Betty Buckley concludes her two-week stint at the Cafe Carlyle tomorrow evening, March 27 (call (212) 744-1600 for reservations). In last week's column, I discussed Buckley's current program, and I thought you would enjoy reading an excerpt from another recent review:
Robert L. Daniels in Daily Variety:
"In a rare club date, Broadway diva Betty Buckley opened her set with a genteel grouping of evergreens by Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlen. On safe ground with 'With a Song in My Heart,' a sprightly 'It Might as Well Be Spring' and a boldly potent 'Come Rain or Come Shine,' the singer eased into a reflective program of familiar show tunes. . .Her wonderfully rich and expressive voice soared on 'Meadowlark,' Stephen Schwartz's optimistic declaration from The Baker's Wife. . . .With an actor's sensitivity, Buckley manages to restructure a big theatre song for an intimate club setting. The singer hit her stride with the trademark songs that have become stepping stones in her career. A year and a half on Broadway in Cats recalled 'the jewel of my repertoire and a favorite recurring dream.' 'Memory' still summons the magic of her performance as Grizabella. From her two-year run in Sunset Boulevard, both here and abroad, she reprised 'With One Look,' recalling the passion and determination of fading film star Norma Desmond. The inspirational 'Amazing Grace' served as a solemn encore. . ."
In conjunction with her upcoming stint at the Cafe Carlyle (March 30-May 1), the legendary theatre/cabaret performer Barbara Cook has just released her latest recording on the DRG label titled "Barbara Cook: All I Ask of You." This collection of songs features a 42-piece orchestra led by Cook's longtime musical director, Wally Harper, with arrangements by Peter Matz. Cook begins the recital with a gentle version of The Phantom of the Opera's "All I Ask of You." It's great to hear Cook, whose voice remains as clear and brilliant as ever, sing an Andrew Lloyd Webber tune, a composer whose work she seems to have avoided for most of her career. I've always thought Cook would sound particularly strong on Lloyd Webber's "With One Look"; perhaps on her next album.
Other highlights of Barbara Cook: All I Ask of You include a lilting version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Wonderful Guy" -- listen to the way she brings joy to the song and makes every lyric count; a swinging take on "You're a Builder-Upper"; a gorgeous rendition of the West Side Story anthem "Somewhere"; and her definitive reading of "In Buddy's Eyes." While Cook's renditions of the aforementioned "In Buddy's Eyes" and the medley of songs from She Loves Me remain wonderful, I would have preferred this splendid artist to tackle some newer tunes or those she has never recorded. On a previous recording, Cook scored beautifully with John Bucchino's "Sweet Dreams." It would have been great to hear more of his work or some other up-and-coming composers. But that's just a minor quibble. You can't go wrong with a Barbara Cook CD. The complete track list from her disc follows:
"All I Ask Of You" (Webber/Stilgoe/Hart)
Medley: "New Sun in the Sky"(Schwartz/Dietz)/ "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (Lane/Lerner)
"A Wonderful Guy" (Rodgers/Hammerstein)
"The Very Next Man" (Bock/Harnick)
"In Buddy's Eyes" (Sondheim)
"I Wonder What Became of Me?" (Arlen/Hamburg)
"You're a Builder-Upper" (Arlen/Gershwin/Harburg)
"Glad Rag Doll" (Ager/Dougherty/Yellen)
"He Loves Me" (Bock/Harnick)
She Loves Me Medley: "Dear Friend," "Will He Like Me?," "Tonight at Eight," "Ice Cream" (Bock/Harnick)
"We'll Be Together Again" (Laine/Fischer) ELAINE PAIGE
Our favorite Brit, Elaine Paige, will be in town next week to discuss a host of upcoming theatrical projects. Although I'm not permitted to discuss any of those at the moment, I can tell you that Paige will make a special appearance in New York City in May. Evelyn Lauder, the president of the Estee Lauder Companies and founder of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, has invited EP to perform live at the BCRF's spring gala on Wednesday, May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House in the city. The event, which will honor preeminent cancer specialist Dr. Larry Norton, is being hosted by that "View" gal, Barbara Walters, and actress/model Elizabeth Hurley is expected to be among some 600 starry guests. The vocal dynamo that is Elaine Paige will be accompanied on the piano by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, and she is expected to sing a handful of her biggest hits. For more information about this worthy event, contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at (212) 572-4249.
UP-N-COMING DIVAS Some of you may have already been introduced to the work of Tori Lynn Palazola, who not too long ago thrilled audiences with her title role in the Off-Broadway musical Always Patsy Cline. What's most enjoyable about this talented lady is her ability to interpret a wide range of songs, ranging from Patsy Cline country hits to go-for-your-heartstring ballads. These days, Palazola has been busy appearing in director/producer Phil Oesterman's workshop performances of his new musical, Take This Show and Shove It, which is planned for an Off Broadway venue in the fall. Diva fans may also want to be on the alert, since Tori Lynn Palazola is planning to hit the cabaret circuit sometime this summer. Stay tuned for dates . . . After seeing the current national tour of Evita, I mentioned briefly in this column that the standout of the production was a 16-year-old actress named Angela Covington, who plays the role of Peron's teenage mistress. Covington's version of "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" was definitely the highlight of the evening, both thrillingly sung and beautifully acted. Toward the beginning of this past week, I received a homemade demo tape from Ms. Covington, which features the young performer (only 15 at the time she recorded the tape) singing a host of Broadway tunes, ranging from Jekyll & Hyde's "In His Eyes" to Chess's "Someone Else's Story." From the moment the tape began, with her wonderful version of The Secret Garden's "Hold On," I realized how truly gifted Ms. Covington is. There are few young singers who really impress me, but Covington seems to have an easy way with a lyric, a natural phrasing that belies her age. Listening to this voice, it reminded me of the now-familiar story of Betty Buckley, who on her first day in New York impressed her auditioners so much that she nabbed a lead role in the original production of 1776. Like Buckley, Covington's voice has a steely quality coupled with a sweet gentleness that is utterly entrancing. Mark my words, you're going to be seeing Ms. Covington on Broadway soon.
