DIVA TALK: LuPone Can and Does, Greene Ignites a Torch! and Ebersole Plays it Cool

News   DIVA TALK: LuPone Can and Does, Greene Ignites a Torch! and Ebersole Plays it Cool News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

PATTI LuPONE

Were Cole Porter alive to witness Patti LuPone's thrilling performance in last weekend's City Center Encores! production of Can-Can, the songwriter may have been moved to alter that show's most famous song, "I Love Paris," thusly: "I love Patti in the springtime, I love Patti in the fall . . ." For it was the power and presence of LuPone — both her vocal prowess and her comedic talents — that lifted a rather dated musical to a joyous celebration. And, what a celebration it was! LuPone was given five Porter tunes, and she triumphed with them all. She somehow managed to make each song fresh and exciting, whether it was the sensuality she brought to "C'est Magnifique" (has anyone ever made more of that song's "ooh-la-lahs"?), the life lessons she explained in "Never Give Anything Away," the fiery passion she conveyed in "Live and Let Live" (she's got to record this at some point), the charm, sophistication and belting power she added to "I Love Paris" (some audiences were even treated to an on-the-spot encore) or the zest and lust for life that she brought to the title number. Let's hope LuPone's performance gets the talented actress back where she belongs — on Broadway! It's been nearly 17 years she starred on Broadway in a musical — ironically, another Porter work, Anything Goes — and that's 17 years too long! . . . Mention should also be made of Reg Rogers, who also scored as the struggling sculptor Boris Adzinidzinadze. And, guess who made his New York stage debut in the ensemble of the Lonny Price-directed musical? None other than Joshua Johnston, son of La LuPone and husband Matt Johnston. . .

ELLEN GREENE

Ellen Greene had already sung her heart out for nearly an hour when she started to launch into her signature tune, Little Shop of Horrors' "Suddenly Seymour." As the ever-familiar chords began, Green said to the jam-packed audience at the Public Theater's Joe's Pub, "Sing with me." The enthusiastic crowd responded with a rush of emotion and voice that filled the intimate theatre, gladly giving back to the talented woman who stood before them. It was an extremely moving moment, just one of several high points in Greene's exceptional Valentine's Day concert. As a concert artist, Greene is as good as it gets: She is touching, honest, funny, quirky and, above all, human. There are many great voices out there but few who use them as bravely as Greene. I don't know much about Greene's personal life — and she thankfully seems to have found a great love in her accompanist and musical director Christian Klikovits — but one gets the sense that she has experienced her share of heartache. And that life experience imbues her singing with great emotion and makes for compelling theatre. Greene's act, a reprise of her acclaimed Torch! program, featured a mix of standards ("We Kiss in a Shadow," "Them There Eyes," "Never Never Land"), theatre songs ("Somewhere That's Green," "Pirate Jenny") and contemporary tunes (Sarah McLachlan's "I Love You," Tori Amos' haunting "Winter"). Since it was Valentine's Day, it was fitting that most of the songs dealt with some aspect of love — love longed for, love found, love lost. And, nowhere was she more riveting than in two songs just added to her repertoire, a medley of Nikka Costa's "Nothing" and Paula Cole's "Throwing Stones." As tears streamed down her face, Greene's voice soared as she sang of the pain of a love just ended. . . My only complaint: one night just isn't enough for this gifted artist. Hopefully some producer will have the good sense to book the singer-actress for an extended run, and when it happens, be sure to go somewhere that's Greene! . . . A footnote: Greene began recording a new solo album the day after the concert. Stay tuned for details!

