DIVA TALK: Purely Patti, Plus Ah-Reba, Ah-Reba

News   DIVA TALK: Purely Patti, Plus Ah-Reba, Ah-Reba PATTI LuPONE
Our Tony-winning Evita gal, Patti LuPone, has been very busy lately. While performing her Matters of the Heart concert act at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater — to rave reviews, mind you — La LuPone filmed a role opposite Robert De Niro in the new Michael Caton-Jones film, City By the Sea, in which she plays De Niro’s ex-wife. In January she filmed an episode of “Touched By An Angel,” which just aired this past Sunday night, and she is currently starring in a new TNT movie, Monday Night Mayhem, with John Turturro. Turturro portrays the late Howard Cosell in this TV-film, which tells the story of the creation of ABC’s Monday Night Football, and LuPone stars as Cosell’s wife. And, earlier in the fall LuPone filmed a role in David Mamet’s Heist opposite Gene Hackman . . . For those of you who can’t wait for these screen appearances, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:

PATTI LuPONE
Our Tony-winning Evita gal, Patti LuPone, has been very busy lately. While performing her Matters of the Heart concert act at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater — to rave reviews, mind you — La LuPone filmed a role opposite Robert De Niro in the new Michael Caton-Jones film, City By the Sea, in which she plays De Niro’s ex-wife. In January she filmed an episode of “Touched By An Angel,” which just aired this past Sunday night, and she is currently starring in a new TNT movie, Monday Night Mayhem, with John Turturro. Turturro portrays the late Howard Cosell in this TV-film, which tells the story of the creation of ABC’s Monday Night Football, and LuPone stars as Cosell’s wife. And, earlier in the fall LuPone filmed a role in David Mamet’s Heist opposite Gene Hackman . . . For those of you who can’t wait for these screen appearances, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:


March 20 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (“Matters of the Heart”)
April 8 at Duke University (“Matters of the Heart”)
May 11 at the Fox Theatre in Stockton, CA (“Matters of the Heart”)
May 26 with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra at Brown University (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
May 31 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. With the National Symphony (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
July 7 at the Performing Arts Center in Westhampton Beach, NY (“Matters of the Heart”)
August 3-4 at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles, CA (Gershwin salute)
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”)
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 Kleinhaus Hall in Buffalo, NY with the NY Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)


*LuPone also took part in a recent discussion with Thomas Cott at Lincoln Center as part of their Platform series. The transcript from this informal chat can be purchased by sending $3.00 to LCT Platform Series, 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY 10023. Be sure to ask for Platform #19. A few of LuPone’s choice quotes follow:


Q: You’ve been fine-tuning Matters of the Heart all around the world. . .Has the show changed a lot, and has playing it in different places changed the way the show is?
LuPone: That’s a great question. I thank God that I actually trained as an actor, because you have got to be able to adapt to the space you’re playing. With The Acting Company, we found ourselves in very small stages with 90 people in the audience, doing a Restoration piece or a Shakespearean piece. And then the next night, we would be in an auditorium that had 2000 seats. How do you go from ninety seats to 2000 seats and turn in the same performance, without compromising the play? It took a lot of practice. It got to the point with The Acting Company -- because our schedules were so hideous -- that we would get to the theater, throw up because we were all carsick, go on the stage, snap our fingers to figure out the acoustics, get dressed and do the show, and be able to adapt to the space by just recognizing the size, projecting our voices, understanding the space onstage and how far it would be that night in relation to how close it was the previous night. That’s invaluable experience. . .


