I had the pleasure this week of speaking with the First Lady of the British Musical Theatre, Elaine Paige, and what a pleasure it was. Speaking by phone from London, Paige is the consummate professional: charming, intelligent, funny, witty and completely present in everything she discusses. Paige spoke about the many projects she has been involved with in the past year -- The Misanthrope; The Andrew Lloyd Webber 50th Birthday Gala; The Cameron Mackintosh salute, Hey, Mr. Producer -- as well as her upcoming ventures, including her starring role in the PolyGram filming of Cats, which will be broadcast on PBS stations around the country Nov. 2. The interview with EP will appear in an article for the theatre edition of Playbill, but I thought I would share with you some of the non-Cats -related quotes, saving that material for a Diva Talk column closer to the release and airing of the video.
Paige recently concluded her run in The Misanthrope, and had this to say about her first non-singing role on a West End stage: "It was so wonderful to be doing something so very, very different from what I'm used to. I missed the music, I must say, so luckily the whole was piece in rhyming couplets. That sort of saved the day, in a way, because it was just the music I missed. The rhyming was exactly the same as singing lyrics, only without the music, so it was like speaking lyrics. It was just a huge challenge." During her time in the Molière classic, the award-winning actress also learned how much less taxing a non-singing role could be. "I never quite realized in all the 20 years since Evita," Paige admitted, "that singing is a whole different ball game from performing in any other medium. It adds so much pressure. It was a relief, really, not to have to worry about my voice in that way every night. I could have a life as well as work!" Although she is anxious to do more dramatic work, Paige is also hopeful that she will get the chance to re-create her critically praised performance as Edith Piaf in New York. "I've got meetings with various people and with my agents when I come over [to New York to launch the Cats video]. . . Now that I've had a rest from doing musical theatre, of course, as everything, I want to do it again." Paige is also in the process of selecting songs for an upcoming album and recently recorded a single from Whistle Down the Wind, which should be in stores soon. A new concert tour is in the planning stages, too: "I want to put a new concert tour together because I haven't toured for some years. I would like to do that here and then come to the States to do it. I think it might be fun."
Whether it's Piaf, a concert tour or some other vehicle, let's hope that the multi-talented Paige returns to the States as soon as possible! Stay tuned for more . . .KAREN MASON
Karen Mason will finish her critically-acclaimed run as Mama Rose in Gypsy at Robert Redford's Sundance Theatre (801-225-4100) in Utah Aug. 29. She will actually take a quick holiday from that show Aug. 24-27 when she flies to New York for the workshop of Swing Shift, a new musical being produced by Jujamcyn Theaters. After she concludes her Gypsy run, Mason has a host of appearances lined up. On Sept. 10, the former Sunset Boulevard standby-to-the-stars will perform at The Manor (973-731 2360) in West Orange, NJ, and she will follow that by opening the Bay Street Theatre season Sept. 26. An appearance at the upcoming Cabaret Convention brings Mason to New York's Town Hall Oct. 13. Mason will teach a master class at UCLA Oct. 14, and then she will sing in concert at that University Oct. 17, a concert that is being presented by Michael Kerker and ASCAP. And, Nov. 4-14, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago. George S. Kaufman, which have been adapted by Daniel Goldfarb. David Warren is set to direct a company that also includes Patrick Breen, Danny Burstein, Peter Jacobson and Josh Mostel. By George! will be performed Sept. 3 and 4 at 8 PM at the Greenwich House Theater on Barrow Street. Call (212) 541-8441 for tickets.
Caroline O'Connor, who is currently dazzling audiences as Velma in the Australian production of Chicago, has recently released a solo album on the Jay Records label. O'Connor starred in the most recent London production of Mack and Mabel and has also been seen in Baby, West Side Story, Romance/Romance and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. The recording is available at Dress Circle in London and should be available soon at import record stores in New York. The song list for O'Connor's solo disc, What I Did for Love, follows:
"All That Jazz" - Chicago
"Who Will Love Me As I Am?" - Side Show
"What I Did For Love" - A Chorus Line
"The Night It Had To End" - Romance Romance
"Don't Rain On My Parade" - Funny Girl
"The Story Goes On"- Baby
"What Ever Lola Wants" - Damn Yankees
"I Got The Sun In The Morning" - Annie Get Your Gun
"There Are Worse Things I Could Do" - Grease
"I Cain't Say No" - Oklahoma!
