DIVA TALK: The Extraordinary Barbara Cook And Other Great Gals!

DIVA TALK: The Extraordinary Barbara Cook And Other Great Gals! BARBARA COOK

BARBARA COOK

Barbara Cook is a wonder. That she can still bring to vivid life songs that she has probably sung hundreds of times is truly remarkable. I’ve only seen Cook in large concert settings, once at the North Shore Music Center and once in my college’s auditorium, so I was quite excited to see the former Music Man star in the small confines of the Cafe Carlyle. Her new show, titled “The Best of Barbara’s Broadway,” celebrates Cook’s six years at the Carlyle, and the 60-minute program included some of her very favorite Broadway tunes. Cook opened the show with an upbeat version of “That’s Entertainment,” and from the moment she sang the first few notes, you knew you were witnessing a true professional, a woman who has mastered her craft.

Cook followed with a glorious “It Might As Well Be Spring” and then greeted her adoring audience. “Nobody Else But Me,” a tune that was added to the 1946 revival of Show Boat, and “Mr. Wonderful” were the next offerings, and then Cook delivered a belty, open-hearted version of the title song from She Loves Me, changing the “she” to “he.” Intense takes of “In Buddy’s Eyes” and “They Say It’s Wonderful” were quite moving, especially the latter, which Cook delivered in a wistful, teary-eyed manner. She then sang two songs from South Pacific that span the range of emotions: an almost giddy “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” and a heart-wrenching “This Nearly Was Mine.”

“The Very Next Man” preceded a striking medley of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Bill,” and Cook finished her act with a song from The Music Man, and not the one you’d think. Instead of her award-winning rendition of “Till There Was You,” she concluded the show with the tongue-twisting “Trouble,” which was originally sung by her Music Man co-star, the late Robert Preston, whom she spoke about lovingly. Cook returned for an encore: a soothing, unmiked version of “Goodnight My Someone,” which displayed the beauty of her natural tones. With the exception of one flubbed lyric in “In Buddy’s Eyes,” it was a truly flawless evening of song. Anyone who is a fan of the theatre and/or cabaret should not miss this Tony Award-winning performer in action. Ms. Cook will perform at the Carlyle through April 29. Call (212) 744-1600 for reservations.

LIZ CALLAWAY I also thoroughly enjoyed Liz Callaway’s recent solo concert at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse (in the Rose Building). The one-night-only gig last Friday night saluted songs written by American composers during the sixties. The hour-long set embraced mostly pop tunes of that era with a few theatre tunes added here and there. Callaway’s program -- which she admitted was her first solo cabaret act in 20 years (“thrilling and terrifying,” she joked) -- began with a medley of “The Beat Goes On” and “Feelin’ Groovy,” and one of my favorite moments occurred toward the end of “The Beat Goes On.” While she was singing the line, “and the beat goes on,” she jumped an octave or so and sang the melody from Baby’s “The Story Goes On” (“and the beat goes on and on and on and on). Quite clever, I thought!

Callaway went on to explain that “this is the music I grew up with,” and admitted that the act offered her a “good excuse to wear bell-bottoms again!” The show continued with honest, silky-toned renditions of “Beautiful Balloon”; Hair’s “Frank Mills” (“1969 was my favorite year,” Callaway insisted. “The Mets won the World Series, man landed on the moon, and I got my first stereo!”); “You Don’t Own Me”; a plaintive, slowed-down “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane”; Promises, Promises’ “Half As Big As Life”; Burt Bacharach’s aching “A House Is Not a Home”; "Mary Poppins"’ “Tuppence a Bird”; the rousing “Natural Woman”; a moving medley of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “We Shall Overcome” and “There Won’t Be Trumpets”; and one song not written by an American composer, the Petula Clark hit “Downtown.” Callaway finished the set with a poignant version of “Moon River,” which was a perfect fit for her rounded, honey-like tones. I do hope Callaway records this material at some point, although I would enjoy a few more theatre tunes from that era. Though not Broadway’s finest decade, the 60’s did produce such musicals as Camelot, Carnival, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, No Strings, Little Me, She Loves Me, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Man of La Mancha, Sweet Charity, Hello, Dolly! and more.

KAREN MASON

Karen Mason, who became one of the most luminous presences in the cabaret world in the eighties and then went on to earn great reviews as the standby to the stars in Sunset Boulevard, just finished a run at Los Angeles’ top cabaret rooms, The Cinegrill. Next month, the independent film in which she stars, Sleeping Dogs Lie, will be presented at the Los Angeles Indie Festival. From May 3 to May 14, Mason will return to Davenport’s cabaret in Chicago, and from June 1 to June 4, she will present her theatre concert at the new Metropolis Theatre in her home town, Arlington Heights, Illinois. (Call 847-577-2121 for tickets). June will also bring performances at the opening night of the San Francisco Cabaret Convention (June 5) and an evening at San Francisco’s Plush Room on June 7. And, if all that weren’t enough, the talented chanteuse will return to Arci’s Place in New York for a six-week run (beginning September 5). It seems Mason fans have good reason to rejoice!

