DIVA TALK: News from the Big Four, and More...

DIVA TALK: News from the Big Four, and More... BETTY BUCKLEY
I spent a good deal of time listening to CDs this past weekend, and one of the recordings that inspired me the most was Betty Buckley's The London Concert on Sterling Records. It's been a while since I listened to this wonderful CD, which Buckley recorded during her run in the London production of Sunset Boulevard. The song selections on this disc are truly incredible, many of which Buckley has rarely, if ever, sung in New York, including Kurt Weill's "Surabaya Johnny" and three from Stephen Sondheim: "Finishing the Hat," "Marry Me a Little" and "Old Friends."
(There are also a few other tunes that Buckley sang at the concert that didn't make the CD, although they were aired on BBC radio: Richard Maltby's "What About Today," "Never Never Land" and a terrific medley of three Gershwin tunes-- "How Long Has This Been Going On?," "Embraceable You" and "Fascinating Rhythm.") Listening to these songs, I thought it would be great if Buckley would perform this exact repertoire in concert in New York. Perhaps "Betty Buckley sings The London Concert at Carnegie Hall." Just an idea...

In addition to her upcoming concerts (Saturday evening, April 26 at New Jersey's State Theatre in New Brunswick and May 17 at the Palace Theatre in Stamford), Ms. B will take part in a benefit for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer's Association on June 5. Hosted by Elliott Gould, entertainers include Buckley, Phylicia Rashad and Richard Adler. The evening is being called "The Forget Me-Not Ball"!

BETTY BUCKLEY
I spent a good deal of time listening to CDs this past weekend, and one of the recordings that inspired me the most was Betty Buckley's The London Concert on Sterling Records. It's been a while since I listened to this wonderful CD, which Buckley recorded during her run in the London production of Sunset Boulevard. The song selections on this disc are truly incredible, many of which Buckley has rarely, if ever, sung in New York, including Kurt Weill's "Surabaya Johnny" and three from Stephen Sondheim: "Finishing the Hat," "Marry Me a Little" and "Old Friends."
(There are also a few other tunes that Buckley sang at the concert that didn't make the CD, although they were aired on BBC radio: Richard Maltby's "What About Today," "Never Never Land" and a terrific medley of three Gershwin tunes-- "How Long Has This Been Going On?," "Embraceable You" and "Fascinating Rhythm.") Listening to these songs, I thought it would be great if Buckley would perform this exact repertoire in concert in New York. Perhaps "Betty Buckley sings The London Concert at Carnegie Hall." Just an idea...

In addition to her upcoming concerts (Saturday evening, April 26 at New Jersey's State Theatre in New Brunswick and May 17 at the Palace Theatre in Stamford), Ms. B will take part in a benefit for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer's Association on June 5. Hosted by Elliott Gould, entertainers include Buckley, Phylicia Rashad and Richard Adler. The evening is being called "The Forget Me-Not Ball"!

And, don't forget, Buckley will be a guest on Stan Martin's radio program on April 28 (WQEW 1560 AM), where she is scheduled to sing live at 5p.m.

PATTI LuPONE
A loyal diva watcher in London, who attended La LuPone's first preview in the West End production of Master Class, informed me that LuPone received tumultuous applause and a standing ovation from the British audience. Terrence McNally, the Tony-winning playwright, was also in attendance and presented our Evita gal with a bouquet of white roses during her curtain call. The cast for this production, which officially opens on May 6, includes LuPone as Callas, David Maxwell Anderson as Anthony Candolino, Susan Roper as Sharon Graham, Sophia Wylie as Sophie De Palma, David Schrubsole as Manny and Kenneth Hadley as the Stagehand.

Master Class is currently in performance at the Queens Theatre (Shaftesbury Avenue); the performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets range from £7.50 - £30.00; call the box office at 0171-494-5040 for further information.

There is a great quote about LuPone from Rosie O'Donnell in an upcoming PLAYBILL interview with the talk-show diva. O'Donnell tells interviewer Kathy Henderson: "To go to a Broadway show and see these phenomenal actors and singers, and then to wait by the stage door and speak to them as they walked out, had a profound impact on me and my career. . . When I was 16, I wanted to be Patti LuPone. I'm sitting there at Evita, watching this woman who grew up on Long Island she was just it to me."