"Life Upon The Wicked Stage" - Show Boat
"Stay With Me" - Into the Woods
"Don't Tell Mama" - Cabaret
"Time Heals Everything" - Mack and Mabel
"America" - West Side Story
"Nowadays" - Chicago
RAINBOW & STARS
The plush cabaret on the 65th floor of New York's Rockefeller Center will host a variety of performers this season. First up is Cybill Shepherd, who will perform selections from her latest CD, Talkin' Memphis Sept. 8 19. Then, ABC-TV's Kathie Lee Gifford will make her first New York night-club appearance in seven years Oct. 6-10. Following Gifford will be Australia's David Campbell, who will return to Rainbow & Stars Oct. 13 through the end of the month. Ann Hampton Callaway will take to the small R&S stage -Nov. 3-14, and then one of my favorite ladies, Karen Akers, takes over Nov. 17 through Dec. 5.
The Kaufman Theatre will be the home to a string of new musical revues entitled In Performance at the Kaufman. The series is being produced by Peter Ligeti and will feature such cabaret/theatre personalities as Wesla Whitfield, Karen Murphy, Loni Ackerman and composer David Shire. The first entry in the series is Life Upon the Wicked Stage, a two-act theatrical evening that will star Whitfield and address the 1977 random shooting that left her unable to walk. The show was written by Ms. Whitfield and will feature accompaniment by musicians Mike Greensill and Michael Moore. Life Upon the Wicked Stage is set to begin performances Oct. 13. . . . Steve Ross and Karen Murphy will then star in L'Amour the Merrier, a revue created by Mr. Ross that features songs by Cole Porter, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Stephen Sondheim and other composers. This show will run Nov. 3-22. . . The series concludes with a tribute to the work of Richard Maltby and David Shire, the duo who wrote the scores for Baby, Big and Starting Here, Starting Now. Entitled The Story Goes On...The Music of Maltby and Shire, the evening will feature Shire at the piano, accompanied by singer/actress Loni (Evita, Cats) Ackerman.
The Kaufman Theatre is located at 534 West 42nd Street, and tickets are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. For more information about the cabaret series, call (212) 246-8949.
ON THE NEWSSTAND
The Sept. issue of American Theatre Magazine will focus on women in the theatre and features Tony-winning director Julie Taymor on its cover. The issue, which is set to hit newsstands Sept. 1, boasts 23 profiles and/or interviews with such theatre veterans as Uta Hagen, Jane Alexander and Betty Comden as well as newcomers like playwright Naomi Iizuka and impresario Vicky Boone. The arts magazine will also include an essay from playwright Tina Howe as well as the full text to a new play by Marlane Meyer.
REMINDERS: BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley will star as Mama Rose in Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, beginning Sept. 9. The official opening date is scheduled for Sept. 13, and the show will run through Oct. 25. Tickets, which range from $25 to $55, will be available by calling (973) 376-4343 beginning Aug. 24 . . . BB has also scheduled a few concerts at The Bottom Line. She will perform at 7:30 and 10 PM Oct. 30 and 31, and Nov. 1 show times are 4 PM (the "songs by request" concert) and 8:30 PM. The Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street, and tickets will be on sale at the Bottom Line box office in the near future.
Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City Sept. 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:
Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)
There will be a four-week season of Divas at the Donmar--London's Donmar Warehouse, the theatre that first premiered the current incarnation of Cabaret. As previously mentioned, Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway will kick off the season from Aug. 10-22. Following the sister act will be Barbara Cook from Aug. 24-29, and Imelda Staunton and Her Big Band will finish the diva season from Sept. 1-5.
This is your last weekend to catch Florence Lacey in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which also stars Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award-winning composer himself. The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, is at the Booth Theatre through Aug. 23; call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 for tickets.
LuPone will perform in concert Aug. 28 and 29 at The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; call (562) 916-8500.
Audra McDonald will perform in concert with the San Francisco Symphony on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 8:30 PM. Brian Stokes Mitchell and opera singer Frederica von Stade will also perform at Davies Hall that evening; call (415) 864-6000.
Sept. 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
Oct. 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Missouri
Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
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