DIVA TALK: Ripley Rocks The House at Chess, and More

DIVA TALK: Ripley Rocks The House at Chess, and More BETTY BUCKLEY
Peter Stone, the four-time Tony Award-winning librettist of Woman of the Year, The Will Rogers Follies, 1776 and Titanic, is scheduled to receive the Oscar Hammerstein Award at the York Theatre Company's annual gala benefit on Monday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of Saint Peter's Church. Betty Buckley will be one of the many stars on hand to salute him. The award, which was created in 1988, commemorates a lifetime achievement in musical theatre and has been bestowed on Harold Prince, Jerry Herman, Cy Coleman, Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim. Others who will provide entertainment for the evening include Tony Roberts, Lauren Bacall, Dee Hoty, Larry Gatlin, Denny Dillon, Marilyn Cooper and Harry Goz.
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BETTY BUCKLEY
Peter Stone, the four-time Tony Award-winning librettist of Woman of the Year, The Will Rogers Follies, 1776 and Titanic, is scheduled to receive the Oscar Hammerstein Award at the York Theatre Company's annual gala benefit on Monday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of Saint Peter's Church. Betty Buckley will be one of the many stars on hand to salute him. The award, which was created in 1988, commemorates a lifetime achievement in musical theatre and has been bestowed on Harold Prince, Jerry Herman, Cy Coleman, Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim. Others who will provide entertainment for the evening include Tony Roberts, Lauren Bacall, Dee Hoty, Larry Gatlin, Denny Dillon, Marilyn Cooper and Harry Goz.

Buckley first worked with Stone during her debut Broadway musical, 1776, in which she portrayed Martha Jefferson. It's rumored that Buckley will perform "He Plays the Violin," her big number from that show, at the benefit. Tickets range from $100 to $500; for more information call (212) 935-5820.

CHESS
Easily one of the best scores of the 1980s, the pop opera Chess never seemed to find quite the right book or staging, folding quickly when it came to Broadway under Trevor Nunn's direction, despite a cast that boasted Judy Kuhn, Philip Casnoff and the late David Carroll. Perhaps it is best to view this musical in concert form -- where the audience can focus solely on the songs -- something that has been done numerous times overseas in the past decade and also in New York a few years back at Carnegie Hall.

The latest concert staging of the Tim Rice/Bjorn Ulvaeus/Benny Andersson musical was performed at the John Houseman Theatre on May 10 and 17 as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Starring Christiane Noll as Florence, Robert Evan as Anatoly, Alice Ripley as Svetlana, Dave Clemmons as Freddy (Brian d'Arcy James portrayed the American chess champion at the May 10 performance), Danny Zoli as the Arbiter and Michael Cerveris as a narrator, the evening closely followed the original London concept recording (with Elaine Paige, Murray Head, Tommy Korberg and Barbara Dickson), with some rearrangement of the material and the inclusion of "Someone Else's Story" from the Broadway production.

The concert also handed Ripley's Svetlana two of Florence's songs, "Someone Else's Story" and "Heaven Help My Heart." I was quite thankful for this change because Ripley's version of "Someone Else's Story" was the highlight of the concert. Whereas I found Robert Evan's changing of the melody of "Anthem" to detract from his otherwise strong rendition, Ripley's modulations and powerful belt were extremely exciting, and she received the most tumultuous applause of the evening. In fact, everything Ripley sang was thrilling: "Heaven Help My Heart," a segment of "You and I" and "I Know Him So Well." After her Tony-nominated performance in Side Show, where she was paired with the equally wonderful Emily Skinner, Ripley seems poised to become one of the musical theatre's newest stars. Another highlight of the Chess concert was Michael Cerveris's dynamic delivery of "The Story of Chess," here moved from the end of the show to the beginning as it was done on Broadway. Christiane Noll was also in fine voice, delivering a belty "Nobody's Side" and joining Ripley on a full throttle version of "I Know Him So Well." For those of you who have never heard this wonderful score, check out either the original London concept album (featuring Elaine Paige's glorious singing) or the original Broadway cast recording (with the golden-voiced Judy Kuhn).