ELAINE PAIGE
This Sunday evening, April 27, club promoters Marc Berkley and Dan Forrester, in association with Atlantic Records, present a chance for Paige fans in the New York area (and anyone else who wants to come to the city) to meet the first lady of British Musical Theatre. Paige will hold court in the Lounge of the club Boy's Life from 12pm to 1am, and during the evening a drawing will be held to win the gold brocade turban she wore in Sunset Boulevard. Those who enter the drawing will also have the chance to win a special, limited edition signed poster of Paige in her full Sunset regalia; autographed copies of her latest CD, Encore! will also be on sale. Proceeds from the CD sales and the drawing will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Boy's Life is located at 158 Bleecker Street (at Thompson). There will be a small cover charge, and a portion of that charge will also benefit BC/EFA. Doors open at 11pm, and music by "Honey Dijon" will be on the main floor. Call 212-420-1999 for more information. Paige will also make an appearance on the TV Food Network as a guest on that channel's "Dining Around" program. Paige will discuss her diet and regimen when she is in a show and when she is not as well as her favorite New York restaurants. The seven-minute segment is scheduled to air on May 8.

And, of course, Paige makes her U.S. concert debut in less than two weeks, on May 7. Paige will perform with the Boston Pops on May 7 and again on May 12, the latter evening to be taped for a PBS broadcast this summer. Rumor has it that aside from doing her major theatre songs, Paige is also working on a new song (to her repertoire) to premiere at this eagerly-awaited event. Call Symphony Charge in Boston at (617) 266-1200 for information and/or reservations.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Bernadette Peters was in Boston this week to pick up an award for her excellence in Musical Theatre from Emerson College. Peters, whose newest recording, Sondheim Etc. Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall, is selling incredibly well, will make two talk-show appearances in May. As previously announced Peters will appear on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" on May 5, and she will also appear on "Fox After Breakfast" on May 15. No word yet as to if or what she will be singing. I'll keep you posted. . .

DEBRA BYRNE
I've now had the chance to listen to Debra Byrne's new solo album, New Ways to Dream, a few times, and I am happy to report it is a wonderful recording. Byrne has a throbbing voice that is one of the most emotional sounds you'll encounter. To me, the late Nancy LaMott's voice always sounded full of "warmth"; similarly Byrne's voice sounds full of warmth plus a life of "battles won and lost." She begins the recording with a song from Blood Brothers, "Easy Terms." It is an understated version of the song that works quite well, although I would have liked her to pour out her voice a bit more at the end of the song. The second track is the first of three Sunset tunes on the disk. Byrne, who is one of the few actresses left performing the role of Norma Desmond, offers renditions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Surrender," "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye." Her version of "Surrender" is simple and affecting, backed on this recording only by a guitar. Her versions of the two other songs employ the show's original orchestrations. Her "With One Look" reminds me of a better-sung version of Glenn Close's take on the song. At times, she even sounds a bit like Close's Norma, especially in the phrase "No words can tell/The stories my eyes tell/Watch me when I frown/You can't write that down." I think my favorite of her "Sunset" tunes is her lyrical and no holds-barred rendition of "As If We Never Said Goodbye," which spans the range of human emotions.
Byrne delivers a beautiful version of "Nothing Like You've Ever Known," a song cut from the Broadway production of Song and Dance and rarely recorded. It was also a treat to hear the complete version of Company's "Being Alive," which Byrne built slowly to a powerful, full voiced ending; similarly her version of "As Long As He Needs Me" ended with what might be described as a primal scream. Sometimes she has a tendency to oversing or perhaps sing out of her range, but the passion she imbues each song with more than overcomes any minor vocal problem. Another highlight of the recording is a medley of "No One Is Alone" and a portion of "Children Will Listen," both from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. With the help of Hugh Jackman (her Joe Gillis in SB), Byrne presents the songs as they were performed in the musical, and the two create a moving, mini-drama.
I also liked her joyous rendition of the Lerner and Loewe classic "On the Street Where You Live." Surprisingly, one of my favorite tracks is a lesser-known tune, James Taylor's "The Millworker," which was one of the songs from the musical Working. Byrne gives a country-tinged delivery that is understated, heartfelt and ultimately extremely moving as she describes the plight of a "young girl [who] ought to stand a better chance." Debra Byrne: New Ways to Dream is definitely a must for all diva lovers, especially the Sunset fans, out there.

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