DIVA TALK: Raves for Betty; The Bernadette Craze

DIVA TALK: Raves for Betty; The Bernadette Craze Hello, diva lovers. Following are a few treats for this Halloween weekend. . .

BETTY BUCKLEY
More raves continue to pour in for Buckley's tremendous performance in the new musical comedy, Triumph of Love, at the Royale Theatre. Here are a few more excerpts:

Hello, diva lovers. Following are a few treats for this Halloween weekend. . .

BETTY BUCKLEY
More raves continue to pour in for Buckley's tremendous performance in the new musical comedy, Triumph of Love, at the Royale Theatre. Here are a few more excerpts:

Greg Evans in Variety
". . . More surprisingly, the broad comedy seamlessly (and quite effectively) gives way to moments of real poignancy as the aging brother and sister (impeccably played by Abraham and Buckley) open their long closed hearts to the dangers of love.
A primly coifed and bespectacled Buckley gives full voice to her character's vulnerability in the soaring number ''Serenity,'' a lovely song that should become part of the singer's concert repertoire. Showcasing not
only the performer's incomparable pipes, the song displays Birkenhead's
disarming way with a lyric, clever and amusing rhymes gracefully presented.
'Serenity' is one of several high points. . . a fast-moving second act quickly hits its stride with a Sondheim-esque duet between Abraham and Buckley ('The Tree'), never letting go through Egan's big solo ('What Have I Done?'), the servants' vaudeville song-and-dance ('Henchmen are Forgotten') and a final line of dialogue, expertly delivered by Buckley, that earns its laugh without sacrificing the pathos of an ending that remembers love's losers.
While Abraham doesn't have the vocal strength of his co-stars, he
nonetheless commands the stage with a finely textured performance. Both he and, especially, Buckley, the most distinctive voice on Broadway, melt
almost imperceptibly from dour to heartbreaking. . ."

Sidney Weinberg in Time Out:
"Betty Buckley, as his sister, Hesione, is wonderfully witty, and her clear, thrilling voice brings a levity to music that, though tuneful, sometimes loses its punch."

Also, Ms. B was the subject of an interview in this Tuesday's New York Post. Writer/critic Chip Deffaa interviewed the Triumph star just before her official opening last week. Following are some of BB's comments:

about her advice to her co-stars in Triumph to enjoy opening night:
"You've got to chill. A Broadway opening is the most divine thing that can happen on this planet--a moment to be treasured. Let go and have this moment for yourself, or you'll miss it. And the Broadway openings any one of us can have are relatively few. They're numbered."

about teaching aspiring performers and the need for commitment:
"[The students] want success based on what they come into the world with: looks, charm, some talent. But if you have talent, you have to give energy to it, you have to hone it. Excellence is achieved through commitment and hard work." And, of course, you can catch Buckley, Abraham and Egan nightly at the Royale Theatre in Triumph of Love by calling 212-239-6200 or 1-800 432-7250. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the box office of the Royale.

CINDERELLA
I attended a screening of the Walt Disney production of Cinderella this past Monday night, a star-studded premiere that included many cast members from this new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Those in attendance included Whitney Houston, Brandy, Veanne Cox, Victor Garber, Paolo Montalban and one of our favorite gals, Bernadette Peters. After a brief introduction of cast and staff members, the invited audience was treated to a sneak preview of this star-studded production. Perhaps the most expensive movie ever filmed for television, the lavish production is a feast for the eyes, with colorful sets, glorious costumes and a superb cast. It's an exciting experience to watch this multi-talented interracial cast join forces to create a movie that is a treat for all ages. There were many children in the audience, and it was a thrill to watch them experience this story for the first time--their eyes were glued as a stunning Whitney Houston turned the down-trodden Cinderella (Brandy) into a beautiful princess for the ball.
Highlights of this Cinderella include Brandy's silky tones on "In My Own Little Room"; a belty duet of "Impossible" between Houston and Brandy; the comic interplay between Peters and her two not-too-beautiful daughters (watch Peters' facial expressions as she gives tips to her cosmetically-challenged kids); and Peters' emotionally-charged reading of "Falling in Love with Love." Also noteworthy is the impressive film debut of Paolo Montalban, who brings a strong voice and a charismatic presence to his role of the Prince.
Be sure to set your VCRs for November 2 on ABC (7-9pm ET)...

BERNADETTE PETERS
It seems that the "Songs of Bernadette" are everywhere this fall. In addition to her starring role in the aforementioned production of Cinderella, BP will fly to California this weekend to take part in a tribute to Quincy Jones that is being taped at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Peters will perform a song in Jones's honor, and the tribute will air nationally in November on ABC (date to be announced). Entitled Quincy Jones--The First 50 Years, the two-hour program will honor this renowned composer, arranger and producer and will feature performances by Ashford and Simpson, Patti Austin, Gloria Estefan, Savion Glover, Lesley Gore, James Ingram, Chaka Khan, Little Richard, Smokey Robinson, Tap Dogs, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder and many others. The entertainment spectacular will benefit the United Negro College Fund.