FLORENCE LACEY
I was very thrilled to hear that one of my favorite Evitas, Florence Lacey, will be returning to Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which will also star Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award-winning composer himself. I had seen this evening of song when it played at the Westport Country Playhouse last summer, and it was a highly enjoyable tribute to one of Broadway's legendary composers. That night, Lacey got the chance to deliver wonderful versions of "Ribbons Down My Back," "I Don't Want To Know," "If He Walked Into My Life," "Time Heals Everything" and "Song on the Sand." The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, will begin performances at the Booth Theatre on July 15 with an official opening on July 28. Call Tele-charge at 212-239-6200 for tickets.



MAUREEN McGOVERN
Here's an interesting bit of casting news. The stellar vocalist Maureen McGovern will join the national touring company of The King and I on May 29. McGovern will replace Marie Osmond, who is currently starring in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical as Anna. McGovern will complete the show's Los Angeles run and will then continue in the lead role for the remainder of the tour. Following is the tour schedule to date:

May 19-31 in Los Angeles, CA at the Pantages Theatre (213-468-1700)
June 2-7 in Portland, OR at the Portland Civic Auditorium (503-248-4335)
June 9-15 in San Diego, CA at the San Diego Civic Theatre (619-615 4100)
June 19 - July 5 in Chicago, IL at the Auditorium Theatre (312-431-2395)

According to a loyal diva watcher, Maureen also has a new recording in the works, a piano and voice recital album that she will create with musical director Mike Renzi. You can also catch McGovern on TV on July 12 when her guest appearance as Dr. Berg on USA's "Pacific Blue" series is rebroadcast.


BROADWAY CARES
I am often asked where fans can acquire autographs from their favorite divas, so I was happy to receive the latest catalogue from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Included in the "Summer 1998" catalogue are CDs from the likes of Betty Buckley (Much More), Liza Minnelli (Gently), Karen Mason (Better Days), Amanda McBroom (A Waiting Heart), Bernadette Peters (Sondheim Etc.: Live at Carnegie Hall), Linda Eder (It's Time), Barbara Cook (Oscar Winners, The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II) and the late Laurie Beechman (No One Is ALone). All of these discs are available either signed ($35-$40) or unsigned ($20-$25). Call (212) 840-0770 ext. 250 to place an order to benefit this worthy organization.

TRIPLETS
Carol Woods, Ruth Brown and Angela Robinson will star in Triplets, the Diva Musical, part of Montclair State University's TheatreFest, Broadway on the Hill. The musical is a collection of both new material and standards and features songs by such Broadway composers as Jerry Herman, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart and others. Conceived by Mark J. Richard, Triplets also includes original music and musical direction by Gerald F. Muller. The musical will play a limited engagement at the Memorial Auditorium in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, beginning June 24 and running through July 12. Call (212) 947-8844 for reservations.


IN OTHER NEWS
Debbie Gravitte, Ann Hampton Callaway
and Roberta Peters will join the New York City Gay Men's Chorus on Monday, June 22 at 8 p.m. for a concert at Carnegie Hall. Call CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800 for tickets . . . Barbara Cook will perform in concert at London's Donmar Warehouse from August 10-15 . . . Liza Minnelli will also be in London from June 10-12, singing at the Royal Albert Hall . . . Janet Metz and Heather MacRae will be joined by Bryan Batt and Lewis Cleale in the musical celebration I Love New York at Rainbow & Stars beginning June 2. Rainbow & Stars is located on the 65th floor at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. There is a $40 entertainment charge; call (212) 632-5000 for reservations.


REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley will make an appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" on June 3 and will be among the "divas" opening the Tony Awards on June 7. Be sure to check the Betty Buckley website (on PBOL) for a complete concert schedule.

LIZ CALLAWAY
Rumor has it that Liz Callaway and her sister Ann Hampton Callaway will bring their cabaret act, Sibling Revelry, to London's Donmar Warehouse from August 17-29.

