DIVA TALK: Playing It Cool With Lea DeLaria and More

News   DIVA TALK: Playing It Cool With Lea DeLaria and More In the past few years, Lea DeLaria has moved from one critically acclaimed role to another, hitting the mark in three revivals: the Public Theater’s production of On the Town, for which she received an Obie Award as well as a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination; the Encores! version of Li’l Abner in a role originally written for a man; and the current revival of The Rocky Horror Show at Circle in the Square, where she plays both Eddie and Dr. Scott. The often raucous stand-up-comic-turned-Broadway-star has just released her first solo CD, Play It Cool (now available on the Warner Bros. label), an extremely enjoyable collection of Broadway favorites with a jazz twist. I recently had the chance to chat with the talented performer, and this brief Q&A follows.

In the past few years, Lea DeLaria has moved from one critically acclaimed role to another, hitting the mark in three revivals: the Public Theater’s production of On the Town, for which she received an Obie Award as well as a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination; the Encores! version of Li’l Abner in a role originally written for a man; and the current revival of The Rocky Horror Show at Circle in the Square, where she plays both Eddie and Dr. Scott. The often raucous stand-up-comic-turned-Broadway-star has just released her first solo CD, Play It Cool (now available on the Warner Bros. label), an extremely enjoyable collection of Broadway favorites with a jazz twist. I recently had the chance to chat with the talented performer, and this brief Q&A follows.

Q I have to admit that I’m not a huge jazz fan, but I’ve really been enjoying your new CD. Can you tell me how it came about?
Lea DeLaria If you’re not a big fan of jazz . . . I don’t know why I’m even talking to you! . . . I performed at a Sondheim jazz event at UCLA early last year. We did it again last week at Carnegie Hall. Warner Brother execs were present, and the Reader’s Digest version: they offered me a record deal.
QI think my favorite track from the CD is “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.” How did you go about choosing the songs, and do you have a favorite track?
LD My favorite is “Cool” because it is exactly what jazz is about. We had no arrangement, we merely followed form and created. We chose tunes that would live by themselves, out of context, and would lend themselves to the idiom. We also wanted more modern songs, say, the last 20 years, until we realized that we needed some well-known pieces for the audience.
Q This is the second time you’ve been on Broadway in a major revival. What are some of the differences?
LD Well, the major difference is, I get to share a dressing room with Alice Ripley who, besides being immensely talented, is a terrible tease. I am also on stage much less, playing two men, and, oh yes!, this show is a hit! It feels good to be in a musical that is running!
Q Since this column is called “Diva Talk,” what’s your definition of a diva, and do you consider yourself one?
LD Although I sometimes feel like I am more of a divO, a diva to me is a woman who not only knows where downstage center is, she is fully aware of what it takes to get there. (It’s not as easy as it sounds!) While she’s there, the entire audience wants her to stay in that spotlight forever.
Q You share a dressing room with one of my favorite Broadway performers, Alice Ripley, and this is the second show you’ve worked on together. Do you enjoy working with her?
LD Alice in my dressing room again! I wonder if all of Broadway is buzzing about us? I adore Alice; she is so talented. I would love to do the musical version of anything with her. There is no bigger or better star on Broad . . . wait a minute? . . . Alice Ripley? . . . I thought I shared a dressing room with Emily Skinner.
Q Okay, final question. What would you like to see happen for Lea DeLaria in the year to come? LD Let’s see . . . a Tony nomination, a second record, work with Sondheim, . . . world peace. . .

DIVA NEWS

The McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA, will spotlight two Broadway heavyweights next year. Kristin Chenoweth will perform there on January 11, 2002, and Betty Buckley will follow on March 30, 2002. Jazz singer Diana Krall will also sing in concert at the McCallum on Dec. 13, 2001. . . Speaking of Buckley, the Tony-winning Cats star will be a part of the “American Songwriters Series” at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 19 . . . Original Renter Daphne Rubin-Vega will perform songs from her latest CD at The Cutting Room on July 16. Rubin-Vega, who currently stars on Broadway in the acclaimed revival of The Rocky Horror Show, will perform many tunes she penned herself at The Cutting Room, which is located at 19 West 24th Street, between 6th Ave. and Broadway. Show time is 8:30pm, and tickets are $10 . . . A host of fabulous gals will perform at Hartford Stage this season, including Elizabeth Ashley (in The Glass Menagerie), Jean Stapleton (in the world premiere of The Carpetbagger’s Children), Kathleen Chalfant (in two Tennessee Williams one-acts) and Kate Mulgrew (in Tea at Five). The famed Connecticut theatre will also premiere Eve (The Vagina Monologues) Ensler’s new play, Necessary Targets, as well as a new work about the life of Rita Hayworth, entitled Diosa . . . Cabaret’s Barbara Fasano will return to New York’s FireBird Cafe (West 46th Street) on Fridays, August 24 and 31 at 9 PM. Fasano will also make her Algonquin debut on Monday, Oct. 22, when she plays the legendary hotel’s Oak Room . . . Rrazz Productions will present two Broadway divas this August at San Francisco’s Alcazar Theatre. From Aug. 15 through Aug. 19, that “singular sensation,” Donna McKechnie, will perform her one-woman career retrospective, Inside the Music, and from August 22 through Aug. 26, TV and stage star Bea Arthur will appear in her new show, ...And Then There’s Bea.. Tickets may be purchased by calling (415) 441-4042 . . . The one-and-only Barbara Cook returns to London for four weeks (July 18 through Aug. 11) at the Lyric Theatre, where she will perform her evening of Sondheim tunes; Wally Harper will accompany her on piano . . . Rita Harvey, who made her Broadway debut performing the role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera will go solo at Judy’s Chelsea on Sundays, July 15, 22 and 29 and Wednesday, July 25. Harvey will sing the works of Rodgers, Sondheim, Weill, Porter, Yeston, Maltby, Shire, Flaherty and Ahrens, and there is a $15 cover and a $10 minimum. Judy’s Chelsea is located at 169 8th Avenue, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 929-5410.

