DIVA TALK: More Betty Raves; Ripley's Fantine and Paige's Plans

DIVA TALK: More Betty Raves; Ripley's Fantine and Paige's Plans Hello diva lovers. Just a few items this week as we head into the holiday weekend. Enjoy!
Playwright Angus MacLachlan.
Playwright Angus MacLachlan.

Hello diva lovers. Just a few items this week as we head into the holiday weekend. Enjoy!

BETTY BUCKLEY
More raves continue to pour in for Betty Buckley's stellar performance in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy, running through October 25 in Millburn, New Jersey. Following are some excerpts from these reviews:

Erik Jackson in Time Out New York:
"No matter how you slice it, Gypsy is not a sunny story. . .In the Paper Mill Playhouse's current revival, only the astonishing Betty Buckley seems to realize that fact. . .Leave that task to the trumpet-voiced Buckley, who springs out at the audience in glorious 3-D. Exuding a dark, edgy energy as she circles, hollow-eyed and hawklike, Buckley mines the unseemly aspects of Rose to astonishing effect (and brings to mind her turn in the ill-fated cult musical version of Carrie, as another memorable clingy mother). Perhaps her connection to that telekinetic tanker paid off: Buckley's abilities once again prove to be nothing short of supernatural."

Michael Musto in The Village Voice:
"Hot for some real star power, I yelled, "Gang way, world, get off of my runway" and raced to the railroad yard--well, actually the limo depot- where I was whooshed all the way to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, to see this year's Gypsy. It was well worth the nosebleed. No, the production isn't daringly revisionist--they didn't set it on Mars or at Studio 54--and a lot of times it seems to slavishly echo past versions. But that's just fine, since this is one show that, by law, should be recreated intact every single day of the year. (It's a frothy vaudeville revue and a demented character study.) The evening is hugely enjoyable, and the commanding Betty Buckley injects raw, searing life into Mama Rose, the kind that gives you Mother Goosebumps. Mama's gotta let go, but brave Betty should be allowed to hang on to this role forever."

John Simon in New York Magazine:
"I have seen the harrowing climax of Gypsy as performed by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Linda Lavin and Tyne Daly (let's not mention Bette Midler). But until you catch "Rose's Turn" as done by Betty Buckley at the Paper Mill Playhouse, you have not experienced the full, complex effect. Merman had the most dreadnought-like impact, but Buckley offers more. Despite unhelpful lighting by Mark Stanley, she illuminates the stage with her own sheet lightning: spooky, unpredictable, pervasive. Her rendition takes her way beyond bulldozing; it is pathetic, heartbreaking, terrifying, mad. It evokes tears, but freezes them mid cheek. It is not just a woman going to pieces after partial success; it is the triumph in defeat or defeat in triumph of a stymied soul that achieves for another what it really wanted for itself; it is the rage of a frustrated volcano that sizzles, sputters, and implodes.

The great singing actress's face contorts in contradictory directions; the fingers claw palpable holes into the air; the body coils and uncoils; the legs are in overdrive. But the voice -- a glorious, wounded panther of a voice -- will not be silenced. It tears through its pain to a bruised victory: This Rose was a force of nature; this performer is one."

Charles Isherwood in Variety:
". . .In the two defining solo songs that end each act of this landmark musical, Buckley digs into her heart and reveals in arias of distilled, bottomless need the essence of Rose: the eternal and unquenchable cry -- "Look at me!" -- that drives men and women toward the holy grail of the spotlight, even if they must make casualties of their loved ones to reach it. In these two magnificently sung numbers, Buckley's performance turns instantly from the accomplished to the unforgettable . . . Like any sensitive actor, Buckley can look into the frustrated depths of Mama Rose and say, "There but for the grace of God ..." This terrified sympathy seems to give extra power to Buckley's brilliant singing, which rings with the mysterious and profound impulses that drive all performers, whether they've reached the pinnacle of achievement or buried their failure in despair."