JENNIFER HOLLIDAY
The Dreamgirls star will join Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone and host Rosie O'Donnell in the opening segment of the Tony Awards on June 7.

JUDY KUHN
The revival of As Thousands Cheer will star Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin, Paula Newsome, Mary Beth Peil, B. D. Wong and Kevin Chamberlin. The musical revue will be directed by Christopher (Jeffrey) Ashley, and performances begin on June 2 with an official opening on June 14 at the Greenwich House Theatre, located at 27 Barrow Street (near 7th Avenue South). Tickets are only $12 and may be purchased by calling (212) 541-8441.

PATTI LuPONE
Patti LuPone will perform in concert on August 28 and 29 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Tickets will be available shortly by calling (562) 916-8500. You can also hear LuPone a bit earlier at a benefit for the Kent Land Trust, which will be held at the Kent School in Connecticut. The benefit is scheduled for June 27, and tickets, which are priced between $40 and $1,000, are available by calling (860) 927 3936 . . . LuPone will join Betty Buckley and Jennifer Holliday for the opening segment of this year's Tony Awards broadcast on June 7.

KAREN MASON
Karen Mason is scheduled to star in the Sundance Institute's production of Gypsy on their outdoor Eccles Stage in Sundance, Utah, from June 24 through August 29. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Sundance Box Office at (801) 225-4100.

ELAINE PAIGE
Tickets are available to The Misanthrope by calling 011-44-171-287 0464. . .On June 7 and 8 EP will take part in the charity concert Hey Mr. Producer. . . .And, Paige will appear in concert at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on June 19. Tickets may be purchased by calling 011-171 344-4444

BERNADETTE PETERS


On June 7 and 8 Bernadette Peters will be among the many stars who will take part in the charity benefit, Hey Mr. Producer, which will celebrate the work of producer Cameron Mackintosh. Then, from July 29 through August 2, Peters will perform in concert at London's Royal Festival Hall.
Concert schedule for BP:
May 30 in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
June 2 in Toronto, ON at the Roy Thomson Hall
July 4 in St. Louis, MO at the Fair Saint Louis
July 17 in San Francisco, CA at the Louise Davie Hall
August 11 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Music Center
September 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
October 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
October 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
February 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
February 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Kansas (venue to come)
December 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)


DIVAS PLAY CARNEGIE
On June 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. Lorna Luft will host a tribute to her mother, the late Judy Garland, in an evening titled "Carnegie Hall Celebrates the Music of Judy Garland." . . .On Monday, November 9 at 8 PM theatre and concert star Barbara Cook will grace the stage with her long-time friend Wally Harper as musical director and conductor. . .For more information and for ticket reservations to any of these great events, call (212) 247-7800.


A SWELL PARTY
A plethora of performers will unite this June for a three-evening extravaganza that celebrates the art form that is called cabaret. Titled "A Swell Party," the celebration will take place on June 8, 9 and 10 to benefit The Mabel Mercer Foundation. On the first evening, June 8 at 6 p.m., a host of newcomers will be welcomed onto the stage of Town Hall. The second evening will pay tribute to the legendary Cole Porter, and those who will warble his songs include Ann Hampton Callaway, Claiborne Cary, Paula Laurence, Marcia Lewis, Marin Mazzie, Liliane Montevecchi, Patricia Morrison, Sidney Meyer, Abe Reybold, Steve Ross, Jon Soleather, David Staller, Elaine Stritch, Margaret Whiting, Julie Wilson and Gretchen Wyler. The final evening commemorates what would have been Gertrude Lawrence's 100th birthday. Donna Murphy will be joined by Jeff Harnar, Celeste Holm, Alix Korey, Andrea Marcovicci, Patricia Morison, Christian Nova, Phillip Officer, KT Sullivan and many others. Ticket orders are accepted only by mail ($10 per performance; send checks made out to "The Mabel Mercer Foundation" to Finell Enterprises, 301 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021), and further information is available by calling (212) 980-3026 or (212) 980-3109 during regular office hours.

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

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