DIVA TALK: The Joy of LPs PLUS News of Buckley, Mazzie & More

DIVA TALK: The Joy of LPs PLUS News of Buckley, Mazzie & More Hello, diva lovers! The cast of Gypsy heads into the studio June 22 and 23 to record the classic Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim score for Angel Records. Starring two-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters as Momma Rose, the CD is due in stores in August. . .

LPs vs CDs
Recently my mom moved from a house to an apartment in New Jersey, which forced me to finally deal with boxes of belongings I had stored in the basement. After throwing out piles of papers and various other items I hadn't glanced at in a decade, I came upon my record collection and my old college turntable/stereo.

I couldn't bear to part with all these old friends, so I decided to schlep my phonograph and boxes of records back to my N.Y.C. apartment, and I've been having a great time going through my old collection of LPs. I hosted a Broadway/cabaret radio program for two years while in college, so I amassed a decent, though not huge, amount of show and vocal recordings, many of which I've never replaced on CD.

There is just something special about LPs, and even though their era is over, I'm happy not to have missed it. Because CDs are so impervious to harm — unless you boil 'em or chop 'em with a hammer, they pretty much remain in flawless shape — they somehow seem less valuable than a record. You knew you had to treat your records well: grasp them on the sides between both palms without touching the surface; be extra careful when placing the needle on a track in the middle of the record. And, even though you can load multi-change CD players with several CDs, it doesn't match the fun of watching an LP drop down from the bottom of the stacked records as the tonearm swings back to the side and to the beginning of the next record. Also, the size of the photos and the lyric booklets that accompany CDs can't compare to the often- lavish LP covers and lyric sheets that were found in many albums. (Of course, you can't listen to an LP on the subway, on the treadmill or walking around the city, so I guess CDs do have their advantages!)

Looking through the LPs has also brought back a host of memories: The first record that I ever purchased for myself was the original Broadway cast recording of Evita starring Tony winners Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. I was in sixth grade at the time and played that double-LP set constantly; in fact, it was the only recording I owned for the next two years. Years later, when I first met La LuPone backstage at London's Sunset Boulevard, I recounted that story, and she joked, "Yeah, doll, you were in sixth grade and I was in eighth!" Two years later, when my brother was a freshman in college in upstate New York, my family and I went to visit, and he brought me to the room of two women who lived on his floor who owned — drum roll, please — the London cast recording of Evita starring Elaine Paige. Who knew this even existed? I vividly recall sitting on the floor listening to Paige's belty tones for the first time. As much as I love Paige, though, no one sings the score quite like LuPone; her wide-ranging belt seemed ready made for that Tony-winning role.

It was also that year that I bought my second cast recording, Sunday in the Park with George, and not for the reason you might think. I noticed that Mandy Patinkin — who had been in Evita — was starring in this new Stephen Sondheim musical, so I thought I'd check it out. It was then that I heard Bernadette Peters' thrilling sound for the first time. It was her recording of "We Do Not Belong Together," in particular, that most delighted me. I listened to that track endlessly, and from then on, I was hooked and had to locate other recordings of this singer-actress who I vaguely remembered from "The Carol Burnett Show" and Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie." I searched for a copy of Peters' then out-of-print LP "Now Playing," which featured her first recording of Stephen Sondheim's "Broadway Baby." My brother drove me all around New Jersey, and we finally found a copy at some small Mom-and-Pop record store about an hour from our house. Eureka! Years later, I found her other LP, "Bernadette Peters" at a New York flea market. Of course, none of the searches would have been necessary had ebay been around! And, I have to admit that since I've been reunited with my phonograph, I've purchased a few LPs on that site-for-collectors-with-no restraint: Helen Schneider's 1970's pop LP, "So Close," which is terribly fun and demonstrates the power of the future Norma Desmond's belt; and Marti Webb's follow-up to "Tell Me On a Sunday" called "I'm Not That Kind of Girl," which is — no fault of Webb's, just the material — simply terrible.

It wasn't until college that I was taken with the magic of Betty Buckley after hearing a track — the self-penned "Dark Blue-Eyed Blues" — from her debut solo recording, Rizzoli's "Betty Buckley," on the radio. Buckley's voice — a mix of ethereal upper tones and a fierce belt — was thrilling. To this day I believe that album is one of the finest vocal recordings ever made: More than any other it displays all the beauty the human voice can offer — the power, the delicacy, the vibrancy, the range of emotions and vocal color.

So, those are some of my thoughts about the faded vinyl era . . . I'm curious to hear some of your LP memories. . .

