It's always a treat to speak with Betty Buckley, the woman New York Magazine recently dubbed "the voice of Broadway," and I'm happy to report that there's much happening on the BB front. In fact, the award-winning actress will release two solo albums in the next few months: The first is an all-new recording titled "Heart to Heart," a concert act she debuted this past June at a PAWS/LA benefit at U.C.L.A.'s Freud Playhouse Theatre. (PAWS is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the quality of life of those living with HIV/AIDS by empowering them to care for their beloved pets.) The studio recording will feature all songs previously unrecorded by Buckley, and it looks likely that the two tunes Ms. B sings in Camino Real will also be featured on the CD, which will be the first disk released on Buckley's new label, KO Records. You may not know that Buckley (with music director Lynn Shankel and composer John Gromada) composed the music for the second tune she sings in Camino Real, which is entitled "The Violets in the Mountain"; the first tune is titled "Bide A While," and both feature lyrics by Tennessee Williams. Boasting lyrics by Williams, "Heart to Heart" should be quite an arty and beautiful album . . . The second KO Records release is one that will excite Buckley fans who have been desperately trying to obtain a copy of her first solo recording, which was simply titled "Betty Buckley" and released on the now-defunct Rizzoli Records label. This recording -- featuring several tunes penned by Buckley herself -- may also feature bonus tracks, songs from BB's live concert at St. Bartholomew's Church in 1984 previously unreleased. So, those who already own the recording (featuring thrilling vocal work) may want to purchase it again. Stay tuned for more information on that front . . . And, there's still another recording in the works. Buckley will fly to Los Angeles to record a duet with the Grammy-winning Johnny Mathis for his forthcoming Broadway CD. Produced by Jay Landers (whose latest credit is Barbra Streisand's new release) and Broadway's Richard Jay Alexander, the recording will boast a Buckley/Mathis duet of Ragtime's "Our Children." It's another dream come true for Buckley, who while growing up adored the suave crooner's work . . . If all that weren't enough, Buckley has several concert dates lined up this month: She'll perform at the South Street Theater in Morristown, New Jersey, this weekend. Then, on October 9, Buckley will be backed by a full symphony orchestra when she tells stories through song at the Tilles Center in Greenvale, New York. That evening will feature the former Cats star dressed to the nines in an ESCADA dress for this special evening. Buckley will also be headed to Hawaii for a concert on October 12 and then a bit of a well-deserved rest. Champaign/Urbana, Illinois is the next stop on the concert tour on October 22 and 23: for a master class at the Foellinger Great Hall and a concert at the Krannert Center. The Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois in Springfield, Illinois, follows on October 24, and then on the 27th Buckley will perform at an Alzheimer's Benefit at the Waldorf Astoria . . . And, of course, the multi-talented actress continues to star in the Hartford Stage Company's production of Camino Real through October 10 (a November highlight: the BRAVO documentary profiling Buckley's stellar career will air on November 1) . . . That's one busy diva!
On Sunday evening about 150 lucky souls piled into the Public Theater's Joe's Pub, one of the city's newest and most sumptuous cabaret rooms, to witness Patti LuPone's triumphant evening of song. Coming on the tail of her sold-out performances at London's Donmar Warehouse, LuPone's rare New York cabaret appearance celebrated the release of her entrancing new CD, "Matters of the Heart," currently available from Varèse Sarabande. The evening began with the strains of Frank Wildhorn's "Storybook," played on piano by Dick Gallagher, who for the evening was accompanied by the beautiful sounds of the Bordeaux String Quartet. LuPone, dressed simply in a skirt and blouse and sporting a becoming short hairstyle, walked onstage through the packed crowd to a tumultuous applause, the gathered eagerly awaiting the songfest that was to follow. LuPone began with soft tones, quietly singing, "Listen to me I have beautiful dreams I can spin you/dreams that linger within you." And, during the next 90 minutes, she, indeed, furnished an evening of "beautiful dreams." The Olivier and Tony Award-winning actress was a bit nervous during her first song, but that is precisely what makes LuPone such a compelling performer--her humanity. Emotions bubble right below the surface, and at any given point, they may erupt during a song: tears, laughter, longing, anger and innumerable others.
