NANCY LaMOTT: A REMEMBRANCE
It's hard to believe, but Dec. 13 marked four years since Nancy LaMott lost her battle with cancer, just hours after she married actor Peter Zapp on her deathbed. LaMott was blessed with one of, if not the, most beautiful voices in the cabaret world, a rich, lush, honey-toned sound that could be soft, sweet and creamy one minute and big and belty the next. She also possessed a remarkable ability to find the emotional center of any song, bringing a lyric to life as honestly as possible. I really can't say enough about the genius of her singing: Listen to the way she embodies Stephen Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" (in a thrilling medley with "Good Thing Going") on her "My Foolish Heart" CD. As she reaches the climax of the song, fully belting "Not a blessed day," she quickly changes into a softer head tone on the word "day," and the effect is beguiling. In fact, LaMott always played her voice like an instrument; however, she didn't engage in vocal pyrotechnics -- she simply delivered a song in the most heartfelt fashion.
I was recently reminded of LaMott's superior interpretative skills when a friend sent me a copy of one of her final radio appearances, performing the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, "The Waters of March." As a sometimes singer myself, I know a performer is remarkable when I leave a performance yearning to sing many of the songs I've just heard. And that was always the case with Nancy: whether it was a standard by Johnny Mercer, a romantic ballad by the Bergmans or a tune written especially for her by David Friedman. So, it should have been no surprise to me how flawless her rendition of "The Waters of March" was. I've heard this song - "a stick, a stone, it's the end of the road..." -- innumerable times with many splendid renditions, but never has it sounded so effortless and beautiful. And, yes, I went to Colony Records soon after and bought a tome of Jobim songs.
It was, unfortunately, a very disappointing year for LaMott fans when Midder Music announced -- because of a legal battle with LaMott's family - that it was being forced to close its doors and would be unable to issue any new CDs (from previously unreleased tracks) and would cease its pressing of the six existing CDs ("Beautiful Baby," "Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer," "My Foolish Heart," "Just in Time for Christmas," "Listen to My Heart," "What's Good About Goodbye?"). So, if your collection is incomplete, I would urge you this holiday season to track down whatever recordings are left in stores. And, let's hope someday LaMott's many unreleased tracks will find their way to the record stores.
Have plans for New Year's Day? Betty Buckley will return to the famed Cafe Carlyle on the evening of Jan. 1, 2000, where she will welcome the new millennium with two shows. The 100-seat room, long the home of such other stellar performers as Barbara Cook and Bobby Short, offers a rare chance to see Buckley in such an intimate atmosphere.
Show times are 8:45 PM and 10:45 PM, and there is a $60 music charge, no minimum. The cabaret room of the Carlyle Hotel is located at 35 East 76th Street; for reservations, call the Carlyle at (212) 744-1600. Be sure to make your reservations now. Seating is limited.
DIVAS AT JOE'S PUB
Faith Prince will return to the intimate stage of Joe's Pub on January 7 and 8, performing her acclaimed concert, Leap of Faith. The evenings will be recorded live by DRG Records for future release. There is a $30 cover charge, and the performances begin at 8:30 PM . . . On January 17, 24 and 31, Randy Graff, Debbie Gravitte and Lillias White will star in an evening of theatre and pop songs by Tony winning City of Angels lyricist David Zippel. Shows begin at 8:30 PM, and there is a $25 music charge. Joe's Pub is located inside the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets may be purchased at the theatre's box office or through Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. For more information, call the Pub at (212) 539-8777.
I was recently sent a wonderful article entitled "The New Divas of Broadway" that ran in last month's issue of America West Magazine. Written by Michael J. Bandler, the article focused on five of Broadway's favorite gals, Ann Hampton Callaway, Kristin Chenoweth, Ruthie Henshall, Marin Mazzie and Audra McDonald. I thought you would enjoy reading a quote from each of these talented women:
Ann Hampton Callaway, currently starring on B'way in Swing, discusses choosing songs for a concert act:
"I want every song to be something I can't wait to sing, something I feel strongly about that reflects who I am or what I love. One day, something may change in me and I suddenly need to sing 'Old Devil Moon.' Sometimes I hear something new in a song I cast aside as cliche, and feel I have a right to sing it because I understand it in a way I never did before."
Kristin Chenoweth, recently on B'way in Epic Proportions, discusses her first theatre audition for a regional theatre in N.J.:
"[I thought], 'You know, for fun, I'd like to see what it's like, how I'd do here.' I thought, 'What am I doing? I'm supposed to train to become an opera singer.' But I'd done dance, ballet and tap my whole life, and always knew, somehow, that I wanted to be on Broadway. So I decided, 'You know what? I'm going to go for it.'"
