DIVA TALK: Saluting Dolores Gray, Into the Woods on Disc, a Cabaret Cavalcade and DIVA news

News   DIVA TALK: Saluting Dolores Gray, Into the Woods on Disc, a Cabaret Cavalcade and DIVA news Hello, diva lovers. I'd like to dedicate this week's column to the late, glamorous stage (and screen) star Dolores Gray, who died June 26, 2002, at the age of 78. I only became aware of Dolores Gray a few years ago when a good friend and loyal diva fan treated me to some vintage TV appearances of the singer-actress whose greatest achievements were on the London stage in productions of Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and Follies. Another friend then sent me a copy of the Merv Griffin talk show that featured Gray along with three other Broadway and/or film legends, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller and relative newcomer at the time Karen Morrow. Gray took part in the show's delightful opening number (featuring Griffin and all four ladies belting "Everything's Coming Up Roses") and also offered a solo on "Here's That Rainy Day," a song she debuted in the short lived musical Carnival in Flanders. From just these few television appearances, it was evident how striking a stage presence she must have been, possessing the talent, self-confidence and aura of a true star. Gray had a dark, rich voice that she poured out with remarkable control, one of those distinct sounds that was simply a joy to hear. For those who have never heard Gray's velvety tones, you should check out the original Broadway cast recording of Destry Rides Again, which was recently re-released on the Decca Broadway label. That recording features Gray's luscious singing on such tracks as "Ladies," "I Hate Him," "Fair Warning," "Are You Ready, Gyp Watson," "That Ring on Her Finger" and the gorgeous ballad, "I Say Hello." Gray can also be heard on the most recent London cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which boasts her thrilling rendition of the survivor anthem, "I'm Still Here." Dolores Gray's complete Broadway credits follow:
Dolores Gray in 42nd Street.
Dolores Gray in 42nd Street. (Photo by Photo by Martha Swope)

Hello, diva lovers. I'd like to dedicate this week's column to the late, glamorous stage (and screen) star Dolores Gray, who died June 26, 2002, at the age of 78. I only became aware of Dolores Gray a few years ago when a good friend and loyal diva fan treated me to some vintage TV appearances of the singer-actress whose greatest achievements were on the London stage in productions of Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and Follies. Another friend then sent me a copy of the Merv Griffin talk show that featured Gray along with three other Broadway and/or film legends, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller and relative newcomer at the time Karen Morrow. Gray took part in the show's delightful opening number (featuring Griffin and all four ladies belting "Everything's Coming Up Roses") and also offered a solo on "Here's That Rainy Day," a song she debuted in the short lived musical Carnival in Flanders. From just these few television appearances, it was evident how striking a stage presence she must have been, possessing the talent, self-confidence and aura of a true star. Gray had a dark, rich voice that she poured out with remarkable control, one of those distinct sounds that was simply a joy to hear. For those who have never heard Gray's velvety tones, you should check out the original Broadway cast recording of Destry Rides Again, which was recently re-released on the Decca Broadway label. That recording features Gray's luscious singing on such tracks as "Ladies," "I Hate Him," "Fair Warning," "Are You Ready, Gyp Watson," "That Ring on Her Finger" and the gorgeous ballad, "I Say Hello." Gray can also be heard on the most recent London cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which boasts her thrilling rendition of the survivor anthem, "I'm Still Here." Dolores Gray's complete Broadway credits follow:

Seven Lively Arts 1944
Are You With It? 1945
Two on the Aisle 1951
Carnival in Flanders 1953
Destry Rides Again 1959
Sherry! 1967
42nd Street 1980

FOR THE RECORD Into the Woods

The original production of Into the Woods opened on Broadway on Nov. 5, 1987. I was a freshman in college at the time, and I remember coming home for vacation to catch a performance of the at-the-time newest Sondheim/Lapine musical. I enjoyed the show, especially Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason's performances, finding the first act — at times — hilarious and the second act quite moving. After only one hearing, however, I have to admit that I felt the score seemed a bit repetitive, the only standout melody "Stay With Me." It was the same season that brought Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera to New York, a musical I also admired and whose melodic score I was already familiar with from the London cast recording. So, I was surprised when, a few days later, I was walking down the street humming a melody, not from Phantom but Into the Woods. It wasn't until the original cast recording of Into the Woods was released a few months later that I truly became aware of the riches of the Stephen Sondheim score, as brilliant melodically as it is lyrically. And, now, 15 years later, comes another recording of the Woods music, from the cast of the 2002 Tony-winning Best Musical Revival at the Broadhurst Theatre.

