DIVA TALK: Spring Is in the Air: Buckley at the Carlyle; Bernadette on TV

DIVA TALK: Spring Is in the Air: Buckley at the Carlyle; Bernadette on TV BETTY BUCKLEY
Those who are strictly cabaret performers must be a bit envious of Betty Buckley, who easily makes the transition between theatre and the cabaret/concert setting. In the past few years, in fact, Buckley has shone in the musical theatre (Sunset Boulevard, Triumph of Love), in dramatic stage work (The Eros Trilogy) and in concert (Carnegie Hall, the Bottom Line, numerous venues around the country). And, now, Buckley headlines one of the city's most prestigious rooms, the Cafe Carlyle, long-time home of Bobby Short, Barbara Cook and Eartha Kitt. With an act that blends newer material with many of her long-time favorites, Buckley was in great voice this past Tuesday evening. Despite a few opening-night jitters, the Tony Award winner cast her usual spell over the audience. By the time she reached her closing number, "Memory," you could have heard a pin drop as Buckley re-enacted Grizabella's signature tune with the concentrated intensity that is her trademark. With tears streaming down her face, the audience was riveted as Buckley poured out her voice in the song's final verse.

BETTY BUCKLEY
Those who are strictly cabaret performers must be a bit envious of Betty Buckley, who easily makes the transition between theatre and the cabaret/concert setting. In the past few years, in fact, Buckley has shone in the musical theatre (Sunset Boulevard, Triumph of Love), in dramatic stage work (The Eros Trilogy) and in concert (Carnegie Hall, the Bottom Line, numerous venues around the country). And, now, Buckley headlines one of the city's most prestigious rooms, the Cafe Carlyle, long-time home of Bobby Short, Barbara Cook and Eartha Kitt. With an act that blends newer material with many of her long-time favorites, Buckley was in great voice this past Tuesday evening. Despite a few opening-night jitters, the Tony Award winner cast her usual spell over the audience. By the time she reached her closing number, "Memory," you could have heard a pin drop as Buckley re-enacted Grizabella's signature tune with the concentrated intensity that is her trademark. With tears streaming down her face, the audience was riveted as Buckley poured out her voice in the song's final verse.


Buckley opened her set, which celebrated the imminent arrival of spring, with a quiet, subtly nuanced rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight," and followed that with an equally reflective take on "With a Song in My Heart." The star of the evening then greeted the audience and spoke amusingly about her one previous engagement at the Cafe Carlyle, substituting for Eartha Kitt during one of the city's worst snowstorms. An upbeat, swinging "It Might as Well Be Spring" preceded a beautiful medley of "Spring Is Here" and Rodgers and Hart's "Falling in Love with Love." Buckley's full-voiced "Come Rain or Come Shine" was one of the evening's highlights as she belted, "Days may be cloudy or sunny/We're in or we're out of the moneeeeey/But I'm with you always/I'm with you rain or shiiiiiine." A "suite of dreams" paired an uptempo version of Peter Pan's "Never Never Land" with a heartfelt reading of Amanda McBroom's "Dreamin'," about a woman who longs for a better life through her daydreams. Buckley is the perfect interpreter for McBroom's vivid portrayals of human emotions; for a further example, check out her flawless interpretation of McBroom's "Ship in a Bottle" on Betty Buckley, her first solo album on the Rizzoli Records label.


The second half of the evening spotlighted more familiar Buckley material, starting with a gorgeously sung and tenderly acted "Come On Come On," Mary Chapin Carpenter's haunting tune about "the first time you lose [in love]." Buckley turned up the volume for her favorite story song, "Meadowlark," from The Baker's Life, which boasted a lengthy drum solo from percussionist Jamey Haddad. Buckley always manages to find something new in this song, which she brought to a wonderful climax, singing, "I won't let tomorrow find me back this way/Before my past once again can bind me/Fly away/And we won't wait to say goodbye/My beautiful young man and I."


A heartfelt combination of Paul Simon's "Old Friends" (Buckley's cautious phrasing on this tune was utterly moving -- the lyric "preserve your memories/they're all that's left you" always gets me) and the pop standard "Unchained Melody" was followed by Norma Desmond's first-act aria, "With One Look," which Buckley delivered with amazing power and emotion. Another Andrew Lloyd Webber tune followed -- the "jewel" of Buckley's song collection -- the aforementioned "Memory." After a sustained, cheering ovation, BB returned to the stage of the Cafe Carlyle to offer a wonderful, unmiked version of "Amazing Grace." Those two words describe Betty Buckley as well. . . Buckley's two-week run at the Carlyle concludes March 27. Don't miss your chance to see one of the musical theatre's most incandescent stars in this intimate setting -- (212) 744-1600.