*Also, add Buckley to the ever-growing list of performers who will salute the late Laurie (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Les Misérables) Beechman this November 30 at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Entitled 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. Others scheduled to perform include Patti LaBelle, Sam Harris, Christiane Noll, Douglas Sills, Andrea McArdle, Melissa Hart, Robert Evan, Raymond Jarimillo McLeod, Kevin Gray, Dodie Pettit, Grant Prickett, Karen Mason, Ken Page, Dan Schiff, Brad Little and more. Call 202-226-1780 for more information or visit Congressman Fox's web site (http://www.house.gov/fox).

ELAINE PAIGE
Our favorite English diva, Elaine Paige, is currently busy in London promoting the upcoming television broadcast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in which she re-creates her starring role as that "Memory"able cat, Grizabella. Paige will be a guest star on the British TV variety program, "The Lottery Show," where she will perform "Memory" as well as two other classic tunes. She is also in the process of recording a few new tracks for an upcoming compilation CD, The Best of Elaine Paige, which will soon be available from Warner Music on Telestar Records. The CD also boasts her most-recent recording of "Memory" from the aforementioned Cats video.

Be sure to check out the upcoming issue of Mirabella Magazine, which will feature an interview (by Paul Alexander) with the delightful diva. Later in the month, Paige will hit these shores to promote the U.S. release of the Cats video, and she will sign copies of that video at the Virgin Records Times Square store on October 28. Stay tuned for more information about the signing as well as other Paige tidbits!

BERNADETTE PETERS

Hope you caught the always-lovely Bernadette Peters this week on the new version of "Hollywood Squares" on CBS-TV. Peters spoke briefly about her upcoming film, Snow Days, an independent feature that will co star Les Miz's Kip Marcus. And, of course, Peters will return to The Great White Way in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. Previews begin at the Marriott Marquis Theatre on February 2. Call 212-307-4100 for tickets.

ALICE RIPLEY
One of my new favorite ladies, Alice Ripley, was interviewed by writer Sheryl Berk in this week's edition of In Theater. Ripley is currently knocking 'em dead nightly with her impassioned version of "I Dreamed a Dream" in the New York company of Les Misérables. Ripley performed the role of Fantine on tour a few years back, before she came to Broadway in Sunset Boulevard and Side Show. I thought you would be interested to read a few of Ripley's choice quotes from Berk's article, "Alice Ripley. . .Believe It or Not."

about the impact Side Show had on her life:
"The show lifted me to a place in my life I've never been before. I see Violet, surprisingly, as the perfect role to express who I am. When you're seeing Violet, you're really seeing a lot of me. You're seeing a lot of what I believe about people and about relationships, and my insecurities and my doubts. At the end, when she goes through this self-discovery -- well, that happened for me as well. So it was really scary, because I wasn't hiding it at all."

about what she learned from her time in Sunset Boulevard:
"Yes, but I learned something there, too. Glenn Close was incredible. She's somebody who gets what she wants, but in a very loving way. She is so sweet, almost shy -- a real country girl. Yet she commands respect. That's what I aspire to. To get what you want without being called a bitch. That's what she taught me."

about her current role as Fantine in Les Miz:
"And I love this role. Fantine is an archetype. She's probably the easiest role I've ever had to play in terms of not having to fill in the holes in the character. She's so well-defined and it's so easy to empathize with her, to walk in her shoes. It's also a glam-o role. You get to come out, stop the show, then relax for about two hours until you come out again. They pay me to do this?"

about her upcoming plans:
"I do [write music] -- and I have some ideas for a musical. I also want to record and do some film. That's why doing Les Miz for the next six months is so great for me. It's relaxing, it's inspiring, and I can wait and see what comes my way."

By the way, Ripley's upcoming CD, Duets, which she recorded with Side Show co-star Emily Skinner, is scheduled for release at the end of this month on the Varèse Sarabande label.

