Hello, diva lovers! Hope you are all well and having a great summer. Quite a few items this week. . . enjoy!
ELAINE PAIGE & CATS
A friend recently screened for me the filmed version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which will be broadcast in the U.S. on PBS stations around the country beginning Nov. 2. The production was taped at the Adelphi Theatre in London rather than at the show's home in the West End, the New London Theatre. The Adelphi also housed another Lloyd Webber musical, Sunset Boulevard, and its parade of women stars included Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Petula Clark, Rita Moreno and Elaine Paige. Paige returned to the Adelphi to star in this PolyGram production, and gives a wonderful star turn in the role of Grizabella, the faded glamour cat. But, before we get to Ms. Paige and her stirring version of "Memory," a few thoughts on the rest of the production.
The film (the musical was shot on film rather than video) begins with Andrew Lloyd Webber's wonderfully melodic overture, which I've always believed was one of the most exhilarating overtures written for the musical theatre. While the orchestra -- augmented for the filming -- plays, a host of the familiar Cats eyes logos begin appearing on the screen until they form the outline for John Napier's Cats set. I thought this was quite a clever way to begin the production, creating a sense of excitement that continues throughout the piece. At the conclusion of the overture, the eyes fade into the set, and we are now onstage at the Adelphi in the junkyard that is the show's setting.
As the cats begin appearing one at a time, each sings one of the opening lines of "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats." I was very happy to see that Ms. Paige is part of the opening number, rather than just appearing to sing the two versions of "Memory." It's great fun to watch her blend in with the company in the show's second number, "The Naming of Cats," and her performance as Grizabella, the aging cat who tries unsuccessfully to join the younger ones, is very moving and the highlight of the production. Paige is in wonderful voice, a golden sound that has matured and richened over the years, and she builds her version of "Memory" slowly, saving her biggest sound for the now-famous final verse: "Touch me/It's so easy to leave me. . ." Just to listen to her soaring vocals in this song is spine tingling. There are other wonderful performances by Ken Page as Old Deuteronomy, John Mills as Gus, Bryn Walters as Macavity and Jacob Brent, who currently stars in the Broadway production, as Mistoffelees.
In other Paige news. . .Tonight (Aug. 7) is the star's final performance in The Misanthrope, her first non-singing onstage role in London. Paige is also preparing for the world premiere of the aforementioned Cats video release, which will take place in London on or near Oct. 5. The rumor on the block is that she and Andrew Lloyd Webber will take a trip to this side of the Atlantic quite soon. We very well could see EP singing her soaring version of "Memory" on major national network television shows, so stay tuned for more details.
Earlier in the week I spoke with composer David Friedman, who is completely heartsick over the closing of Midder Music, the label that he and director Scott Barnes created to produce the late Nancy LaMott's recordings. Friedman asked me to relate the following message to LaMott's many fans so they will be able to purchase the recordings that do exist:
"It is with great sadness that we announce that after a year-and-a-half- long battle with the Nancy LaMott Estate and its beneficiaries, MIDDER Music Records is closing its doors and ceasing its business operations. This means that the Nancy LaMott albums in stock may well be the last albums of Nancy that will ever exist. MIDDER does not plan to release any new albums or manufacture any more of the old ones, but is selling off all the albums it currently has, in order to pay its continuing legal bills and the expenses involved with closing the company. We wanted to let you, Nancy's fans, know about this as quickly as possible so that should you want to buy any more albums--for your own use, for future gifts, or just as collector's items--you could do so."
Nancy's existing albums include 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 and The Best of Nancy LaMott (a compilation of songs from the other albums). All CD's are priced at $15 a piece, and cassettes are available at $10. There is a shipping and handling charge of $2.50 per item, and orders may be mailed to MIDDER Music Records, Inc., 275 W. 96th Street #5R, New York, NY 10025. Phone orders are taken by calling (212) 665-0699, or you may fax orders to (212) 222-6579. Midder Music can also be reached by e-mailing MIDDER2000@aol.com.
Aug. is proving to be an exceptionally busy month for the exceptionally talented Bernadette Peters. Peters, who will be returning to Broadway this winter in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, is currently filming an independent feature film with Les Misérables star Kip Marcus. Titled Snow Days, the film is being shot on the East Coast and will continue production throughout the month. During that time Peters will also be performing in concert at the Mann Center in Philadelphia (Aug. 11) and at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (Aug. 15). Sept. will bring the Tony-winning star to London for a concert at the Royal Festival Hall (Sept. 17), where Peters will be backed by a full symphony orchestra, performing a program similar to her highly acclaimed Carnegie Call concert. For those of you unable to see a Peters concert in person, you can get a taste of this charming woman's many talents on PBS on Aug. 16 (9 PM in the metropolitan area) as one of the stars of "Hey, Mr. Producer," the recent star-studded Cameron Mackintosh tribute held in London . . . And, if all this weren't enough, BP will soon tape a few episodes of the new "Hollywood Squares" that will feature Whoopi Goldberg in the center square. Some of Hollywood biggest stars, including Sharon Stone, have already signed to appear on this game show as well.
