DIVA TALK: Peters' Annie Plus New Diva Recordings

DIVA TALK: Peters' Annie Plus New Diva Recordings BERNADETTE PETERS
Bernadette Peters received a rave review for her performance in the Washington premiere of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In today's Washington Post review, Lloyd Rose writes, "If America designated certain of its artists as National Living Treasures, Bernadette Peters would certainly be one. In the Broadway-bound production of Annie Get Your Gun that opened last night at the Kennedy Center, she banishes all thoughts of Ethel Merman about two bars into her first number, 'Doin' What Comes Natur'lly.' Partly this is because Merman's Annie was a hearty, boisterous gal, while Peters plays an adorable, slightly goofy gamine: not a competitive version of the part, just an alternative one. But mostly it's because of her singing. Irving Berlin's score for Annie isn't Sondheim, so Peters doesn't do things here that make you shiver. She just awes you with her lyrical grace and genius for phrasing. For anyone who cares about the American musical theater, the chance to see Peters in this role is reason enough to see the show."
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Photo by Photos by Aubrey Reuben

BERNADETTE PETERS
Bernadette Peters received a rave review for her performance in the Washington premiere of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In today's Washington Post review, Lloyd Rose writes, "If America designated certain of its artists as National Living Treasures, Bernadette Peters would certainly be one. In the Broadway-bound production of Annie Get Your Gun that opened last night at the Kennedy Center, she banishes all thoughts of Ethel Merman about two bars into her first number, 'Doin' What Comes Natur'lly.' Partly this is because Merman's Annie was a hearty, boisterous gal, while Peters plays an adorable, slightly goofy gamine: not a competitive version of the part, just an alternative one. But mostly it's because of her singing. Irving Berlin's score for Annie isn't Sondheim, so Peters doesn't do things here that make you shiver. She just awes you with her lyrical grace and genius for phrasing. For anyone who cares about the American musical theater, the chance to see Peters in this role is reason enough to see the show."


Peters was also the subject of an in-depth feature article in last Sunday's Washington Post. I thought you would enjoy reading some excerpts from Chip Crews's article, which follow. Also, Peters fans will be delighted to learn that the Tony winner's recent sold-out and critically hailed London concert -- which was very similar to her sold-out and critically hailed Broadway concert (both directed by Richard Jay Alexander) -- was taped for broadcast and will debut on PBS stations around the country this spring.

About leaving New York theatre in the mid-70's for L.A.:
"I think those were the dark years of New York and of theatre. I think those were the years when there weren't a lot of shows being done . . .I figured I had to go to L.A. to make more of a name for myself."

About playing an ensemble role in Sondheim's Into the Woods:
"I thought, 'Well, in England you do ensemble pieces. You play the lead in one show, and in the next show you play something else. And also because I learned so much about life doing Sunday in the Park that I just wanted that experience again."

about her experience in The Goodbye Girl:
"Marty [Short] made it such a joy to do that show, and I loved doing it. . .Getting to know him. . .he was a great joy . . . You sometimes get frustrated that the show isn't working as well as you had hoped it would . . .Sometimes the elements work, and sometimes they're not going to." looking some years forward into her career:
"Lena Horne was doing her concert at 65 . . . I mean, my voice may lose some of its luster. But look what I can look forward to, you know? Hopefully I can keep on singing."

And here are some comments from Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine about the multi-talented Peters: Sondheim: "Like very few others, she sings and acts at the same time. Most performers act and then sing, act and then sing . . .Bernadette is flawless as far as I'm concerned. I can't think of anything negative." Lapine: "She's my fave -- I adore her. She's a loving, generous person, and I think it comes through in her performances as well."