about performing with/without microphones:
“. . .I wanted to do [Oliver!] without mikes! When we did the benefit concert of Annie Get Your Gun here, that’s another show where they knew how to orchestrate and arrange music to support a voice. Mind you, we only have four strings and a piano for Matters of the Heart. But if you have a full orchestra -- and the minute they put electronics in the pit, the singers have to be miked. The minute they came out with synthesizers that could cover the entire violin section with one player, the actors had to be miked. Hardly anybody even knows how to orchestrate the way they did back in the ‘30s, where it was mostly strings and woodwinds which supported the voice. I mean, Ethel Merman’s voice on top of those orchestrations . . . We heard it, when we heard the original orchestrations for Annie Get Your Gun that we did. They don’t orchestrate that way anymore. But then, they’re not thinking of you. Why am I being miked [during Matters of the Heart]? I am singing two hours. It is a difficult theater. I have often finished a show without a mike on. I just say, ‘turn the mike off. I want to sing. I want to hear my voice.’ And my voice does sound better unmiked, because it is a big voice. When you play those little theaters, and you have something for the voice to bounce off of, so that you can hear yourself, it’s great. But I’m not going to hurt myself. Here, a sound will disappear and you don’t know where it goes in this theater. It’s hard to focus the sound . . .” REBA McENTIRE
What a brilliant idea to cast a country singer as a country bumpkin turned-sharpshooting-star in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. Currently at the Marquis Theatre, country star Reba McEntire heads the cast of the Tony-winning musical revival, and she is a perfect fit. I caught McEntire’s performance on the invited-press night, and she was charming, funny, in great voice (offering splendid renditions of “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “Moonshine Lullaby” and “Anything You Can Do”) and an overall delight. McEntire seems completely at home on Broadway, and she has the audience on her side from the moment she steps on the stage, shooting a bird off Dolly Tate’s head. She finds comedy in most every moment onstage and has added several comic bits, including a hilarious reaction when she catches a glimpse of her face in the mirror that she uses to shoot a clay pigeon in the first gun competition. She is also paired with a wonderful Frank Butler, now played by Closer Than Ever’s Brent Barrett. Barrett possesses one of the finest male voices on Broadway today, and his self-assurance and swagger produce a near flawless Frank. If you’ve yet to catch Annie, this is a great time to do so.

QUOTABLE QUOTES:
Nell Carter discusses Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All,” a song she may perform during her current run at Feinstein’s at the Regency (from Liz Smith’s column in the Feb. 18 New York Post):
“Some people see it as a rather sad song. You know the lyric, ‘The most I have is just a talent to amuse’? But that’s entertainment; that’s the love of the work. If you ask me if I preferred to live in the lap of luxury, be married or be on stage, I’d have to choose on stage. That’s what the song means to me -- accepting what you do best.”


Marc Peyser reviews (in Newsweek) Judy Davis’s portrayal of Judy Garland in this Sunday’s ABC mini-series “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows”:
“Watch [Davis] do ‘Over the Rainbow’ at one of the famous 1951 Palace Theatre concerts. She may be wearing dark contact lenses and lip-syncing over Garland, but everything else -- the squint in her eye, the pathetic smile, the bruised aura -- comes from somewhere deep inside Davis. She nails Garland so thoroughly it hurts.”


Lorna Luft speaks about her famous mother and the mini-series, which was based on her book (from the same Newsweek article by Peyser):
“When you’re making a film about someone who was bigger than life, you have to be really, really careful. There are certain people who know every gesture, every eyelash blink.”


David Hurst reviews Barbara Cook’s recent Carnegie Hall concert in Show Business Weekly:
“[Cook] proved definitively that she has one of the most extraordinary instruments in the history of musical theater and that she is not afraid to continue to challenge herself as a singer and artist with new repertoire. With her selection of songs in Mostly Sondheim, she can hardly have chosen more difficult material to master at this late stage in her career. It is to her credit that she completely inhabits the pieces, imbuing them with feeling and nuance that confirms that, as a dramatic interpreter of this genre, she is without equal. The results were nothing short of thrilling.”