DIVAS ON CD
A host of divas can be found on the upcoming CD, A Special Place: Songs from the Heart. Featuring tunes by composer Bob Ost (with collaborators Lenny Babbish, Scott Oakley and Gary Hughes), the recording boasts such ladies as Lillias White (singing the R&B rhythms of "A Little Love"), Rebecca Luker (delivering the comical "Be My Valentine") and Alice Ripley (whose voice soars on the ballad "In Between the Lines"). Other performers who lend their voice to the 13-track recording include Brian Lane Green, Anita Jackson, Norma Lewis, Marta Sanders, Annie Hughes, KT Sullivan and Jane Summerhays. A Special Place will be released on October 23 and should be available at Tower Records, Footlight Records and Colony--the CD will eventually be on sale at Virgin Megastores, HMV and other outlets.

A HOLIDAY CABARET
New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. will take part in A Holiday Cabaret, an upcoming benefit for local children's charities that will occur simultaneously in each of these six cities. The concerts are scheduled to begin at 8 pm (New York's program will start at 11 pm) on December 4, and tickets are priced at only $15. The Los Angeles concert will be held at the Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand Boulevard in Glendale) and will benefit Para Los Ninos (for the children). Those scheduled to entertain at the LA concert include Amanda McBroom, George Ball, Lee Lessack, Dale Kristien, Maureen McGovern, Christine Ebersole and Jim Bailey. Tickets for the LA event may be purchased by calling Telecharge at 1-800-233-3123.

Listed below are the contacts for the other five cities:

*Boston Dec 4 and 5 at Cambridge Center for Adult Education, 56 Brattle
Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge MA to benefit Globe Santa -- a toys for lower income children program. Contact Will McMillan at will@ccae.org.

*Chicago: Call Ralph Lampkin 219- 289-2328.

*New York City at Don't Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, to benefit Hale House Center, a home for kids whose parents are HIV and/or drug addicted. Call Maryann Lopinto 718-898-9084 .

*San Francisco: Call Diane Dragone of Star Classics: 415 - 552-1110. *Washington, D.C. Fri. Dec. 4 Contact Wendy Lane Bailey at 703-960-3098.

IN OTHER NEWS The legendary Barbara Cook concludes her run at the Cafe Carlyle this Saturday, October 10. Call 212-744-1600 for tickets . . . Another great chanteuse, Mary Cleere Haran, finishes her stint at the Algonquin on Saturday as well. Call 212-840-6800 for reservations . . . Singer/songwriter Amanda ("The Rose") McBroom will make her only New York cabaret appearance this year at the Algonquin Hotel on Monday, October 12 at 9:30 pm. Call 212-840-6800 for reservations.

REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley and Deborah Gibson currently star in Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey through October 25. Tickets range from $25-$55 and $10 student tickets may be available 15 minutes prior to curtain. For tickets and more information, call 973-376-4343. . . .

BB concert line-up:
October 30-November 1, 1998 at the Bottom Line, in New York, NY
November 6 in at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, PA
December 28 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
December 29 at the Kravis Center for the Perf Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
December 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
December 31 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL
January 14, 1999 in Irvine, CA
January 16 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, Ill.

LINDA EDER
October 9 at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland, OH
October 27 at the Smothers Theatre in Malibu, CA
October 29-31 at the Orange Country Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
November 13 at the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
November 14 at the Colden Center at Queens College in New York
November 20 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, PA
November 21 at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, OH
December 8-9 at the FAU Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL

KAREN MASON
An appearance at the upcoming Cabaret Convention brings Mason to New York's Town Hall on October 13. Mason will teach a master class at UCLA on October 14, and then she will sing in concert at that University on October 17, a concert that is being presented by Michael Kerker and ASCAP. And, from November 4-14, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago.

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Below are a few concert bookings for the star of stage and screen:
October 10-12 with the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon
October 13 with the Oregon Symphony in Salem, Oregon
November 11-22 in a production of "Of Thee I Sing" at the UCLA Freud Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA
December 10-13 with the Phoenix Symphony in Phoenix, Arizona

RAINBOW & STARS
David Campbell
October 13 - October 31.
Ann Hampton Callaway November 3 - 14
Karen Akers November 17 - December 5

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

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