IN OTHER NEWS In Dream True: My Life with Vernon Dexter, the Ricky Ian Gordon/Tina Landau musical at the Vineyard Theatre, Judy Kuhn portrays Madge and sings a song titled "God Is There." . . . Two ladies with magnificent voices, Audra McDonald and Frederica von Stade, will join Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for a New Year's eve gala in Davies Symphony Hall on December 31 at 9 p.m. Tickets for the event are priced between $100 and $320; call (415) 864-6000 or visit the San Francisco Symphony website at www.sfsymphony.org . . . Christine Baranski received rave reviews for her recent performance as Mrs. Lovett (opposite the Sweeney of Kelsey Grammer) in the Los Angeles concert production of Sweeney Todd, part of the Reprise concert series. In fact, in his New York Times review, Peter Marks had this to say about the theatre and TV star: "[Baranski's] performance reaffirmed Mrs. Lovett as the show's juiciest role. As the cunning mechanic who keeps the killing machine humming, the actress must be warm and creepy at the same time. Ms. Baranski had no trouble conveying those contradictory qualities, which were brought to life most amazingly in her superb rendition of 'By the Sea,' a music hall ditty that in other productions has functioned as a throwaway number. In Ms. Baranski's delightful delivery it became Mrs. Lovett's marvelously twisted manifesto, the wish list of a malevolent nature with mundane desires expressing the kind of demented neediness an audience would die for." . . . Jana Robbins, the recent standby for Betty Buckley in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy, will appear at a new cabaret in the city named Upstairs at Peaches on March 29. Call (212) 355-9100 for reservations . . . Sunday in the Park with George was released on DVD and laser disc and re-released on video on March 23 by Image Entertainment. The DVD and laser disc versions include commentary -- on secondary audio channels -- by composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, book writer/director James Lapine as well as words from its two stars, Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin . . . Speaking of Patinkin, he and another of our favorite divas, Betty Buckley, have recorded an audiobook titled The Diaries of Adam & Eve: Translated by Mark Twain. The audiobook will be released by Fair Oaks Press this fall under the Audio Editions label . . . Cabaret singer Barbara Brussell -- whose recently-released album, "Patterns," is available on the LML Music label--will perform at Eighty Eight's in the West Village in April and May. Her new show, titled They Say It's Wonderful, is a mixture of old and new material, featuring such composers as Irving Berlin, Charles Strouse, Maltby & Shire, Cole Porter, Amanda McBroom, Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen, Babbie Green and Stephen Sondheim. Her performance dates are April 19, 23 and 30, and throughout the month of May, Brussell will play Thursdays at 10:30 PM and Fridays at 8:30pm. Call (212) 924-0088 for reservations. There is a $15 cover charge and a two-drink minimum for all performances. . .
On April 5 friends and colleagues of Laurie Beechman will gather at the West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street to honor the late star of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats. The evening's proceeds will benefit the Laurie Beechman Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music. The scholarship award is given annually to a graduating senior.
The event, which is being produced by Beechman's longtime friend and agent, Jim Wilhelm, will be staged by Richard Jay-Alexander, another friend who also coordinated her memorial service. As of press time, those performers scheduled to entertain include Faith Prince, Sam Harris, Randy Graff, Karen Mason, Loni Ackerman, Mary Testa, Ron Raines, Catherine Hickland and Andrea McArdle. Mark Linn Baker will host the evening, which will feature musical direction by Larry Yurman. Tax-deductible tickets are priced at $250, and the evening includes cocktails (at 6:30 PM), the performance and dinner after the show. Reservations may be made by calling the West Bank Cafe at (212) 695-6909.
On June 22 and 23, admirers of The Phantom of the Opera star will get a chance to see the singer in concert at City Center in New York City.
BB is currently brightening up the cabaret stage of the Cafe Carlyle in NYC. The two-week engagement concludes on Saturday, March 27; call (212) 570-7189 for reservations.
BB concert line-up:
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.
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.
Karen Mason is currently singing nightly at Davenports Cabaret in Chicago, where she will reside through April 11; call (773) 278-1830. The songstress will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on Sept. 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
Peters is set to sing her lovely, poignant rendition of Irving Berlin's "Moonshine Lullaby" on ABC's "The View" on Tuesday, April 13. Be sure to set your VCRs.
The 13th annual MAC Awards, the Oscars of the New York cabaret scene, will honor Barbara Cook and her musical director, Wally Harper, with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, April 5 at 7:30 PM at Town Hall. Betty Buckley, another MAC Award winner, will perform as well. And, Liza Minnelli, who will receive the MAC Board of Directors Award, is expected to perform with Billy Stritch. Tickets range from $20-$100 and will be available at the Town Hall box office and through TicketMaster, beginning about March 1. For more information about MAC, call (212) 465-2662.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.