CHRISTINE EBERSOLE

Christine Ebersole is currently playing the posh cabaret Feinstein's at the Regency through March 6. The Tony Award winner has entitled her newest show "In Your Dreams," which features a mix of standards by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Ebersole possesses a truly beautiful soprano that she employs with great effect. Her show is decidedly cool, offering jazz stylings rather than go-for-the-heartstrings interpretations. A highlight was a terrific pairing of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" with the Kern/Hammerstein gem "The Folks Who Live on the Hill." The winsome performer also scored with the Rodgers and Hart ditty "To Keep My Love Alive," which she perfected during her run in the City Center Encores! mounting of A Connecticut Yankee. Ebersole is delightful, whether she's singing or joking about her upbringing as a Unitarian in Winnetka, IL, or her riff on reality-show TV. While guest artist Billy Stritch is a terrific and gifted accompanist, his somewhat affected vocals tended to detract from Ebersole's wonderful presence. The starry first-night crowd included Joan Rivers, Harvey Evans, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, Elizabeth Ashley and the Olsen twins. (Feinstein's at the Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street; call 212-339-4095 for reservations.)

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Among the songs the inimitable Betty Buckley will be singing during her upcoming engagement at the Café Carlyle (March 2-27) are The Yearling's "Why Did I Choose You?," "If I Never Knew You" from "Pocahontas," Leslie Bricusse's "When I Look in Your Eyes" as well as two songs from the current film "Cold Mountain." Entitled Portraits, Buckley's show will also include tunes by Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ricky Ian Gordon and Adam Guettel. Call (212) 570-7189 for reservations. . . . Longtime friends and performing partners Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett will be together again this summer. Variety reports that the beloved performers are at work on a fourth Julie and Carol television special for CBS. The program will likely air on the eye network this summer. Andrews and Burnett first joined forces in 1962 for "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall"; they subsequently teamed for two follow-up specials, "Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center" (1971) and "Julie & Carol: Together Again" (1989). The Lincoln Center concert was nominated for a 1972 Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program, Variety or Musical. . . . The Nancy LaMott Room, located within the Bradstan Country Hotel in White Lake, N.Y., will offer a plethora of Broadway and cabaret stars this summer. The summer cabaret series begins Sunday, May 30 with Tovah Feldshuh, who is currently starring as the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in William Gibson's Golda's Balcony at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre. Feldshuh will perform at 8 and 10 PM. She will be followed by recent Mamma Mia! star Karen Mason, who performs at 7 and 9:30 PM on June 20. The remainder of the summer series includes She Loves Me's Sally Mayes (June 27), Nine's Karen Akers (July 4), cabaret favorite Tom Andersen (July 11), Miss Saigon's Liz Callaway (July 18), vocalist Mary Cleere Haran (July 25), soap star Eileen Fulton (Aug. 1), pianist-singer Mark Nadler (Aug. 8), cabaret chanteuse Andrea Marcovicci (Aug. 15), Swing!'s Ann Hampton Callaway (Aug. 22), Hairspray's Kathy Brier (Aug. 29) as well as singers Jeanne MacDonald (Sept. 5) and Lumiri Tubo (Oct. 10). Show times are 7 and 9:30 PM. The Bradstan Country Hotel is located at 1561 Rte. 17B in White Lake, New York. Reservations for the cabaret shows can be made by calling (845) 583-4114. Tickets are priced at $35. . . . Barbara Walsh, who is currently co-starring in Hairspray, will make her Joe's Pub concert debut Feb. 23 with an evening entitled "No Standards." Walsh, who plays the conniving Velma in the Tony-winning musical, will offer a 7 PM concert at the intimate cabaret space. With musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Walsh will perform an eclectic array of material, including songs by Joni Mitchell, Michael John LaChiusa, William Finn, Jacques Brel, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Ellen Weiss and Paul McCartney. Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place. Tickets, priced at $25, are available at the Public Theater's box office or by calling (212) 539-8778. . . . Tony, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award winner Rita Moreno will make her debut at Feinstein's at the Regency next month. Moreno will offer her new show, Between Love & Fascination, March 9-20. The program will feature songs of the Swing era, including "I'm An Errand Girl for Rhythm," "My Foolish Heart," "New York City Blues" and "The Best Is Yet To Come." Moreno will play Tuesday through Saturdays at 8:30 PM with late shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 11 PM. There is a $60 cover charge and a $30 minimum for all shows. Feinstein's at the Regency is located in Manhattan at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street; call (212) 339-4095 for reservations. . . . Side Show Tony nominee Emily Skinner has joined the line-up for the Feb. 23 presentation of New Mondays, the cabaret series that presents the songs of accomplished and up-n-coming composers. Skinner will be on hand to perform the works of lyricist Bill Russell, who wrote Side Show and Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. Skinner is scheduled to sing a tune from the latter, the ballad "My Brother Lived in San Francisco." The series began Monday, Feb. 2 and runs through March 1 at New York’s Duplex Cabaret Theatre. Show time is 7 PM. Joining Skinner on Feb. 23 will be Claire Cooper, Rob Hartmann and lyricist Russell. The final evening — March 1 — will feature Joseph Thalken, Andrew Lippa, Steve Marzullo and Henry Krieger. The Duplex Cabaret Theatre is located in the West Village at 61 Christopher Street. There is a $12 cover plus a two-drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 255-5438. . . . Tony Award winner Heather Headley will return to the New Amsterdam Theatre May 24. For one-night-only the singer-actress will offer a concert to benefit the Children and Family Initiative of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The 7 PM evening — entitled Home — will feature songs from the worlds of pop, R & B and Broadway. Headley recently said, "I'm ecstatic to come back to Broadway and especially to return to the New Amsterdam Theatre. This will be a great night for me to visit with my Broadway family and to enjoy my first solo concert on Broadway. But it makes the evening even more thrilling to be doing it for such a great cause: the children who benefit from the services of the Children and Family Initiative of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS." The New Amsterdam Theatre is located at 214 West 42nd Street. Tickets, priced $50-$500, are available by calling (212) 840-0770. For more information visit www.broadwaycares.org. . . . "Jamie deRoy & Friends," the MAC Award-winning variety show, will offer a new series — "Last Tuesdays" — beginning Feb. 24. On the last Tuesday of each month, a mix of performers will take part in the program, which combines comedy and song. Those scheduled to entertain at Dillon's on Feb. 24 at 8 PM include Joe Bronzi, Ray Jessel, Angela LaGreca, Modern Man, Sylvia McNair, Sal Viviano and Sara Zahn. The March 30 performance will include the talents of Avenue Q creators Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez as well as actresses Brooke Sunny Moriber and Erin Quill, comics Ross Bennett, Gemini and Judy Gold, and Australian newcomer Shaun Rennie. April 27 will feature Jim Caruso, Corky Hale, comics Lisa Harmon and Demetri Martin, and singers Adriana Zapala and Ruben Flores. And, the line-up for May 25 includes Dorothy Bishop, Debbie DeCoudreaux, Anne Steele and comic Joey Callaghan. Dillon's is located in Manhattan at 245 West 54th Street. There is a $20 cover ($10 for MAC members) and a $12 food/drink minimum. Call (212) 307-9797 for reservations.

REMINDERS

Betty Buckley in Concert:

March 2-27 at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, NY

Liz Callaway in Concert:

Feb. 26-28 with Jason Graae in West Palm Beach, FL
Feb. 29 with Stephen Schwartz and Friends in Wilton, CT
April 23 with Jason Graae in Sutter Creek, CA
April 24-25 with Jason Graae in San Rafael, CA
May 1 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert:

Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
March 17-21 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT
March 29-April 1 at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Hollywood, CA
April 3 at the Chattanooga Convention Center in Chattanooga, TN
April 6-24 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
May 5-8 in Candide with the NY Philharmonic in New York, NY

Louise Pitre in Concert:

February 28 at the Sanderson Performing Arts in Brantford, ON
February 29 at the Silverthorn C.I. Auditorium in Toronto, ON
November 4 at the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catherines, ON
November 5 at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts in Oakville, ON
November 6 at the Dr. J.M. Ennis Auditorium in Welland, ON
November 11 at the Heritage Theatre in Brampton, ON
November 12 at the Imperial Oil Centre in Sarnia, ON
November 17 at the Markham Theatre in Markham, ON
November 20 at the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound, ON
November 21 at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, ON


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

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