DIVA TALK: News of Betty, Bernadette, Patti, Karen, Audra & Ute: Who Could Ask for Anything More?

DIVA TALK: News of Betty, Bernadette, Patti, Karen, Audra & Ute: Who Could Ask for Anything More? BETTY BUCKLEY
Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco
Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco

BETTY BUCKLEY

Well, it's certainly shaping up to be another busy year for our very own Betty B. As announced earlier this week, Buckley will appear in a by invitation-only staged reading of The Fool on April 29. This new musical is being produced by Elizabeth Healy/Healy Entertainment Inc. and features book, lyrics and music by Canadian-born performer-composer Gino Vannelli. Joining Buckley for the all-star reading of the new musical, which is described as a contemporary theatrical work, are Terrence Mann, Phylicia Rashad, James Barbour, Eddie Korbich and T.R. Knight. Marcia Milgrom Dodge will direct, and orchestrations are by Tony winner Don Sebesky and Glenn Morley.

Healy said that she hopes to workshop the musical shortly after the reading. "We are also looking into Equity theatres in North America and London to premiere the work," Healy recently explained. She described the new work as the "spirit of Shakespeare [melding] with the parody stylings of Monty Python. It's a musical endeavor fusing popular, jazz and classical music," she continued, "moving by turns from the farcical to the transcendental and dramatic." Healy also noted that two record companies are extremely interested in the piece.

Buckley, too, is very enthusiastic about the upcoming project. "Gino called me here in Buffalo to sing a new song over the phone that he wrote for me, [and] it sounded really great," Buckley explained to me late last week. BB also informed me that she has signed on to continue her role in the acclaimed HBO series "Oz." Buckley played Suzanne Fitzgerald, the mother of one of the inmates in the gritty jailhouse series, and offered a heartfelt, moving portrayal. She is scheduled to appear in all eight episodes of the upcoming season.

And, of course, the Tony winner continues in A.R. Gurney's play, Buffalo Gal, at Buffalo's Arena Theatre through April 21. Buckley and the cast have received standing ovations at every performance, and there is word that the comedy may transfer to a commercial run in New York. Producer Julian Schlossberg is attached to the project and was scheduled to attend a performance of the comedy this past week. I also received Buckley's most recent concert schedule, which includes a two week gig at the plush New York cabaret room, Feinstein's at the Regency. Buckley will perform at the relatively new space from Oct. 22 through Nov. 9. Her remaining concert dates follow:

May 4 at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, IL (Benefit for Goodman Theatre)
May 11 at the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham, AL
June 27-28 at the Zellerbach Theatre in the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania in PA (with Jay Leonhart — "Betty and the Bass")
June 29 at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY
July 7 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, NM
Sept. 28 at the Hauge Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
Oct. 3-6 at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 22-Nov. 9 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
Nov. 16 at the Performing Arts Center of SUNY-Purchase in Purchase, NY
Dec. 6 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC
Dec. 31 at the Tilles Center at CW Post University in Glen Cove, NY

BERNADETTE PETERS

I received word this week that two-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters will add another honor to her long list of credentials. The star of the upcoming production of Gypsy will be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame on June 28 at a gala performance at the famed outside venue. Past inductees include John Williams, Garth Brooks, Marilyn Horne, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, John Raitt and Monty Python. Peters will also perform three tunes from her new Rodgers and Hammerstein recording that evening, and she will be backed by the 100-piece Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. And, for those unable to attend the Hollywood Bowl Gala, you might be able to catch her acclaimed concert act at one of the following locations:

May 17 at Harrah's in Atlantic City, NJ
June 7 at the Ravinia Pavillion in Highland Park, IL
June 19 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY
June 28 at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, CA
July 2 at the Interlochen Center in Interlochen, MI
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Morton H. Meyerson Hall in Dallas, TX
Sept. 28 at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI
Oct. 24 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 26 at the Kleinhans Auditorium in Buffalo, NY

CABARET SCENE

KAREN AKERS
Stunning chanteuse Karen Akers will return to the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel on April 30. Akers, who starred on Broadway in two Tommy Tune musicals—Nine and Grand Hotel—has named her latest cabaret show "When Love Speaks To You," and her program is a collection of songs that speaks from her "musical heart."

The evening will include a tribute to the recently closed production of The Fantasticks as well as a song in honor of the Richard Rodgers Centenary. You can also expect Akers to wrap her rich, dark contralto around such works as Harold Arlen's "As Long As I Live," Dietz and Schwartz' "I See Your Face Before Me," Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman," Stephen Schwartz' Pippin tune "With You," the Coleman/Stewart Barnum ballad "The Colors of My Life" and the show's title tune, "When Love Speaks to You" by Kathy King Wouk. Akers will, of course, satisfy her many fan's requests by singing songs in French by Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf.

