, I told myself I needed to do it more often. To go where I haven't gone before even if I make a mistake. And to go boldly.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES


Hayley Mills discusses the role of Anna in the national tour of The King and I in an upcoming Playbill article by Harry Haun (Mills will soon be seen Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Noel Coward’s Suite in 2 Keys.):
“[The role of Anna] nearly killed me, and I say that advisedly. I’ve never known what work was like until I did that tour. It was unbelievable! I had done the tour in Australia for ten months, but we didn’t have back-to-back shows Saturdays and Sundays, and we were in one city for quite a few weeks. Doing a big show that’s three hours long, with great and heavy costumes, always hiking children around on your hip -- it was very hard work.” All that, and she’s still startlingly free of remorse about not doing the part on Broadway. “I think their rationale was that they wanted a real Broadway diva, and I’m not. I can carry a tune, as they say, but I don’t have the panache for a musical that Broadway would expect. I’m a different sort of animal. I don’t have a huge voice. People complained about Gertrude Lawrence. She was not well when she did it, and, quite honestly, the show didn’t help. Anna’s the workhorse of the show. She’s on all the time, and when she’s off, she’s tearing into another dress. I’m perfectly happy the way things turned out. Really. I’m much happier that I’m making my New York debut in these Coward plays.”


another excerpt from Frank Rich’s interview with Stephen Sondheim in the magazine section of The New York Times:
“What was remarkable [about Ethel Merman in Gypsy] was watching a woman who everybody assumed couldn’t act, act. Now it’s a limited kind of acting. She didn’t quite understand what ‘Rose’s Turn’ was about.” In a key moment in that legendary Gypsy finale, a musicalized nervous breakdown, Rose is supposed to stutter over the word “mama” to indicate “you were seeing a mind crack” -- a device Sondheim says he stole from Jessica Tandy’s Blanche DuBois in the last scene of A Streetcar Named Desire. But as he tells it, no matter how elaborately Merman was invited to ride the moment emotionally, she had only one question about the stutter: “Does it come in on the downbeat?” Speaking of the 1974 Broadway revival with Angela Lansbury, Sondheim says: “That’s the kind of moment Angie understands exactly. Ethel never did.”

IN OTHER NEWS Bernadette Peters has signed on to stay with Annie Get Your Gun through Labor Day! Don’t miss your chance to see this two-time Tony winner in action . . . Last week I reported that “CBS News Sunday Morning” (with Charles Osgood) is currently arranging a series devoted to some of the musical theatre’s greatest ladies, beginning with none other than Betty Buckley. It looks like the other two women in the series, set to air around Tony time, will be Liza Minnelli and three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. . . . This could be Barbara Fasano’s year. First, her new CD, “The Girls of Summer,” received a 1999 Backstage Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording, and now the cabaret singer will perform at Caviarteria (in the Soho Grand Hotel at 310 West Broadway) on Tuesday, March 28 at 8 and 11 PM. There is no cover, but there is a $20 food and drink minimum. Call (212) 925-5515 to see Fasano, who Time Out New York called a “singer of restrained but deeply felt emotion.” . . . Blind item: NBC executives were so impressed with the recent concert of this Broadway diva that they are trying to woo her to TV, as either part of one of their hit shows or in a show of her own . . . According to columnist Liz Smith, Melissa Errico, who was last on Broadway in the short lived High Society, will be seen on screen in Frequency, which stars Dennis Quaid. Errico is also filming a TV pilot based on the hit film Swingers, which will star Vince Vaughn . . . Some of the most enjoyable cabaret/theatre experiences of the season are happening at Don’t Tell Mama, where writer/comedian/musician Seth Rudetsky hosts his weekly program, “Seth’s Broadway Chatterbox.” Here is a list of upcoming theatre guests: Andrea Martin on March 30, husband and wife Terrence Mann and Charlotte d’Amboise on April 6, Judy Kuhn and Barry Moss on April 13 and Sam Harris on April 20. There is a $10 cover change, which goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and a two-drink minimum. Call (212) 757-0788 for reservations. Don’t Tell Mama is located on Restaurant Row (West 46th Street) in N.Y.C.

REMINDERS
KAREN AKERS
Karen Akers will make her Algonquin debut on Tuesday, April 4. The chanteuse will premiere her latest cabaret act, “Haunted Heart,” at the famed hotel’s Oak Room. Show times for “Haunted Heart,” which runs through April 21, are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday nights at 9 and 11:30 PM. There is a $50 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 West 44th Street; call (212) 840-6800 for reservations.

BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

August 29 Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL

BARBARA COOK
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
Now through April 29 at the Cafe Carlyle, NYC (212) 744-1600
June 13 at the Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656-4401
September 14 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
September 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
September 28-October 1 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
April 13 at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, MA (617) 562-4111
April 14 at the Copley Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 536-8800 April 15 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT (203) 562-5666
April 25 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (973) 376-4343
May 6 at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Benefit in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX (713) 334-4400
Aug. 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
Aug. 8 (with Michael Feinstein) at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
Aug. 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050

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:
May 4-6 in Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632 ARTS
June 8-11 at Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112

AUDRA McDONALD

Scheduled concert dates for McDonald follow:
April 25-29 with the Atlanta Symphony (Kurt Weill/ “Seven Deadly Sins”)
May 12 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Boston, MA
May 14 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Already announced McGovern concert dates include the following:


March 24 & 25 “An Evening with Maureen McGovern” with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK

LIZA MINNELLI
Tour dates for Minnelli on Minnelli follow:
April 12-16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
May 3-7 at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL
June 7 & 8 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Stage College, PA
June 10 & 11 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH
September 13-17 at the Wharton Ctr. for the Perf. Arts in East Lansing, MI
October 6-22 at Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI
November 1-5 at the Wang Center in Boston, MA
March 7-11 at the Civic Theatre in San Diego, CA

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

By Andrew Gans