"Storybook" segued into Carnival's "Love Makes the World Go 'Round." LuPone then jokingly introduced herself to the adoring crowd, explaining, "I'm Patti LuPone." "Where Love Resides," a song by Jimmy Webb that the actress revealed had been cut from a film ("their loss and our gain"), was delivered tenderly and with much heart. That was followed by Dillie Keane's humorous look at dating in the nineties, "Shattered Illusions." "Illusions" was the first of five comic tunes that LuPone delivered brilliantly: "I Regret Everything," sung with a French accent; "Playbill," John Bucchino's bittersweet tune about meeting someone in a bar after flashing a Playbill from a Stephen Sondheim show; "Better Off Dead," ("This song didn't make the album, but we like it anyway!") in which LuPone's facial expressions were priceless; and Stephen Sondheim's ribald "I Never Do Anything Twice." Other highlights of the evening included "Not a Day Goes By," Sondheim's obsessive love anthem, which LuPone mined for all its dramatic value; a moving trio of songs about family ("Real Emotional Girl," "My Father" and "Look Mummy, No Hands") sung with extreme passion and honesty -- in fact, during this nearly ten minute song cycle, LuPone had the audience riveted as she explored such familial bonds as those between a father and daughter or a mother and child; a sweet and gentle take on "Air That I Breathe"; and Ragtime's "Back to Before," which threatened to take the roof off the pub, although the crowd was duly warned. Before this Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty tune, LuPone confessed that she had first learned the song for a performance for 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl, so "stand back, this might not be pretty!"
LuPone concluded the evening with a belty version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "Hello Young Lovers" and a tune from Gene Willadserr and Isham Jones entitled "My Best to You." For an encore she offered an upbeat version of "The Way You Look Tonight" and invited the audience to sing along or, at least, to snap their fingers. However, one encore was just not enough for the hungry crowd, so LuPone -- unmiked -- sang a tune that was taught to her "by a very drunken Scottish woman," just before she left for London's Donmar Warehouse performance. La LuPone again left the stage, but the applause and chanting grew louder and louder until the actress finally returned. By that time, however, musical director Gallagher had walked offstage, and one of the string players had to retrieve him. LuPone said she would take requests -- this was like being offered manna from the heavens -- and as a sea of titles were yelled out, the star of the evening finally agreed to sing "Meadowlark" if, she said with a laugh, someone would bring her a vodka. As she began a soaring version of The Baker's Wife tune, her request was fulfilled, and she continued the song without missing a beat. It was a complete thrill to listen to hear our Evita gal sing this tune in such a small room; to hear her belt, "Before my paassst once again can blind me. Fly away. And we won't wait to say goodbye. My beautiful young maaaaaaaannnn and IIIIIIIIII," was pure excitement. After a thunderous applause that lasted for several minutes, LuPone consented to deliver two more sensational encores. She almost sang "Buenos Aires" (in the original key, of course), but Gallagher didn't have the sheet music. Oh, well. Perhaps she'll treat us to that tune at Carnegie Hall in November. (Personally, I'm rooting for "Rainbow High," "Where is the Warmth?" and "With One Look.")
Nevertheless, the final encores of the evening were equally sensational: "Being Alive" and "Heaven." It was one of those extremely rare, more-than perfect evenings, a sensational blending of singer and song . . . Let's hope some wise producer brings LuPone back to Broadway soon: a new musical or an old (Call Me Madam, perhaps?), it doesn't matter. Just get her back on Broadway where she belongs.
P.S. My favorite line of the evening. After the 2nd or 3rd encore, La LuPone joked, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Joe's Pub. I'm Patti LuPone, and I'll be your song stylist for the evening. And I do take requests." Ya gotta love her. . .
IN OTHER NEWS Playbill honored the cast of Annie Get Your Gun last week with one of its traditional George Spelvin lunches at the famed Algonquin Hotel. Led by members of the Playbill advertising and editorial staff, guests included Playbill advertisers as well as six AGYG cast members: Bernadette Peters, Tom Wopat, Valerie Wright, Peter Marx, Ronn Carroll and Gregory Zaragoza. Over lunch, the cast answered questions about entering show business, auditioning for AGYG and rehearsing for a revival versus a brand new show. Ronn Carroll, who also starred in the first AGYG revival with Ethel Merman, related an amusing story about the late Broadway powerhouse. During the run of one of her many hits, Merman had not missed a single performance; however, she suddenly came down with a bad case of the flu, and her understudy thought she would finally get to play the lead role onstage. Dressed in costume and make-up, the actress entered Merman's dressing room to find the star lying on her couch. Merman looked up, and in her own inimitable fashion, bellowed, "Forget it, kid!" It was also noted that Bernadette Peters has been honored at more Spelvin luncheons (including those for Mack and Mabel, Song and Dance, Into the Woods, The Goodbye Girl and, now, Annie Get Your Gun) than any other star . . . If you're looking for a way to spend this year's New Year's Eve, you might want to head to San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall. The San Francisco Symphony's black-tie gala begins at 8 PM with hors d'oeuvres and pre-concert entertainment by the Martini Brothers, the Bay Bass, psychics, mimes and caricaturists. The star-studded concert commences at 9 PM with three time Tony winner Audra McDonald and opera singer Frederica von Stade, and the orchestra will be conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Champagne, dessert, dancing and fireworks follow. Tickets range from $100 to $320 and may be purchased