IN OTHER NEWS: "It's very personal and dishy, and if I do my job right, you should get some laughs and a nice cry out of it. I'm definitely about rising from the ashes." So says stage (Les Misérables) and small-screen ("One Life to Live") actress/singer Catherine Hickland about her upcoming cabaret act "Once More With Feeling." Hickland, who penned the revue, will perform this one-night-only concert on Saturday, Jan. 23, 1999 (7 PM) as part of the "Broadway Series" at The China Club. Joining Hickland will be two of her former Les Miz castmates, Marsh Hanson and Craig Rubano, and you can expect to hear such classics as "Moon River," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," "Over the Rainbow" and others. Tickets are priced at $35 with a two-drink minimum; call (212) 921-9204 for reservations . . . Congratulations to Maureen McGovern who received a Grammy Nomination for her latest solo work, The Pleasure of His Company. Others nominated in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance category include Shirley Bassey (The Birthday Concert), Michael Feinstein (Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin"), Jack Jones (Jack Jones Paints a Tribute to Tony Bennett) and Patti Page (Live at Carnegie Hall--The 50th Anniversary Concert") . . . Thought you would be interested to see the songs Susan Egan sang at her New Year's concerts at the Cinegrill in L.A. The eclectic list included "Thank the Stars," "Anything" ( from Triumph of Love ), "One Boy" and "How Lovely to Be a Woman" (Bye, Bye Birdie ), "Hello New York" (Swing Alley ), "Times Like This" (Lucky Stiff ), "Find Out What a Woman Can Do" (Babes ), "Sooner or Later" (Dick Tracy/Putting It Together), "I Won't Say" (Hercules ), "I Can't Believe My Heart" (cut from Hercules ), "Sonnet" (lyrics by Egan), "First Love," "I'm Doing OK," "Wild and Reckless" (Drat the Cat ), "More" (Dick Tracy/Putting it Together ), "Belle," "Home" and "Beauty and the Beast" (Beauty and the Beast ). By the way, Egan concludes her run at the Cinegrill tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 9) evening. Call (323) 466-7000 for tickets . . . Linda Eder will perform a concert for a by-invitation-only audience this month, and it will air some time this year on PBS.

CABARET ON THE RECORD
I received a few CDs last week recorded by various cabaret performers, and here are some thoughts about these new recordings, all available on the LML Music label (www.lmlmusic.com).

ANNE KERRY FORD
Anne Kerry Ford dedicates her second solo work, "Something Wonderful," to her teachers, an appropriate dedication as the album spotlights the work of Stephen Sondheim and his one-time mentor, the late Oscar Hammerstein. Ford, who has worked in cabarets on both coasts and who performed at the Town Hall Cabaret Convention in June, has an appealing vibrato-filled soprano that she control with an easy charm. If her voice isn't as exciting as the belters that this column adores, the disc is still quite an enjoyable listen. Sondheim is represented by such songs as "The Miller's Son," "Goodbye For Now," "Something's Coming," "Not a Day Goes By" and "Being Alive" and Hammerstein by "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "All Through the Day," "Edelweiss," "Two Little People," "If I Loved You," "Something Wonderful," "Don't Ever Leave Me" and "Can't Help Lovin' That Man." There are also two bonus tracks that were recorded live at San Francisco's Plush Room: "Bill" and "With So Little To Be Sure Of."


BARBARA BRUSSELL
On her first solo recording, Barbara Brussell provides ample evidence that she's more than capable of interpreting a wide range of material. The CD, which is named "Patterns," after the David Shire/Richard Maltby tune from Baby, includes a heavy dose of Sondheim ("Marry Me a Little," a gender-switched "Buddy's Blues," "Move On" and "Everybody Says Don't") as well as such Broadway standards as "Try To Remember," "Mister Snow" and Carnival's "Mira." Brussell possesses a voice that can be both folksy and Broadway, and the middle of her chest register is the most pleasing, with a rich, resonating sound. I found her at her most effective when she sings simply, letting the words and music speak for themselves. Listen to her rendition of Craig Carnelia's "Nothing Really Happened" for a perfect example of how simplicity in singing is often the most moving. I also enjoyed hearing the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic "Alfie" as well as "If I Could," a touching song that closes the recording and fits Brussell's voice wonderfully. In the liner notes for the recording, Julie Wilson -- one of cabaret's gems -- writes, "Barbara has got that special thing . . .innate talent, a very strong presence, star quality. She's blessed with that creativity and expression which paints the pictures. Her time has come -- and the attention she is commanding is so well deserved."