Peters is also the subject of an interview in this week's issue of In Theatre. In "Busy, Busy Bernadette," Peters speaks with writer Michael Glitz about her many appearances--on TV, stage and the silver screen--in the next few months. Following are some of the curly-locked one's choice quotes:

about the impending Into the Woods reunion concert:
"What's great about returning to something is that you know it so well. You can take leeway with it because you have the freedom that comes with knowledge. You can know where to go and where to take beats; where to change it and where not."

about working in many different arenas:
"I love doing concerts. I can choose what I want to sing, and I'd rather do that than a musical that isn't interesting to me. . . I like doing the project where the work is the best. It can be on film, it can be on stage, it can be on television. When you are able to pick and choose, you don't get bored."

For those of you who have never witnessed a live Peters performance, you may get the chance in the near future, as she has several concerts lined up around the country. What follows is BP's itinerary through the end of 1997: November 14 and 15: Neil Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu, HI
November 16: Kahilu Theater in Hawaii
November 21 and 22: Tulsa Performing Arts Center in Tulsa, OK
December 3: Concert with the Seattle Symphony (location to come)
December 5: Concert in Altoona (more info to come)
December 6: Concert at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA

Also, don't forget to mark your calendar for these Peters-related dates!

November 2-Cinderella on ABC-TV with BP as the wicked Stepmother
November 9 - Into the Woods reunion concert at the Broadway Theatre
November 11 - Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas video released
November 21 - Anastasia, the new animated film, hits theatres
November 23- TV movie "What the Deaf Man Heard" airs on CBS
December 14- TV movie "Holiday in Your Heart" airs on ABC

JUDI CONNELLI
It's always a great pleasure to experience a new diva live, especially one as talented as Judi Connelli, a fiftyish singer/actress who made her full length U.S. concert debut last night (Thursday, October 30) at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall. Connelli, who has appeared onstage in her native Australia in such musicals as The Threepenny Opera, Into the Woods and Chicago, is a dramatic singer in the style of Shirley Bassey. Actually, she reminded me of a combination between Bassey and Julie Andrews, with a touch of Betty Buckley thrown into the mix. She possesses a big voice, one that spans the range from deep baritone-like tones to a powerful belt and a soothing soprano. At times she tends to be a bit self indulgent, but anyone who would quibble with her oversized gestures is just an ingrate, for when she digs deeper into the songs she hits an emotional truth that is spellbinding.
In the first half of her two-act show, Connelli, swathed in purple velour, offered a varied set of material, including "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," "The Music That Makes Me Dance," "Where Is It Written?," "Poor Everybody Else" and a lengthy medley of Frank Loesser tunes that included, among others, "I'll Know," "Standing on the Corner," "If I Were a Bell," "My Heart Is So Full of You" and "I've Never Been in Love Before." One of the highlights of this first hour was a wonderful rendition of A Chorus Line's "At the Ballet" in which the singer delivered all three verses of the song to an extremely moving effect. The first-act finale, a medley of Sondheim's "Move On," "Children Will Listen" and "We Do Not Belong Together" became a mini-drama of a woman leaving her husband and children that was similarly powerful.
Connelli's second act was devoted to the songs of the theatre, and she scored with songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein ("Something Wonderful"), Jerry Herman ("I Don't Want to Know") and Leonard Bernstein ("Tonight"). The stand-out segment from this half was a medley of three Sondheim tunes, "Sweeney Todd," "Johanna" and "Last Midnight." "Last Midnight" offered a glimpse of how powerful her performance in Into the Woods must have been, as dynamically sung as it was acted. . . Connelli will return to the stage of the Weill Recital Hall tonight, October 31, for her final performance; call 212-246-7800 more information. She can also be heard on three CDs, the most recent of which is entitled On My Way To You.

REMINDERS:
FLORENCE LACEY continues her world tour of Evita, now starring at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin from October 15 through November 23.
PATTI LuPONE Tickets for The Old Neighborhood, the new David Mamet play that will bring LuPone back to Broadway, are now on sale through Tele-charge (212-239-6200). Previews will begin on November 11 at the Booth Theatre (222 West 45th Street) with an opening night scheduled for November 19.
LILIANE MONTEVECCHI will join forces with another legendary French star, Jean Pierre Cassel, for an exciting evening of cabaret on Saturday, November 8 at 7pm and 9:30 pm. The two performers will be part of the 92nd St. Y's annual "Cabaret in Concert" series, held in the Kaufman Auditorium at 1395 Lexington Avenue. Tickets range from $30 $35 and are available by calling Y-Charge at 212-996-1100.

That's all for now. Happy Halloween, and happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
You can e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com