Now playing at the Vineyard Theatre through Aug. 16 is the National Asian American Theatre Company's production of William Finn's Falsettoland, the third in his Marvin trilogy, which also includes In Trousers and March of the Falsettos. I've been a huge fan of the Falsettos pieces for years, so it was with great anticipation and actually a bit of trepidation that I entered the intimate theatre in the East Village. I did wonder whether an all-Asian cast would be able to successfully portray the quirky Jewish characters who inhabit this Finn musical. I needn't have worried. Ann Harada (Trina), Christine Toy Johnson (Dr. Charlotte), Jason Ma (Marvin), Merv Maruyama (Mendel), Mimosa (Cordelia) and Welly Yang (Whizzer) all give wonderfully comic and ultimately moving performances. Especially notable are Jason Ma, who offers a heartfelt performance as Marvin, first rejoicing in his love for Whizzer and later mourning the loss of his lover; Ann Harada as Trina, who movingly explores a wide range of feelings, segueing from jealousy to acceptance to love; and Welly Yang, whose beautifully sung and acted portrayal as Whizzer is the highlight of this production. Finn's musical remains a testament to the power of love and the need to be loved, whether you're gay, straight, Jewish, Asian, a diva lover . . .!
There was a Q&A with Linda Balgord, the current Grizabella of Broadway's Cats, in this week's New York Post. I thought you would be interested in reading her answers to some of Post columnist's Maria Fernandez's questions:
Q: What are you reading at present? Which is your favorite book of all time?
A: "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb. My favorite book of all time would be either "A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving, or "A Thousand Acres," by Jane Smiley.
Q: Which CD is on your player? What is your favorite record of all time?
A: Right now I'm listening to Philip Glass' music from the soundtrack of the movie Kundun. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" is my all time favorite.
Q: Which is the last film you saw? Which is your all-time favorite film?
A: I last saw Gone With the Wind, and it brought back wonderful memories of my first big-screen viewing with my mother and grandmother. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is my favorite.
Q: In your profession, whom do you admire most?
A: Dame Judi Dench and Carol Burnett. Q:If you were told the world were ending tomorrow, what would you do?
A:I would contact my nearest and dearest to tell them that I loved them. Then I would cuddle up with my husband, Andrew, and try to be at peace.
Kelly Ellenwood, who has appeared on Broadway in The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods, will star in a one-woman "cabaret fantasy" about the life of Broadway torch singer Libby Holman. Titled Libby, the cabaret performance will be held at the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel's Cinegrill on Aug. 16 and 23 at 8PM and on Aug. 30 at 8PM and 11PM. Libby, which features 11 original songs by composer/lyricist Stewart Gordon, premiered successfully at the Savannah Onstage International Arts Festival in March 1998, and is currently being considered for a 1999 Off Broadway production. For this engagement, there is a $20 cover charge, plus a two-drink minimum; call (213) 466-7000. The Cinegrill is located at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.
IN OTHER NEWS
Ain't Misbehavin' Tony winner Nell Carter will be one of the four regulars (joining Nell will be Vicki Lawrence, Judy Tenuta and George Hamilton) on the updated version of "Match Game" that will air on television this fall . . . The Capeman's Ednita Nazario arrives in New York this week to begin production on her new album, Corazon. The recording will feature Latin music, and many of the songs will be in English . . . According to gossip columnist Liz Smith, the one-and-only Bette Midler will release a new CD next month. Titled Bathhouse Betty, the eclectic program includes "Song of Bernadette," "Lullaby in Blue," "One Monkey Don't Stop the Show," "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," "I'm Beautiful, Dammit!" "I'm Hip" and a brand-new song "My One True Friend," which will be the theme song to the upcoming Meryl Streep film One True Thing. Look for Midler's new album in Sept. on the Warner Bros. label.
Betty Buckley will star as Mama Rose in Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, beginning Sept. 9. The official opening date is scheduled for Sept. 13, and the show will run through Oct. 25. Tickets, which range $25 to $55, will be available by calling (973) 376 4343 beginning Aug. 24 . . . BB has also scheduled a few concerts at The Bottom Line. She will perform at 7:30 and 10 PM on Oct. 30 and 31, and on Nov. 1 show times are 4 PM (the "songs by request" concert) and 8:30 PM. The Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street, and tickets will be on sale at the Bottom Line box office in the near future.
Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City from Sept. 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:
Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)
There will be a four-week season of Divas at the Donmar--London's Donmar Warehouse, the theatre that first premiered the current incarnation of Cabaret. As previously mentioned, Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway will kick off the season from Aug. 10-22. Following the sister act will be Barbara Cook from Aug. 24-29, and Imelda Staunton and Her Big Band will finish the diva season from Sept. 1-5 .
Florence Lacey currently stars on Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which also stars Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award-winning composer himself. The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, is at the Booth Theatre; call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 for tickets.
LuPone will perform in concert on Aug. 28 and 29 at The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; call 562-916-8500.
Sept. 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
Oct. 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Missouri
Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans
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