IN OTHER NEWS

The month of April will bring a host of new recordings that will put a smile on the faces of diva lovers around the country. Faith Prince’s “A Leap of Faith,” a live recording of her recent cabaret act, hits stores on April 11, and it is the first disc recorded live at the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub. About Prince’s act, Daily Variety had this to say: “Faith Prince labels herself a ‘cabaret virgin,’ but you’d never guess it from the ease and affability of her debut show at Joe’s Pub. Her repertoire fits her like a glove, and her rapport with an audience is instantaneous, her singing is full of pep and wit and polish. If only all cabaret queens were so virginal!” The 17-track CD (on the DRG label) includes such tunes as “Some People,” “On the Other Side of the Tracks,” “If I Were a Bell,” “Is It a Crime?,” “The Boy from...” and many more . . . On April 18 RCA Victor will release the original Broadway cast recording of Marie Christine featuring a score by Michael John LaChiusa, who is currently represented on Broadway with The Wild Party. Marie Christine stars Tony winners Audra McDonald and Anthony Crivello, and The New York Times exclaimed, “La Chiusa’s swirling, complex music taps McDonald’s oceanic potential. She is LaChiusa’s ideal translator, giving emotional precision to his intricate score, which has ravishing orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick” . . . RCA Victor will also release “Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino” on April 18. Bucchino’s songs have been embraced by many performers in both the theatre and cabaret worlds. In fact, the late Nancy LaMott was an ardent supporter of his works, recording his “It Feels Like Home” on her last album, and Barbara Cook wrapped her wonderful vocals around “Sweet Dreams” on her live London recording. This new CD boasts an array of performers singing 16 of Bucchino’s works. Those on the disc include Patti LuPone, Judy Collins, Liza Minnelli, Daisy Prince, Lois Sage, Amanda McBroom, Andrea Marcovicci, Ann Hampton Callaway, Kristin Chenoweth plus Michael Feinstein, Billy Stritch, Jimmy Webb, Adam Guettel, Art Garfunkel, Brian Lane Green and David Campbell. Bucchino can also be heard singing on one track (“Not a Cloud in the Sky”), and he accompanies each performer on piano . . . And, last but certainly not least, the great Johnny Mathis has recorded his first Broadway-themed album for Columbia Records. Entitled “Mathis on Broadway,” the collection of classic songs -- including “Bring Him Home,” “Loving You,” “They Live in You” -- will be available on April 25. What’s especially exciting for diva fans are two duets: one with Betty Buckley (on a medley of “Children Will Listen” and “Our Children”) and the other with Nell Carter (on “Seasons of Love”) . . . . . . . . From April 12 through May 27, Christiane Noll, Brandon Jovanovich, Eddie Bracken, Jane Connell, Glory Crampton and Jerome Hines will star in Romberg’s The Student Prince at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. Call (973) 376-4343 for reservations . . . Some additional Liza Minnelli tour dates in Minnelli on Minnelli: November 12 at the Performing Arts Center in Naples, Florida; November 14 & 15 at the Maxwell King Center in Melbourne, Florida; November 17 & 18 at the Moran Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; December 6-10 at the Lyric Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; December 13-17 at the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and December 27-31 at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida . . . Germany’s Norma Desmond, Helen Schneider, will perform her “Walk on the Weill Side” program (an evening of songs by Kurt Weill) on Friday, April 7 at Alice Tully Hall. Call (212) 239-4699 for tickets.

REMINDERS

KAREN AKERS

Karen Akers will make her Algonquin debut on Tuesday, April 4. The chanteuse will premiere her latest cabaret act, “Haunted Heart,” at the famed hotel’s Oak Room. Show times for “Haunted Heart,” which runs through April 21, are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 PM and Friday and Saturday nights at 9 and 11:30 PM. There is a $50 cover charge and a $15 food/drink minimum. The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 West 44th Street; call (212) 840-6800 for reservations.

BETTY BUCKLEY

A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.

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
August 29: Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL

BARBARA COOK I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:

Now through April 29 at the Cafe Carlyle, NYC (212) 744-1600
June 13: Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656 4401
Sept. 14: Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748 0505
Sept. 21 & 22: Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
Sept. 28-Oct. 1: Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787

LINDA EDER

Eder in concert:

April 13: Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, MA (617) 562-4111
April 14: Copley Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 536-8800 April 15: Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT (203) 562-5666
April 25: Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (973) 376-4343
May 6: Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Benefit in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX (713) 334-4400
July 8: Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14: Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628 0888
July 15: Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274-6564
July 16: With Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
Aug. 5: Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
Aug. 6: With Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
Aug. 8: With Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
Aug. 9: With Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
Aug. 19: John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324 4050
Aug. 25: With Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org

PATTI LUPONE

Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:

May 4-6: Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center) New York, NY; (212) 875-5656
May 12: Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13: Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632-ARTS
June 8-11: Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112

AUDRA McDONALD

Scheduled concert dates for McDonald follow:

April 25-29: With the Atlanta Symphony (Kurt Weill/ “Seven Deadly Sins”)
May 12: Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Boston, MA
May 14: Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

MAUREEN McGOVERN

Already announced McGovern concert dates include the following:

March 24 & 25: “An Evening with Maureen McGovern” with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK

LIZA MINNELLI

Tour dates for Minnelli on Minnelli follow:

April 12-16: at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
May 3-7: at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL
June 7 & 8: at the Bryce Jordan Center at Stage College, PA
June 10 & 11: at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH
Sept. 13-17: at the Wharton Ctr. for the Perf. Arts in East Lansing, MI
Oct. 6-22: at Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI
Nov. 1-5: at the Wang Center in Boston, MA
March 7-11: at the Civic Theatre in San Diego, CA

SETH’S BROADWAY CHATTERBOX

Some of the most enjoyable cabaret/theatre experiences of the season are happening at Don’t Tell Mama, where writer/comedian/musician Seth Rudetsky hosts his weekly program, “Seth’s Broadway Chatterbox.” Here is a list of upcoming theatre guests: husband and wife Terrence Mann and Charlotte d’Amboise on April 6, Judy Kuhn and Barry Moss on April 13 and Sam Harris on April 20. There is a $10 cover change, which goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and a two-drink minimum. Call (212) 757-0788 for reservations. Don’t Tell Mama is located on Restaurant Row (West 46th Street) in N.Y.C.

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

-- By Andrew Gans