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: It's a busy time for our Sunset Boulevard gal, Betty Buckley, who is currently in rehearsals for the Williamstown Theatre Festival's production of The Threepenny Opera. Not only will Buckley be seen on the Aug. 1 episode of USA Network's "Monk" — BB plays Bitty Schram's mom — but she will also be heard narrating a portion of NBC's annual Fourth of July celebration. The Tony Award-winning actress will narrate the "Lights of Freedom" portion of this year's NBC July 4 celebration. The "Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular" will air on the peacock network 9-11 PM ET; check local listings. The "Lights of Freedom" segment, which lasts 30 minutes, is the fireworks portion of the show. The original score for this segment was written by composer Doug Katsaros and Macy's creative director, William Schermerhorn, and will be performed by Movin' Out Tony nominee Michael Cavanagh. Swing!'s Ann Hampton Callaway will also offer "Free to Dream." . . . Speaking of Buckley, the cast recording of William Finn's Elegies: A Song Cycle is now available on-line. The star-studded CD — featuring Buckley, Carolee Carmello, Christian Borle, Keith Byron Kirk and Michael Rupert — is now available for sale on the Fynsworth Alley website. The musical song cycle, which celebrates life (and death) through the power of song, was a recent hit at Lincoln Center during its limited engagement. The CD will hit record stores this Tuesday, June 24. . . . The Carolina Arts Festival will once again present a "Broadway Rocks" concert featuring some musical theatre favorites. The July 3 concert at North Carolina's Amphitheatre at Regency Park will feature Terrence Mann, Lauren Kennedy, Alan Campbell and Roz Ryan singing Broadway tunes, rock favorites and original compositions. Dancers from both the film and stage productions of Chicago will also be part of the 8 PM evening. Tickets — $10-$25 — to the one-night-only event are available by going to www.ticketmaster.com. The Amphitheatre at Regency Park is located in North Carolina at 8003 Regency Parkway. For more information about the annual Carolina Arts Festival, visit www.carolinaartsfestival.com. . . . The latest round of Downtown Revivals — the acclaimed cabaret series at the Duplex — kicks off July 6. Julie Johnson and Steve Barcus will begin the series with a 7 PM concert July 6. Former Smokey Joe's Cafe star B.J. Crosby will offer a 7 PM concert July 13, and the following week, singer-songwriter Julie Gold will entertain on July 20. The series concludes July 27 with Mark Nadler, who will perform his acclaimed Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians) at 7 and 9:30 PM. Downtown Revivals, designed to highlight performers who often frequent larger venues with one-night-only concert engagements, debuted in June 2002. Previous concerts have featured such cabaret favorites as Lisa Asher, Amanda Green, Jeff Harnar, John Wallowitch, Baby Jane Dexter, Barbara Fasano and Rick Jensen. The Duplex Cabaret Theatre is located in the West Village at 61 Christopher Street. There is a $12 cover plus a two-drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 255-5438. . . . Three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie will join the Broadway company of Man of La Mancha next month. Mazzie will replace the Tony-nominated Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Aldonza July 1 at the Martin Beck Theatre. Mastrantonio will play her final performance June 29. Mazzie will play opposite her former Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate co-star, Brian Stokes Mitchell, who also received a Tony nomination for his work as Cervantes/Don Quixote. . . . Citadel Press, a division of Kensington Publishing Corporation, will publish "The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook" next year. Author and Minnelli historian Scott Schechter is currently working on a new tome for Citadel Press that will be devoted to the stage life of Tony and Academy Award winner Liza Minnelli. Although there have been many books that have focused on Minnelli's often-tumultuous offstage life, this new volume will spotlight Minnelli's talent. The book will cover Minnelli's lengthy career, including dancing with Gene Kelly as a youngster on TV, her early Broadway success at age 19, her Oscar-winning turn in "Cabaret" as well as her record-breaking concert engagements around the world. Due in stores in September 2004, "The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook" will feature over 100 photographs in its 224 full-color pages. Author Schechter is currently welcoming submissions — information, photos and memories — from Minnelli's fans. Schechter, who also penned "Judy Garland: The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend," can be reached via e-mail at Garlands63@aol.com. . . . One of "Match Game"'s favorite regular panelists, Brett Somers, will bring her new cabaret show to Danny's Skylight Room Mondays in July. Somers, who was the top row center panelist on CBS-TV's long-running "Match Game" program, will offer An Evening With Brett Somers Mondays, July 7, 14, 21 and 28. Show time is 7 PM. The evenings are described as "a musical memoir of a life in and out of show business — the act contains hilarious and poignant moments of romance, marriage, career and, of course, 'Match Game.'" Somers co-wrote the program with Mark Cherry, her musical director and arranger. Danny's Skylight Room is located in Manhattan at 346 West 46th Street. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 265-8133. There is a $15 music charge and a $10 food-drink minimum. . . . And, finally, Linda Hart will leave the Tony-winning musical Hairspray next month. A spokesperson for Hart confirmed that the actress-singer will leave her role as Velma Von Tussle in the hit musical Hairspray July 13. She will vacation in Istanbul, Sardinia and Paris with her husband before she begins her next project.

REMINDERS

Liz Callaway in Concert:
June 28 in Divas On the Hudson in Westchester County, NY
July 18-19 in 101 Years of Broadway at the Lenape Center in Marlton, NJ
Aug. 29-30 at the Stockbridge Cabaret in Stockbridge, MA
Jan. 31, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
May 8, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY

Barbara Cook in Concert: Now through June 22 at the Kennedy Center for the Perf. Arts in Washington, DC
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert:

June 27 at the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame Gala in Hollywood, CA
July 19 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA
Aug. 5 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Aug. 22-23 in Passion at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
Oct. 25 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Jan. 24, 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ

Christiane Noll in Concert

Aug. 28 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 29 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 30 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Oct. 11 Chattanooga, TN with Don Pippin
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little

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