Here are a few raves from the New York critics:
Stephen Holden in The New York Times:
"Betty Buckley may be the quintessential Broadway diva, but there's still a big streak of Texas in this singer, who grew up in Fort Worth and who at moments of high drama conveys the untamed force of a woman riding bareback and cracking a whip during a howling thunderstorm at 3 in the morning. Ms. Buckley's voice has so many sharply pointed angles and crevices that she seems perpetually poised on the edge of an emotional precipice. And at the end of her tense but often electrifying opening-night show on Tuesday evening, tears spilled down her face as she performed her signature song, 'Memory.' Where other singers use 'Memory' to show off vaulting vocal dynamics, Ms. Buckley disappeared into the character of the bedraggled, once-glamorous Grizabella, who sings it in 'Cats,' and she turned it into an almost embarrassingly intimate expression of the character's self-pity and hopeless longing. . ."
Chip Deffaa in The New York Post:
". . .Then she found everything anyone could possibly find in 'Meadowlark' (from 'The Baker's Wife'). This was Buckley, the singing actress of highest caliber, her full voice cutting through us powerfully. She expressed sympathy for Norma Desmond, whom she portrayed in 'Sunset Boulevard,' before giving definitive heart-rending interpretations of "With One Look" from that show, and 'Memory' from 'Cats.' Utter conviction. Utterly riveting."

BERNADETTE PETERS
Some very exciting news on the Bernadette Peters front . . . Peters, who was originally scheduled to be a guest on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee this Tuesday, March 23 will now co-host the entire hour-long program that morning with Regis Philbin. Philbin will also join Peters for a duet of Annie Get Your Gun's "Anything You Can Do." Also, the Tony winner is set to sing her lovely, poignant rendition of Irving Berlin's "Moonshine Lullaby" on ABC's "The View" on Tuesday, April 13. Be sure to set your VCRs for both appearances . . . Speaking of Annie Get Your Gun, Peters is simply wonderful on the advance two-track sampler audio cassette I received earlier this week Angel Records. BP sounds terrific, whether she's soloing on "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" (mining the song for all its comic value while tackling the high passages with skill; listen to the force of her belt when she sings "you can't get a hug from a mug with a slug") or dueting with her Frank Butler, Tom Wopat, on one of the show's most enjoyable sequences, "Anything You Can Do." The two sound lovely together and deliver the material with great comic effect. The full recording is due April 20, and to celebrate the release, Wopat and Peters will have an in-store record signing to be announced shortly. If this sampler is any indication, it should be a wonderful, must-have recording.


And more about Peters . . . In his Hollywood Reporter column, Robert Osborne had this to say about her AGYG performance: ". . .it's a show I would highly recommend mainly for one glorious reason: Bernadette Peters. A Merman she ain't but a Peters she is, which makes the show a constant pleasure/treasure to behold and more than worth the price of a ducat. Peters is absolutely adorable as Irving Berlin's musicalized Annie Oakley, neatly fitting the role to her own persona and having a star turn the likes of which we haven't seen on a Broadway stage since Chita Rivera in Kiss of the Spider Woman and Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard." . . . There was also a wonderful interview with BP in this week's edition of In Theater Magazine. I thought you would enjoy reading some of Peters' quotes from the article by Marc Miller:


about updating Annie Get Your Gun and dropping "I'm an Indian, Too":
"I think that, unless they rewrote the lyrics, it would be a hard song to do now. And I don't think that you should sing things that are insulting to people. The writing in the book -- you mean the updating? Well, don't forget, we're here to entertain. And if you're sitting there and they leave it like it was, people will look on it like a museum piece. In a museum, you can look at a statue as long as you wish and then move on. But when you're locked in a theater for two and a half hours and pay money, you should be entertained."


about keeping herself in shape:
". . .Well, exercise is really important. In my ball gown, before I go out, I have a little time, and I do push-ups. I started in Washington, and just in that little bit, you can see the difference. It's a pretty strenuous role anyway, but there's a difference between just doing a role and really working on toning different areas. And I eat mostly protein and vegetables, a little bit of carbs."


about some of the people she has enjoyed working with:
"Jackie Gleason; we did a Bing Crosby Christmas special together. Mel Brooks. George Burns: I did one of his Gracie things, and it worked. It got in the groove; you could see him settle back and think, 'Okay, kid, take it.' That was very satisfying. I also danced with Baryshnikov, if you can believe it, for a TV special. I have my nerve! The makeup person told me, 'Be careful! He's tired, he's been dropping girls.' [Laughs] He didn't drop me, though."