SUSANNAH MARS
Susannah Mars offers a mix of both familiar theatre tunes (from The Baker's Wife, Assassins, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along, Baby) and little-heard works by Amanda McBroom, Scott Warrender and Christine Lavin on her new recording. Of the four LML releases, this is my favorite recording: Mars possesses a powerful voice that she unleashes with great effect on the varied song list found on Take Me to the World. The CD begins with its title track, "Take Me to the World," one of Sondheim's finest songs. Mars offers a gentle take on this Evening Primrose tune, which is followed by one of the disc's best selections, a song by Amanda McBroom entitled "Wheels." It's a bright and catchy tune that is ultimately quite poignant, and Mars shades it beautifully. Another highlight is a wonderfully intense pairing of two Stephen Sondheim tunes, Passion's "Loving You" and Merrily We Roll Along's "Not a Day Goes By." Equally striking is a combination of Christine Lavin's "Regretting What I Said" with a tune from Sondheim's Assassins, "The Gun Song." Mars also offers a handful of comic tunes: "Amor," "Humphrey Bogart," "His Rocking Horse Ran Away," and Scott Warrender's "Spirograph." Listen to the way Mars's voice soars on this tune about a woman who longs only for that childhood toy, a spirograph. Mars also includes a version of everyone's favorite Baker's Wife tune, "Meadowlark." If her "bird song" isn't as riveting as those previously offered by Patti LuPone or Betty Buckley, Take Me to the World is still a welcome addition to your CD collection.


PEISHA McPHEE
On Peisha McPhee's debut album, the singer presents a song cycle (of mostly American standards) that was strung together by her musical director and pianist Mel Dangcil. In the CD's notes Dangcil explains, "The plot [is] simple: Lonely woman remembers happy childhood. Lonely woman falls in love. Love transforms woman who regains happiness." McPhee's recording, "Out of the Blue," begins with Rodgers and Hart's "Little Girl Blue" and features such other classics as "Ill Wind," "The Man I Love," "More Than You Know," "Isn't it Romantic?," 'All of You," "Our Love Is Here To Stay" and "I'm Flying." At times, McPhee's voice is a bit too dark and classically trained for my taste, but she does bring passion to many of the songs, especially Harold Arlen's "Ill Wind." Miss Saigon's "Sun and Moon" also receives a nice treatment, and I most enjoyed her a capella rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "Isn't It Romantic," which finds the performer singing different harmonies with herself.

REMINDERS: BETTY BUCKLEY
BB concert line-up:
Jan. 14, 1999 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA
Jan. 16 at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
Feb. 6 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
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.


Buckley will also be honored with a "Life in the Theatre" Award by T. Schreiber Studios on Monday, Jan. 25 at the Players Club (16 Gramercy Park South). Buckley will not perform that evening as originally announced; instead, video footage from the upcoming BB documentary will be presented. Producer Roger Berlind will also be honored, and Edward Norton will serve as the evening's chairperson. Call (212) 741-0209 for tickets ($250)

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone will bring her acclaimed new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," to the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia Jan. 11 and 13, 1999. The new act, which premiered this past August in California, was conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, the same man responsible for her Broadway concert, Patti LuPone on Broadway. The new act is an evening of original and contemporary music and boasts an eclectic mix of songwriters, including works by Lennon and McCartney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Randy Newman. For ticket info and orders, go to www.tickettek.com.au/Sydney Festival Home Page or www.sydneyfestival.org.au. Trivia buffs will recall that Patti has performed in Australia on one other occasion when she received critical acclaim in the Australian production of Evita in the early eighties.


After her Sydney engagement, LuPone will bring the new act to the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, California on Jan. 29 and 30, 1999. Call the McCallum's box office at (760) 340-2787 for tickets. And, on March 5, 6, and 7 she will appear with the Baltimore Symphony in Baltimore. Tickets went on sale Jan. 4; call (410) 783-8000.

Also, 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 will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.

KAREN MASON
Mason in concert:
Jan. 2-11, 1999 "Broadway in Concert" in Sweden with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (performing with Greg Edelman, Stephen Bogardus, Debbie Gravitte and Kim Crosby)
March 12, 1999 at the Tilles Hall at Long Island University in Brookville, N.Y. 8pm concert is sold out. Tickets for 10 PM performance are $25. Call (516) 299-3100

MAUREEN MCGOVERN
McGovern in concert:
Feb. 4, 1999 at Carnegie Hall (a tribute to Alan & Marilyn Bergman)
Feb. 5 and 6 at Lincoln Center (a tribute to Harold Arlen)
Feb. 20 with the Louisville Symphony in Louisville, KY

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.