DIVA TALK: Singing Divas: Onstage & on CD

DIVA TALK: Singing Divas: Onstage & on CD BETTY BUCKLEY
Congratulations to Betty Buckley for receiving a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her work as Hesione in Triumph of Love. Buckley also received rave reviews for her recent concert work at the Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady. In her review for the Times Union, Michelle Solomon writes, "It would be hard to match the intensity performer Betty Buckley brings to the stage. During a two-and a-half-hour show Saturday night, the Tony Award winner and Broadway diva performed 23 songs ranging from her signature 'Memory' from Cats to Hank Williams' 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.' . . . Backed by a highly stylized jazz quartet, 'An Evening with Betty Buckley' was one of the most exceptional musical evenings to pass through Proctor's this year . . . Highlights were her styling of Kurt Weill's 'September Song' . . . and 'With One Look,' in which she transformed herself into Sunset's Norma Desmond, the character she played on Broadway and in London . . .when Buckley was interpreting songs and bringing characters to life, it was the ultimate in musical perfection."

BETTY BUCKLEY
Congratulations to Betty Buckley for receiving a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her work as Hesione in Triumph of Love. Buckley also received rave reviews for her recent concert work at the Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady. In her review for the Times Union, Michelle Solomon writes, "It would be hard to match the intensity performer Betty Buckley brings to the stage. During a two-and a-half-hour show Saturday night, the Tony Award winner and Broadway diva performed 23 songs ranging from her signature 'Memory' from Cats to Hank Williams' 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.' . . . Backed by a highly stylized jazz quartet, 'An Evening with Betty Buckley' was one of the most exceptional musical evenings to pass through Proctor's this year . . . Highlights were her styling of Kurt Weill's 'September Song' . . . and 'With One Look,' in which she transformed herself into Sunset's Norma Desmond, the character she played on Broadway and in London . . .when Buckley was interpreting songs and bringing characters to life, it was the ultimate in musical perfection."

You can catch Buckley in concert tonight at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, North Carolina, and BB will also make an appearance with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall on May 8. Check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for further concert dates.


PATTI LuPONE
Congratulations are also in order for Patti LuPone, who received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal of "Jolly" in the David Mamet play The Old Neighborhood. LuPone continues to thrill audiences at the Booth Theatre in this latest Mamet work, and tickets may be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200.

For those of you who need a dose of vocal thrills from La LuPone, the Tony winner will perform in concert on August 28 and 29 in Los Angeles. LuPone will sing brand-new material during these two evenings at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets, call (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 beginning Friday, May 1.


ELAINE PAIGE
Elaine Paige continues to star in London in The Misanthrope, her first non-musical play. There was a wonderful interview with our favorite Brit in this week's issue of InTheatre Magazine. Following are some choice quotes from Sheryl Berk's article:

* about her decision to appear in The Misanthrope:
"One reason is that it was a non-singing role, something I hadn't done. Celimene is a coquette, a flirt, a gossip. But what I like about her is that she knows how to enjoy life. We're alike in that way; I definitely believe in trying new things and living life to the fullest. [The play is] all in verse, and the rhymes and breathing are a real challenge. It's absolutely fascinating, yet it terrifies me. I don't have music to govern things, and I'm so used to that."

* about creating a role on Broadway:
"That's always been my dream. I'm working on something at the moment, but I can't talk about it. I'm superstitious and I wouldn't want to jinx it!"

* about Andrew Lloyd Webber:
"It goes without saying that he's terribly talented. Despite what the critics say about his work--and I do think they are unkind--his success is the proof in the pudding. Audiences love his musicals. There's nobody in modern musical theater who has achieved what he has. Personally, I find him very complex. He is very dedicated to his craft. Andrew eats, sleeps and breathes music. He appreciates beauty in all forms. He has a love of architecture, and he writes a column about fine food and wine here in The Telegraph."

* about her plans for a new album:
"I shall be recording it over the summer. My only plan is to record some great songs. I don't think they'll be show tunes -- I've done that before. I love "Cry Me a River" and "Yesterday" from the Beatles. I want to pick songs that people don't sing anymore and do them my way, with new treatments."


RAGTIME
You will feel chills listening to the just-released recording of Ragtime on the RCA Victor label. I was thrilled to receive the deluxe two-CD set this past week, and couldn't wait to get home to listen to the recording Tuesday evening. From the moment the orchestra begins playing the title tune through to the reprise of "Wheels of a Dream," the lush, beautiful score never disappoints. Boasting one of the finest array of singers, the score is superbly sung by Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Judy Kaye, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marc Jacoby, Steven Sutcliffe and the rest of the talented cast, and this recording contains nearly twice as much music as the previously released "Songs from Ragtime: The Musical." In fact, "Success," "Nothing Like the City" and "Sarah Brown Eyes" were all previously unrecorded.