IN OTHER NEWS One of cabaret’s finest, former Nine star Karen Akers, will return to the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel from April 24 through May 19. The stunning contralto will also release her latest CD at this time; entitled “Feels Like Home,” the new disc will include songs from Akers’ last stint at the Algonquin . . . Australian singer/actress Judi Connelli will perform in concert at New York’s Town Hall on Wednesday, June 6 at 8 PM. About Ms. Connelli, Back Stage’s Roy Sander once wrote, “The hands-down standout of the Cabaret Convention was Judi Connelli, a strong singer and a dramatic performer. Her first song brought the house down; her second stopped the show.” Connelli’s concert will benefit the Mabel Mercer Foundation, and tickets will range from $25-$40. Stay tuned for information on how to purchase tickets . . . Speaking of strong, dramatic singers, Baby Jane Dexter will return to the FireBird Cafe for three weekends in March (March 9-24) with her acclaimed show, Making Every Moment Count. Dexter’s show will include songs by Leiber and Stoller, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Boudleaux Bryant, Abbey Lincoln and Rodgers and Hart. Writing in The New York Times, Stephen Holden had this to say about Ms. Dexter: “[She] may be the most talented singer within a time honored genre of cabaret performers ... Blunt, openhearted and blues tinged, Ms. Dexter doesn’t read songs phrase by phrase for their literary nuances. She locates their emotional centers and stays there.” There is a $30 music charge and a $15 food/drink minimum, and the FireBird is located at 363 West 46th Street; call (212) 586-0244 for reservations . . . Singer/musical-theatre comedienne Klea Blackhurst pays tribute to the late, great Ethel Merman in her new cabaret act, Everything the Traffic Will Allow: The Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman. About the one-and-only Merman, Blackhurst recently had this to say: “[Her] surprisingly tender Porter and Berlin ballads took root in me along with the rapid-fire belt that immortalized her. This evening of songs that Ethel Merman introduced on Broadway is a long overdue tribute to the voice that made me fall in love with singing in the first place.” Merman fans and theatre aficionados will be happy to learn that Blackhurst will perform “World, Take Me Back,” a song written for Merman, which was cut from Hello, Dolly! when she chose not to do the original run of the show (when Merman finally agreed to portray Dolly Levi late in the show’s run, Jerry Herman reinstated the song). Blackhurst will perform her new show on March 5, 12, 19, 26 and 31 at Danny’s Skylight Room (356 W. 46th Street); call (212) 265-8133 for reservations (there is a $15 cover and a $10 food/drink minimum) . . . This year’s Nothing Like a Dame concert to benefit The Actors’ Fund of America’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative promises to be another thrilling evening. Those 2001 Dames lined up to participate include Lauren Bacall, Polly Bergen, Pat Birch, Zoe Caldwell, Lea DeLaria, Sandy Duncan, Tovah Feldshuh, Lauren Flanigan, Amanda Green, Celeste Holm, Dee Hoty, Anne Jackson, Joan Kwuon, Marin Mazzie, Sally Mayes, Bebe Neuwirth, Phyllis Newman, Christine Pedi, Lynn Redgrave, Marla Schaffel, Karen Ziemba plus The Radio City Rockettes, Jacques d’Amboise’s National Dance Institute and female cast members from virtually every Broadway show. The event will take place on Monday, March 12 at 8 PM at the Martin Beck Theatre. Tickets range from $40 to $1,000 and may be purchased by calling The Actors’ Fund of America at (212) 221-7300, ext. 129 . . . And, finally, congratulations to Audra McDonald and her husband on the birth of their new daughter, Zoe Madeline Donovan. Perhaps another diva was just born!

REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY
Following is Buckley’s most recent, ever-growing concert schedule:
March 3 Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
March 11-12 at the Geary Theater in San Francisco, CA
March 16-17 at the Bottom Line in New York, NY
April 1 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA
April 16 The Betty Lynn Buckley Awards at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
April 18 “Spirit of Imagination” Awards in Fort Worth, TX
May 12 College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
May 24 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, MA
June 17 at the Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA
August 25 at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH
October 6 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
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)

BARBARA COOK
Feb. 23 and 24 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA (with Michael Feinstein)
April 21 in Palm Desert, CA
July 9 at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
Feb. 23 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
Feb. 24 at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ; (973) 539-8008
March 8 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd Hall; (727) 791-7400
March 9 in Sarasota, FL at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; www.vanwezel.org
March 10 in Melbourne, FL at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts; (407) 242-2219
March 17 at the Thomasville Cultural Center in Thomasville, GA (912 226-0588)
March 22 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA
April 29 at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA (978-232 7200)

May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392 4900

KAREN MASON
What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
March 17 Appearance at 92nd Street Y with Craig Carnelia in New York, NY
May 9-20 at Davenports cabaret in Chicago, IL

BERNADETTE PETERS
The two-time Tony winner, who recently concluded her run in Annie Get Your Gun, is now on a U.S. concert tour:
March 29 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY
April 6 at the Bass Perf. Hall in Fort Worth, TX (with symphony)
April 7-8 at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX
April 19 at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (with symphony)
April 28 at the Pasquerilla PAC in Johnstown, PA
May 11-12 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN (with symphony)
May 18-20 at the Myerson Hall in Dallas, TX (with symphony)

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

By Andrew Gans