OTHER NEWS AND THOUGHTS Fans of Ednita Nazario, who was one of the brightest spots of last season's underrated The Capeman, will be happy to learn that the talented singer will release her newest album this Wednesday, March 24. Entitled Corazon (Heart), the recording will be available from EMI/Latin . . . On June 22 and 23, admirers of The Phantom of the Opera's Sarah Brightman will get a chance to see the singer in concert at City Center in New York City . . .. . . This Thursday, March 25, London's Ruthie Henshall will make her New York stage debut in the City Center Encores! production of The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.. Henshall has starred to great acclaim in the West End productions of Miss Saigon, Crazy for You, Chicago and She Loves Me, for which she won an Olivier Award. In the upcoming show at City Center, you can expect to see and hear Henshall perform the role originated by Gertrude Niesen, which includes such songs as "Words Without Music" and "That Moment of Moments." . . . I spent a portion of last weekend listening to the new cast recording of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which was recently released on the RCA Victor label. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the recording, which stars Anthony Rapp as Charlie Brown, Stanley Wayne Mathis as Schroeder, B.D. Wong as Linus, Roger Bart as Snoopy, Ilana Levine as Lucy and show-stopper Kristin Chenoweth as Sally. It's an easy listen with pleasant melodies and go-for-the heartstring lyrics. Highlights of the disc include the title track; the two new songs written for the production by Andrew Lippa, "Beethoven Day" and "My New Philosophy"; and the musical's anthem, "Happiness." It's a real charmer . . . And, finally, congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. (Linda Eder) Frank Wildhorn, who announced during the PBS pledge drive for "Linda Eder in Concert" that they are expecting their first child!

REMINDERS:

LAURIE BEECHMAN
On April 5 friends and colleagues of Laurie Beechman will gather at the West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street to honor the late star of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats. The evening's proceeds will benefit the Laurie Beechman Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music. The scholarship award is given annually to a graduating senior.


The event, which is being produced by Beechman's longtime friend and agent, Jim Wilhelm, will be staged by Richard Jay-Alexander, another friend who also coordinated her memorial service. As of press time, those performers scheduled to entertain include Faith Prince, Donna Murphy, Sam Harris, Karen Mason, Loni Ackerman, Mary Testa, Ron Raines, Catherine Hickland and Andrea McArdle. Comedian Lewis Black will host the evening, which will feature musical direction by Larry Yurman. Tax-deductible tickets are priced at $250, and the evening includes cocktails (at 6:30 pm), the performance and dinner after the show. Reservations may be made by calling the West Bank Cafe at (212) 695-6909.

BETTY BUCKLEY
BB is currently brightening up the cabaret stage of the Cafe Carlyle in NYC. The two-week engagement concludes on Saturday, March 27; call (212) 570-7189 for reservations.
BB concert line-up:
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, Ill.


LINDA EDER
Linda Eder's eagerly awaited debut TV concert will begin airing on PBS this month. To help promote the program, which is simply titled Linda Eder in Concert, the statuesque diva with the superior vocals will host the program live at PBS stations throughout the country (see listing below). Check local PBS listings for time.
Los Angeles: March 19
Miami: March 20

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.

KAREN MASON
From March 20 until March 23 Mason will perform on a Broadway cruise to the Caribbean, and March 24 brings her back to Davenports Cabaret in Chicago, where she will reside through April 11; call Davenports at (773) 278-1830. The songstress will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on September 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.

FRANK LOESSER SALUTE
A host of Broadway and cabaret's finest will be on hand this Saturday, March 20 to salute the work of the late composer Frank Loesser. Loesser, who created such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The Most Happy Fella, Where's Charley? and Greenwillow, also contributed songs to such films as Hans Christian Anderson, Destry Rides Again, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Neptune's Daughter. Highlights of the event promise to be the cast of Broadway's Titanic singing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" plus performances from Loesser's wife and daughter, Jo Sullivan Loesser and Emily Loesser.


Others scheduled to perform at the event, which runs 11 AM to 11 PM at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street), include Liz Callaway, Betty Comden, Debbie Gravitte, Josie de Guzman, Mary Cleere Haran, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Melba Joyce, Linda Lavin, Rebecca Luker, Michele Lee, Rita Moreno, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marilyn Sokol, KT Sullivan and Margaret Whiting, as well as Matthew Broderick, Adolph Green, Joe Grifasi, Jonathan Hadary, Richard Muenz, James Naughton, Lee Roy Reams, Steve Ross, John Rubinstein, Don Stephenson, Billy Stritch and more. Admission is free to the event, and Loesser fans are invited to stay as long as they wish or for the entire 12-hour extravaganza. For those of you unable to make it to the hall, the concert will be broadcast live on WNYC AM 820 from 6pm to 11pm. For more information, call (212) 864-1414 ext. 403 or visit the Symphony Space website at www.symphonyspace.org.

MAC AWARDS
The 13th annual MAC Awards, the Oscars of the New York cabaret scene, will honor Barbara Cook and her musical director, Wally Harper, with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, April 5 at 7:30 PM at Town Hall. Betty Buckley, another MAC Award winner, will perform as well. And, Liza Minnelli, who will receive the MAC Board of Directors Award, is expected to perform with Billy Stritch. Tickets range from $20-$100 and are available at the Town Hall box office and through TicketMaster. For more information about MAC, call (212) 465-2662.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.