FOR THE RECORD On Monday, April 2, 2001, a host of Broadway favorites gathered at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Morris Haft Theatre to perform a one-night-only benefit concert of Bill Russell and Janet Hood’s Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens, a musical inspired by the unveiling of the Names Project Quilt in 1987. Alice Ripley, who starred in Russell’s Side Show, began the evening with a belty, heartfelt version of “Angels, Punks and Raging Queens,” one of the evening’s many highlights. Other high points included Brian d’Arcy James, in fine voice, who sang “And the Rain Keeps Falling Down”; Ripley and her Side Show co-star, Emily Skinner, who had some fun with the uplifting “Celebrate,” which found the two trying to outsing one another; Kane Alexander, Robert Gallagher, Kathy Brier and Marie Danvers, whose voices blended well on the touching tune, “Heroes All Around”; Skinner, again, who delivered a beautiful rendition of the show’s most powerful ballad, “My Brother Lived in San Francisco,” in which a woman remembers the brother she loved, a young man who found his heart and soul when he moved to San Francisco; and Norm Lewis, who applied his creamy tones to the show’s final song, “Learning to Let Go,” in which he was joined by the entire company. The CD concludes with six often-touching monologues delivered by the likes of Veanne Cox, Erin Torpey, Bryan Batt, Mario Cantone, Steve Burns and Christopher Durang. “Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens” is now available directly from fynsworthalley.com.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

Richard Dyer’s review of Judy Kaye’s recent concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall (from the Boston Globe):
“[Kaye] hasn't been in Symphony Hall in a decade, and we've missed her. She's still got style, presence, class, devastating diction, fascinating rhythm, fabulous technique, and incomparable pipes -- she can growl down low and blast away in the middle voice, but she can also soar up to high notes many an aging diva would like to borrow for the evening. She gave superb performances of ‘Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,’ ‘My Secret Love,’ and an amusing tango-ballad from Magdalena, the only Broadway show by the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Stephen Sondheim's ‘I Never Do Anything Twice’ may be a little outre for the Pops' family ambience, but Kaye, deftly accompanied at the Baldwin by Haile, realized that the only way to get away with this outrageous song is to sing it tastefully. She closed with a masterpiece of imaginative, dramatic singing, ‘Losing My Mind’ from Follies and tore our hearts out."

Another Judy Kaye concert review from Boston Herald (by Robert Nesti):
“The Broadway songs were performed by Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, who showed her range in a selection of six songs. The redheaded singer is one of those rare theater artists equally at home on Broadway and in opera. She has sung Musetta in La Boheme and Rizzo in Grease, no doubt equally well. Her soprano has deepened some with age, but she still can belt with power equal to Ethel Merman, as she exhibited with a swinging version of Irving Berlin's ‘The Hostess With The Mostess,’ a song that Merman made famous. She showed her deft comedic skills with Stephen Sondheim's deliciously risque ‘I Never Do Anything Twice,’ and her dramatic power with ‘Losing My Mind,’ another Sondheim classic that was perfectly suited to the darker shades of her voice.”

REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY

That Tony-winning dynamo, Betty Buckley, has just released a new slate of concert performances, which follows:
July 27 and 28 at the Bottom Line in New York, NY
July 29 at the Provincetown Town Hall in Provincetown, MA (Fund raiser for Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater)
August 25 at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH
September 19 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall (American Songwriters Series) in New York, NY
September 29 at Centre East in Skokie, IL
October 6 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
November 10 at the Naperville North Central College Performing Arts Center in Naperville, IL (with Michael Feinstein)
November 14-18 at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret in Uncasville, CT
November 24 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
December 6 at Abravenal Hall with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, UT (Xmas program)
December 7 at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan, UT
December 27 at the Verizon Regional Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (with Michael Feinstein)
January 4 & 5, 2002 at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, CT
March 15 & 16, 2002 with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC
March 30 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA LINDA EDER

Eder in concert:
Sept. 14 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA, (215) 893-1999
Sept. 29 at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre at West Point, (845) 938-4159
Oct. 19 and 20 at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, go to www.atlantasymphony.org
Nov. 3 at the Youngstown Symphony Center in Youngstown, OH, (330) 744-4269
Nov. 16 and 17 at Jacobs Symphony Hall in Jacksonville, FL, (877) 662-6731
Dec. 5 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, (973) 376-4343
Dec. 11 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA, (617) 266-1492
Dec. 14 and 15 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, (800) 444-1324

PATTI LuPONE

The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:
July 19-21 in Sweeney Todd at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA
August 3-4 at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles, CA (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
August 24 in Sweeney Todd at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
August 27 in “Matters of the Heart at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
September 15 at the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia (“Matters of the Heart”)
September 20-23 at Bass Hall with the Ft. Worth Symphony in Ft. Worth, Texas (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
October 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Matters of the Heart”)
November 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts (“Matters of the Heart”)
February 9, 2002 at the Tilles Center with the Long Island Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 22-23, 2002 at the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)

February 28 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY (“Coulda Woulda Shoulda”)

 

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

--By Andrew Gans