DIVA TALK: Patti's Quick Mastery

DIVA TALK: Patti's Quick Mastery BETTY BUCKLEY

Less than three weeks left to catch Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard. Very soon I will follow Buckley backstage through a performance of Sunset Boulevard and then give a detailed write-up of everything BB goes through--from the moment she begins make-up through her final curtain call. Stay tuned for more details. . .

BETTY BUCKLEY

Less than three weeks left to catch Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard. Very soon I will follow Buckley backstage through a performance of Sunset Boulevard and then give a detailed write-up of everything BB goes through--from the moment she begins make-up through her final curtain call. Stay tuned for more details. . .

Also, add an appearance in Sydney, Australia to Buckley's ever-growing list of concert appearances after her departure from the Boulevard.

PATTI LuPONE

Hope you caught Patti's appearances on "The Today Show" and the afternoon CBS News last week. LuPone's appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" has now been rescheduled for September 6. At this time, she is still scheduled to sing on the program, although she will not be singing "Meadowlark" as originally announced--rumor is it will be an Irving Berlin tune, something from her "Heatwave" album.

In an article by Stephen Schaefer in the New York Post, LuPone spoke about her current role in Master Class and the raves she has received for her performance:

On her reviews:

"God! I've gotten better treatment with this than I've ever gotten going in a show myself. My career is a constant surprise. . . And they've asked me to take it to London in March. If that works out, that would be fantastic! I've done three musicals there [The Cradle Will Rock, Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard -- but not a play."

On reading the script for the first time:

"I can never forget being in Bangkok, where I got a 32-page fax at the Regent Hotel, which was the script. I read it on the beach and said, 'I'm an idiot to say no to this part.' I told Robert [Whitehead, Master Class producer] that the most daunting thing was following Zoe [Caldwell and Whitehead's wife]. I'm not afraid of the role I'm an idiot to follow Zoe! And I've always maintained that." On the vocal demands of singing vs. acting:

"I love to act. I love my connection with the audience, but there is something about singing there is more stress in singing. My voice now is tired . . .I can perform tonight. But I could never sing tonight. When you're singing, you're concentrated and self-absorbed right here [squeezes her throat]."

There was also a brief item that ran in Newsday by Patrick Pacheco entitled "Faster Class." It read:

"Zoe Caldwell and Patti LuPone have both received critical raves for their respective performances as Maria Callas in Master Class. But when it comes to a sprint to the finish, LuPone wins, hands down. Stagehands and other production personnel at the Golden Theatre where Master Class is playing have been getting home 25 minutes earlier since LuPone took over the role from Caldwell. The curtain for the evening performance of Terrence McNally's Tony-winning drama is now coming down around 10:15 PM, whereas Caldwell was usually saying the last line, 'Well that's that," around 10:40 PM.

"It's a difference in styles," says someone involved with the production. "Patti talks faster and takes fewer pauses. Zoe reflected longer on moments. Patti rolls with it." Granted, McNally's tragic and mercurial diva is such a marathon and exhausting role that she's unsafe at any speed. But restaurants in the neighborhood, who know the running times of every show, have had to make adjustments. "I thought people who were coming in with Master Class Playbills were leaving early," said Jean-Claude Baker of Theater Row's Chez Josephine. "Now I know to expect them earlier."

ELAINE PAIGE

Elaine Paige is currently preparing for her Broadway debut on September 2 when she replaces Betty B in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard.

In a recent interview with Paige, who was completely charming and very funny, I asked her whether she was enjoying a bit of anonymity in New York. She said, "It's rather funny, you know, because I am completely anonymous at the moment; people don't know who I am, and I haven't known that for years in England. . . Other than going away on holiday to Spain or the south of France--and even then I seem to bump into people who recognize me. So it is really rather extraordinary. . .It was quite funny. I had forgotten about it, you see. I was invited to the opening of Emma, the new Jane Austen movie. So I go sallying off to that with my assistant, and we roll up, get out of the car and there's paparazzi everywhere and police and people craning their necks to see who's next on the red carpet. I got out of the car. I completely forgot. I stepped out and kept walking, and nothing flashed, and I was completely ignored. It was terribly funny, and I must say I did chuckle to myself. . . And I thought to myself, 'If there's anything really bad I want to do, I'd better do it in the next few weeks."

For a sneak preview of Paige's take on Norma Desmond, get yourself a copy of Encore, her newest album on Atlantic Records. The album includes three tracks from SB, "With One Look," "The Perfect Year" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye."


BERNADETTE PETERS

There was a nice photo of Peters with her new husband, Michael Wittenberg, in the August 12 issue of People magazine. The photo showed the happy couple walking down the aisle, arm in arm. Peters was dressed in a white strapless gown and a long white veil.

It will be a busy few months for Peters as she promotes her new recording, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," which should be in record stores on August 20. Peters is scheduled for an appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" on September 12. The "Rosie" show airs on ABC at 10 AM.

RENT

Okay, so Rent isn't a diva, but it does have one of the greatest scores in the last decade of musical theatre and many magnetic performances. I was recently sent an advance copy of the cast recording, which is a two-CD set that includes Steve Wonder's rendition of "Seasons of Love" as a bonus track. Listening to the score again confirms my belief that Larson was one of the most gifted composer/lyricists to arrive on the scene in years. His death is a true loss, not only to his family and friends, but to the musical world as well.

However, the recording is a clear, crisp preservation of the show and its multi-talented cast. My favorite performers are, surprisingly for me, not the women of the cast. Though I think the entire cast delivers outstanding performances, the vocal highlights are the performances of Adam Pascal as Roger and Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins. Pascal possesses one of the most emotional voices I can recall. His raw-edged voice and delivery makes songs as "One Song Glory" pierce the heart; most everything he sings is enthralling. And, Jesse Martin's second act reprise of "I'll Cover You" is similarly heart-wrenching. But Martin also sings with such warmth that he instantly wins you over in lighter moments like "Santa Fe." It is a recording that is a must for theatre fans. Also, the Rent cast will perform one of the most moving songs from the show, "Seasons of Love" at the opening night of the Democratic Convention. The CD is scheduled for release on August 27.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
(My e-mail address is andrew_gans@playbill.com.)