Akers will play Tuesdays-Thursdays at 9 PM at the famed cabaret room and Fridays and Saturdays at 9 and 11:30 PM. There is a $50 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 419 9331. One of the most respected performers on the cabaret scene, Akers was recently honored with the 2002 Board of Directors Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs.

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Tony and Olivier winner Patti LuPone is in L.A. this week to shoot a new television pilot for NBC. The Tony-winning star of Evita portrays a hip mom in the new comedy "Life at Five Feet," which concerns a writer who ghostwrites a column in a magazine for a famous supermodel. The comedy also stars Alex Borstein as the writer, Victor Raider Wexler as her father and Robert Bagnell as the magazine's editor. La LuPone will return to her role as Dotty Otley in the Michael Frayn Broadway comedy Noises Off on April 14 . . . Ute Lemper — who won the Olivier Award for her performance as Velma Kelly in the London production of Chicago — will return to the cabaret stage of Joe's Pub with a new show entitled Blood and Feathers. In her upcoming program, Lemper will perform the sexy and political repertoire for which she is best known, including works by Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel, Bertolt Brecht as well as tunes by Tom Waits and other more contemporary writers. Lemper will play Joe's Pub, which is located within New York's Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street), on May 2, 6, 7, 9 and 12 at 7:30 PM and May 5 and 12 at 9:30 PM. Tickets are $35 and are available through Telecharge (212-239-6200) or at the theatre's box office . . . Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald will also return to the intimate stage of Joe's Pub for a week of concert performances next month. McDonald, who scored Tonys for her work in Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime, will offer 7:30 PM shows on May 20, 21, 24, 25 and 26 at the cabaret space within the Public Theater. McDonald opened the Pub's Songbook Series a few years back, and she will focus her upcoming show on new music as she did at her premiere engagement. Attendees can expect to hear McDonald's glorious soprano interpret the works of Jim Legg, John Bucchino, Lawrence O'Keefe, David Yazbek, Gary Fagin and Elise Thoron. Musical director Ted Sperling will lead a quartet of piano, bass, drums and guitar. And, don't forget, McDonald will also make her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut on November 2 in an evening of songs scored for big bands, performing several tunes from her upcoming Nonesuch CD. Joe's Pub — named for the late Joseph Papp, who founded The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival — is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets are available at the theatre's box office or by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 . . . In an interview for Playbill On-Line (check out Ed Karam's article in our Features section), actress/singer Melissa Errico reveals that she will star in the new Broadway musical Amour, which is scheduled for a September debut at the Music Box Theatre. A translation of the hit French tuner Le Passe Muraille, the musical features music by Michel Legrand and a translation by Noises Off director Jeremy Sams. Original French lyrics were written by Didier van Cauwelaert. James Lapine, who helmed Broadway's Dirty Blonde, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George and both the current and original productions of Into the Woods, will direct. Errico, who will star in the upcoming Kennedy Center production of Sunday in the Park, recently explained to Playbill On-Line how she won her role as Dot in the eagerly awaited Sondheim production: "I did a workshop of [Amour] with James Lapine for the Shuberts this past fall. [Composer] Michel [Legrand] is very good friends with Stephen Sondheim, so Sondheim came to see it, and that's how I got Dot." Amour is scheduled to begin previews at the Music Box on September 17 with an official opening mid-October. Malcolm Gets, who appeared in the Lincoln Center production of A New Brain, will co-star with Errico . . .

REMINDERS

Barbara Cook in Concert:
April 9 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY (June Lebell series: The Sound Of Broadway)
April 12-13 Marilyn Horne and Barbara Cook at the Warton Center at Michigan State University in MI
April 18-28 at the Mohegan Sun in CT
May 14 Cook receives the New Dramatists’ Lifetime Achievement Award at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in New York, NY
May 19-20 with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
June 5-9 and June 12-16 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
June 23-Aug. 26 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, NY (Mostly Sondheim)
July 5 at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts in Long Island
August 14-18 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
Oct. 19 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA
Nov. 17 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ

Linda Eder in Concert:
April 12 at the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
April 13 at the State Theatre of New Brunswick in New Brunswick, NJ
April 18 at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA

Maureen McGovern in Concert:
April 30-May 6 & May 8-May 13 Cinegrill Grand Re-Opening, Los Angeles, CA
May 17-18 "Works of Heart" Seminar - New York, NY
June 22 "Music by the Lake," Lake Geneva, WI
June 29-Aug. 17 Dear World at Sundance Theater, Sundance, UT
July 4 at the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts at the Venetian Theater, Katonah, NY
Sept. 1-2 MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon, Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 20 - 22 Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI
Sept 26-29 North Carolina Symphony, Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, NC
Oct. 30-Nov. 3 American Music Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 19-Dec. 1 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA
Dec. 6 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
Dec. 8 at Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
Dec. 9 Laurie Strauss Leukemia Benefit, Carnegie Hall in New York City
Dec. 12 - 14 at Orange County Performing Arts Center Founders Hall in Costa Mesa, CA
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!

—By Andrew Gans