Highlights include Mazzie's beautiful, pure tones on just about everything she sings, including "Goodbye, My Love" and "Back to Before." Just listen to the way her voice soars in the climactic lines of the song: "We can never go back to before." Audra McDonald's voice similarly soars in her Act I showstopper, "Your Daddy's Son," and when Brian Stokes Mitchell sings to her, "Sarah, my life has changed/Sarah, you've got to see/Sarah, we've got a son!/Sarah, come down to me" in "New Music," it will more than tug at your heartstrings. The recording is really a feast for the ears, and you will delight in other tracks like "Wheels of a Dream," "The Night that Goldman Spoke at Union Square," "Coalhouse's Soliloquy," "Our Children," "Sarah Brown Eyes," "Make Them Hear You" and more. For me, this recording and that of Side Show are the two must-have show recordings of the year.


IN CABARET:

ANDREA MARCOVICCI
One of cabaret's leading ladies, Andrea Marcovicci, will perform her tribute to Mabel Mercer, titled All in Fun, at a benefit performance for The Millay Colony for the Arts on June 1. The benefit, which will also include poetry readings by Roscoe Lee Browne and Anthony Zerbe, will be held at The Supper Club (240 West 47th Street) and will include cocktails, dinner and performance. Tickets range from $75 (performance only) to $275, and reservations can be made by calling 518-392-4144. Other luminaries who are scheduled to attend include Ellen Burstyn, David Henry Hwang, Ron Rifkin and more.

Marcovicci will also perform in concert at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on Saturday, July 18 at 8 PM. Marcovicci will sing an evening of standards as well as excerpts from her recording "New Words," which takes its title from the beautiful Maury Yeston tune that has also been recorded by Ann Runolfsson and Liz Callaway. For tickets to this Marcovicci evening, call PhoneCharge at (415) 864-6000.

MARY CLEERE HARAN
Mary Cleere Haran is one of three performers/acts who will perform in Manhattan Music--A Performance Festival, which will be held at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II beginning May 19. Haran will open the Festival on May 19 and continue through June 7. Then, the Tony-winning City of Angels and Chicago star, James Naughton, will take the stage from June 9 through June 28. The last act will be Hot Mouth, an a cappella group conceived by Grisha Coleman that will run from June 30 through July 19.

Coinciding with Haran's live performances is the release of her latest CD, "Pennies from Heaven," on the Angel Records label. The recording features movie songs of the Depression Era and includes such gems as "I'm in the Mood for Love," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Lullaby of Broadway" and the title tune.

LISA ASHER
Lisa Asher recently won the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award for Piano Bar/Restaurant Entertainer, and she has also received a Back Stage Bistro Award and Cabaret Hotline's Critic's Choice Award for her work in the many cabarets in New York. On May 11 Asher's debut solo recording, "Let the Mystery Be," will be released on the Original Cast Records label. The 16-track CD is a quirky but appealing recording that explores the many things in life that we cannot see: ghosts, God, dreams, visions, superstitions, . . . Boasting an eclectic mixture of songs, the CD includes works from such disparate composers as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rodgers and Hart, Christine Lavin and Sam Cooke. Asher possesses a clear, pure voice that is remarkably easy to listen to, if not a voice as distinct as such cabaret singers as Karen Akers or the late Nancy LaMott. Occasionally Asher's belt range doesn't seem large enough to accommodate what should be more climactic moments, but she seems to have a special affinity for the work of Craig Carnelia and wisely includes four songs by the New York composer on this CD: "I'm Standing in the Room," "Life on Earth," "Flight" and "A Minute." Other highlights include Hugh Prestwood's "The Song Remembers When" and John Lennon's "Imagine." Overall, it's quite an enjoyable first outing from this young singer. The track list for "Let the Mystery Be " follows: "I'm Standing in This Room"
"Let the Mystery Be"
"Galileo"
"Where or When"
"I Feel Lucky"
"Love-line"
"When Did You Leave Heaven?"
"Tomorrow Never Knows"/ "After the Gold Rush"
"Life On Earth"
"The Song Remembers When"
"Sensitive New Age Guys"
"Breathe"
"Flight"
"Good Times"
"A Minute"
"Imagine"


REMINDERS:

DIVAS PLAY CARNEGIE The multi-talented Betty Buckley will perform with Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops on Friday, May 8 at 8 PM . .On June 16 and 17 at 7:30 PM 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.

CHESS
Chess will be performed in concert May 10 and 17. The two Sunday performances will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and will be held at the John Houseman Theatre at 450 West 42nd Street. Currently on sale, tickets may be purchased by credit card by calling (212) 354-2220 between the hours of 10 AM and 8 PM Included in the cast will be an array of some of Broadway's finest talents including Alice Ripley, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Cerveris, Christiane Noll, Miller McLeod, Carl Anderson, Danny Zolli, Raymond Jaramillo, David Clemmons and Robert Evan.

JUDY KUHN
The beautiful-voiced star of Les Miz and Chess is just one of the many talented performers who will star in the upcoming production of As Thousands Cheer for the Drama Dept. At this point, others in the Irving Berlin/Moss Hart musical comedy revue include Howard McGillin, Mary Beth Peil and B.D. Wong. Performances are scheduled to begin on May 27, and the production will be directed by Christopher Ashley and will feature choreography by Kathleen Marshall.

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, which will celebrate the work of another legendary Brit, producer Cameron Mackintosh. . . .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
May 9 in Knoxville, TN at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum
May 17 in Purchase, NY (venue to come)
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)


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 PM, 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