How much you enjoy the new recording of Into the Woods (Nonesuch Records) may depend on how familiar you are with the original Broadway cast recording (RCA Victor). That original cast, of course, boasted such Broadway heavyweights as Peters and Gleason, not to mention Chip Zien, Tom Aldredge and Robert Westenberg, all billed above the title. Both vocally and acting wise, that recording could hardly be bettered. Peters, in top form, offered thrilling versions of her two solos, "Stay with Me" and "Last Midnight," and was thoroughly hilarious in the "Witch's Rap" and throughout the first act. Her 2002 counterpart, Vanessa Williams, though a striking figure in the City Center Encores! presentation of St. Louis Woman, is somewhat lackluster on the new recording, her voice missing the power and vocal shading that Peters brought to the role of the Witch. Others, however, fare better, most notably Laura Benanti, whose lush soprano sounds glorious singing "On the Steps of the Palace" in the first act and the show's anthem, "No One Is Alone," in the second. Also offering fine performances are Gregg Edelman and Christopher Sieber as the Princes, who describe the "Agony" of love — I especially enjoy their full-voiced climax of the song, which was originally performed using a lighter falsetto. Stephen DeRosa also does well, offering a touching rendition of "No More," and if Kerry O'Malley doesn't possess the charm of Joanna Gleason, she is a powerful singer (with a rangier belt) and sounds terrific on her Act II solo, "Moments in the Woods." Sondheim fans will certainly want to add the recording to their collection, as it preserves "Our Little World" — the duet between the Witch and Rapunzel, which was added to the London mounting of the musical (it's on that RCA Victor recording, too) — the new ending to "On the Steps of the Palace" as well as minor changes made to several of the lyrics. The new 21-track recording also boasts a complete book of lyrics, which includes several color production photos.

THE CABARET SCENE
In conjunction with the upcoming Town Hall Cabaret Convention, New York's Algonquin Hotel will present a 2002 "Cavalcade of Cabaret" from Oct. 21 through Oct. 27. Reservations can be made by calling the Algonquin (59 W. 44th Street) at (212) 419-9331. The complete line-up of performers follows:

Oct. 21 Jeff Harnar (9:30 PM)
Oct. 22 Georga Osborne (9:30 PM)
Oct. 23 Mark Nadler (9:30 PM)
Oct. 24 Klea Blackhurst (9:30 PM)
Oct. 25 Sandy Stewart and Bill Charlap (11:30 PM)
Oct. 26 Wesla Whitfield (9:30 and 11:30 PM)
Oct. 27 Christine Andreas (9:30 PM)

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald will perform in concert with the BBC Symphony on Sept. 14. McDonald will take part in a Richard Rodgers salute on this Last Night of the Proms. Leonard Slatkin will conduct the evening, which will be held at London's Royal Albert Hall . . . Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore will co-host the 4th annual Broadway Barks event in Shubert Alley on Saturday, July 13. Pet advocates Moore and Peters will be joined by a plethora of Broadway performers, who will appear in a special Adopt-a-thon for New York City animal shelters and rescue groups. Attendees can expect to see such stage luminaries as Gary Beach, Gavin Creel, John Cullum, Stephen DeRosa, Julie Haggerty, Harriet Harris, Neil Patrick Harris, Marilu Henner, Buck Henry, Shuler Hensley, Spencer Kayden, Richard Kind, Marc Kudisch, Andrea Martin, Howard McGillin, John McMartin, Phyllis Newman, Kerry O'Malley, Nancy Opel, Brad Oscar, Rhea Perlman, Louise Pitre, Alicia Silverstone and Patrick Wilson. The "cause for paws," which begins at 3:30 PM, will include celebrity presentations of pets from animal shelters around the city from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. The afternoon will also feature an auction of celebrity-signed memorabilia to benefit the various New York City shelters and organizations. For more information about Broadway Barks 4!, call (212) 840-0770, ext. 477, or visit www.officialbroadwaybarks.org . . . Liz Callaway, who has starred on Broadway in Baby, Merrily We Roll Along, Miss Saigon and Cats, will take part in another evening of "Stephen Schwartz and Friends" in Bethlehem, PA, on Aug. 2. Featuring the music of the award-winning composer of Pippin, Godspell, The Baker's Wife and Children of Eden, the show will be part of the Bethlehem Musikfest at the Zoellner Performing Arts Center; call (610) 861-0678 for more information.

REMINDERS

Betty Buckley in Concert:

July 7 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, NM
Sept. 20 and 21 in Brisbane, Australia
Sept. 28 at the Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
Oct. 3-6 at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 22-Nov. 9 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
Nov. 16 at the Performing Arts Center of SUNY-Purchase in Purchase, NY
Dec. 6 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

Liz Callaway in Concert

July 14 at the Bradston County Hotel's Nancy LaMott Room in White Lake, NY
July 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn inStaten Island, NY
August 2 in "Stephen Schwartz and Friends" in Bethlehem, PA
August 16 & 17 at the Stackner Cabaret Theatre in Milwaukee, WI
September 30 in the Merrily We Roll Along Broadway Reunion Concert in NYC Barbara Cook in Concert:

Now through Aug. 26 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, NY (Mostly Sondheim)
July 5 at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts in Long Island
August 14-18 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
Oct. 19 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA
Nov. 2 at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 17 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ

Maureen McGovern in Concert:

Aug. 7 at the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival in Salt Lake City, UT
Sept. 1-2 MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon in Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 20 - 22 Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI
Sept 26-29 North Carolina Symphony, Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, NC
Oct. 30-Nov. 3 American Music Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 2 at the Rialto Center in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 9 at the Landmark Theater in Port Washington, NY
Nov. 19-Dec. 1 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA
Dec. 6 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
Dec. 8 at Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
Dec. 9 Laurie Strauss Leukemia Benefit, Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Dec. 14 Boca Pops Big Band Series in Boca Raton, FL

Bernadette Peters in Concert:

Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Morton H. Meyerson Hall in Dallas, TX
Sept. 28 at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI
Oct. 5 Sundome Center in Sun City West, AZ
Oct. 24 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 26 at the Kleinhans Auditorium in Buffalo, NY

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

—By Andrew Gans