Ruthie Henshall, now on B'way in Putting It Together, discusses her current show:
"I knew it was the right thing to do -- I didn't even look at the list of songs I'd be performing. I trusted my gut. To be able to learn from people like Carol Burnett -- there's no tuition that can pay for something like that."
Marin Mazzie, currently on B'way in Kiss Me, Kate, discusses her role in Kate:
"What appealed to me this time is the comic element -- something I haven't been able to show. I've done these turn-of-the-century women, Victorians, who were definitely ahead of their time, but still confined by it. Lilli is also confined by her time, certainly -- the late 1940's -- but there is some progress that has been made in the world of females and feminism."
Audra McDonald, now on the Vivian Beaumont stage in Marie Christine, discusses the music on her "Way Back to Paradise" CD:
"These are [composers] I believe in. This is music that I love, talent that I adore. Why not help bring them more to the forefront? And hey -- there's something selfish attached to it, too. I want to do new musicals. I want new and exciting projects out there for me and for everyone else. So it's an investment in my future as well as theirs, as well as the future of musical theater."
IN OTHER NEWS Rumor has it that Judy Kuhn, one of this column's favorite ladies, will return to the West End this fall, starring as Josephine in a new musical about the life of Napoleon . . . There is also word that Caroline O'Connor, who starred in the Australian production of Chicago, will star there in a production of Piaf beginning May 13 at the Playhouse Theatre. This will be the same version of the Pam Gems musical that Elaine Paige performed a few seasons ago in the West End . . . Add the following two dates to Linda Eder's ever-growing concert list. The former Jekyll & Hyde star will perform at Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady, NY on January 22 (call 518-346-6204), and she will take to the stage of Carnegie Hall on February 2 (212-247-7800) . . . Speaking of former J&H stars: On her new CD recorded live at the West Bank Cafe, singer/actress Christiane Noll lends her vocal talents to a host of jazz-flavored tunes. Entitled "Christiane Noll: An Evening of Jazz with David Budway," the Car-Jam Records release features Noll singing such tunes as "All Is Right with the World," "Old Devil Moon," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "Oh Lady Be Good," "Amazing Grace" and several others . . . Liza Minnelli received a rave review from Vincent Canby in this past Sunday's New York Times. About her current show at the Palace, Minnelli on Minnelli, Canby had this to say: "Not since my stereo went to sleep and my old LPs were stored too long on a radiator have I so enjoyed two hours of looking backward . . . most important, the voice can still make bold men weep . . .The night's climax is telegraphed early on, and it works anyway: Liza, live at the Palace in December 1999, singing a duet of "The Trolley Song" with her mother's voice from the soundtrack of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, directed by her father). When you have roots like that, you don't stay at home, hiding them under a wig. You go to the Palace and sing your heart out." And, Minnelli announced on ABC's "The View" that she will be taking her current show around the country and the world. . .
A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
February 5, 2000 Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
February 6 Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
February 8-9 Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
February 11 Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
February 12 Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
February 14 Keith Albec Theatre in Huntington, WV
February 15-17 The Iridium Room is New York, NY (guest of Kenny Werner)
March 18 Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19 Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
August 29 Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Here is Cook's upcoming concert schedule:
December 31 at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA; call (215) 893 1956 or (215) 893-1999
January 27-30 at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA (with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony); call (412) 392-4900
From February 1 through February 14, our Evita gal will perform on the stage of the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; February 18 will bring her to the Phil. Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida, and on February 19, LuPone will take to the stage of the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida . . .Tickets are also now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500 . . .
Already announced McGovern concert dates:
December 30 - 31 "New Year's Eve Millennium Gala" with the Detroit Symphony at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI
Jan. 22 "Sondheim & Jazz: Side by Side" at the UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA
Jan. 23 at the Mentor Performing Arts Center in Mentor, OH
Feb. 11 & 12 "Valentine Pops" with the Baton Rouge Symphony at the Centroplex Theatre for Performing Arts in Baton Rouge, LA
Feb 18 & 19 at the La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts in La Mirada, CA
March 5 & 6, 19 & 20 with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA
March 17 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern featuring pianist Lee Musiker" at Purchase College-SUNY in Purchase, NY
March 24 & 25 "An Evening with Maureen McGovern" with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK
What follows are some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
January 21 and 22, 2000 with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah
Well, that's all for now. Happy holidays, and happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at