by calling (415) 864-6000 . . . On Monday, Nov. 15, the Actors' Fund of America will present "A Tribute to Cameron Mackintosh" at the New York Hilton. For tickets to the benefit performance and gala dinner, call (212) 245-6570. Performers to be announced shortly . . . The last "Cabaret on the Record" performance of this century will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 8 PM at New York's Triad on West 72nd Street. COTR was conceived by Maryann Lopinto, and this marks the 10th anniversary of this series that promotes the recordings and concert work of various singers. Hosted by WQEW's Stan Martin, the evening will feature performances by Christine Andreas, Bobby Belfry, Lorna Dallas, Baby Jane Dexter, Tim Di Pasqua, David Gurland, Martha Lorin, Phillip Officer, Carol Woods and Carol Saunders. Tickets are $15 with a $10 food/drink minimum, and all proceeds will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Call (212) 799-4599 for reservations . . . The steely, huge-voiced Florence Lacey will join Lee Roy Reams and composer/lyricist Jerry Herman for a special one night only presentation of An Evening with Jerry Herman at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse this Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 PM. Part of Paper Mill's Humanities Series, the free evening is made possible by a grant from Mercedes-Benz; call (973) 376-4343 for more information . . . The Broadway Gospel Choir -- which stars B.J. Crosby, Aisha de Haas, Adriane Lenox, Christiane Noll, Billy Porter, Kelli Rabke, Sharon Wilkins and several others will perform Gospel Celebration 6 on Monday, Oct. 4 at 8 PM at The New York Society for Ethical Culture (2 West 64th Street). The choir features musical direction by Rent's Michael McElroy, and $45 tickets are available by calling (212) 840 0770.
Sarah Brightman's complete U.S. tour listing follows:
October 1 in Buffalo, NY at the Sheas Theatre
October 2 in Hartford, CT at the Bushnell Auditorium
October 3 in Portland, ME at the Civic Center
October 6 in Newark, NJ at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
October 8 in Boston, MA at the Wang Center
October 10 in State College, PA at the Bryce Jordan Center
October 12 in Washington, DC at the Constitution Hall
October 13 in Greensboro, NC at the War Memorial Auditorium
October 15 in W. Palm Beach, FL at the Kravis Center
October 16 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd
October 17 in Miami, FL at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Betty Buckley currently stars in Camino Real through October 10 at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Call 860-527-5151 for tickets.
A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
October 2 South Street Theater Company in Morristown, NJ
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 23 Foellinger Great Hall in Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon State University Aud. in Springfield, IL
October 27 Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, NY (Benefit dinner)
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 12 Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
November 14 Music Hall in Cincinnati, OH
December 13-14 St. Barth's Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Aud. in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
February 5, 2000 Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
February 6 Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
February 8-9 Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
February 11 Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
February 12 Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
March 18 Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19 Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
And, "Bravo Profiles: Betty Buckley," an insightful documentary that includes an interview with the Tony Award-winning actress as well as footage from Buckley's recent sold-out Bottom Line concert will air on Bravo November 1 at 10 p.m.
The multi-talented actress will make her solo Carnegie Hall debut on Nov. 19. The GMHC benefit will feature an all-new act created for this special evening by LuPone and director Scott Wittman. Call the Carnegie Hall box office at (212) 247-7800. Tickets for the concert only range from $35 $75. Higher-priced tickets, some of which include a post-party reception with the star, can be obtained by calling (212) 367-1514. Be sure to book your seats early for what promises to be a thrilling evening! . . .Tickets are also now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500 . . .
Mason will open a brand-new night-club space in New York City on November 3. She'll play through Nov. 27 at Arci's Place, 450 Park Avenue South (between 30th and 31st Sts.). Performances are Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 pm, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8:30 and 11 pm There will be a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; for reservations, call (212) 532-4370.
What follows are some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
October 30 and 31, 1999 at the Sun City Superbowl in South Africa
November 5, 1999 at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa
January 21 and 22, 2000 with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah
Peters and Mary Tyler Moore will host a fundraiser for FIDONYC, an organization the two friends founded to help animals in overcrowded shelters. The event is being presented by Best Friends, "the nation's largest no-kill refuge for animals," this Monday, Oct. 4 at the W Hotel, 541 Lexington Avenue from 7 PM until 10 PM. Call (212) 252-4822 for tickets, which range from $300 to $5,000. The evening will include a buffet dinner, a silent auction, live music and a performance by Tom Brackney's "Madcap Mutts." . . . And, of course, the two time Tony winner currently stars as the gun-toting Annie Oakley in the acclaimed revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre. Peters will also be a guest on The Martin Short Show on Monday, October 18 at 4 PM on CBS.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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