DIVA TALK: The Weekly Round-Up Of Some Of Broadway’s Finest

DIVA TALK: The Weekly Round-Up Of Some Of Broadway’s Finest Hello, diva lovers! As reported earlier in the week, it seems that Bernadette Peters has been approached about starring in a full scale London revival of the classic musical Gypsy. Peters is definitely interested in what would be her second “Ethel Merman” role and is currently mulling over the prospect of following in the footsteps of such former Gypsy stars as the aforementioned Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and, most recently at the Paper Mill, Betty Buckley. As you know, two-time Tony winner Peters is scheduled to conclude her run in Annie Get Your Gun in September and, according to her press rep, would like a bit of a break before heading into another musical, but with Sam Mendes as the possible director, it seems like a project too exciting to dismiss. Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book to Gypsy, which features a score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, recently leaked the news at a press conference for his new autobiography, “Original Story By” (Random House). Stay tuned for more info! (Another exciting thought: a London season with both Elaine Paige in The King and I and Peters in Gypsy would be more than worth the transatlantic trip!)

Hello, diva lovers! As reported earlier in the week, it seems that Bernadette Peters has been approached about starring in a full scale London revival of the classic musical Gypsy. Peters is definitely interested in what would be her second “Ethel Merman” role and is currently mulling over the prospect of following in the footsteps of such former Gypsy stars as the aforementioned Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and, most recently at the Paper Mill, Betty Buckley. As you know, two-time Tony winner Peters is scheduled to conclude her run in Annie Get Your Gun in September and, according to her press rep, would like a bit of a break before heading into another musical, but with Sam Mendes as the possible director, it seems like a project too exciting to dismiss. Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book to Gypsy, which features a score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, recently leaked the news at a press conference for his new autobiography, “Original Story By” (Random House). Stay tuned for more info! (Another exciting thought: a London season with both Elaine Paige in The King and I and Peters in Gypsy would be more than worth the transatlantic trip!)

BETTY BUCKLEY
Betty Buckley’s seventh solo recording, “Heart to Heart,” -- following “Betty Buckley,” “Children Will Listen,” “With One Look,” “The London Concert,” “An Evening at Carnegie Hall” and “Much More” -- has been receiving rave reviews. What follows are a few excerpts from these glowing write-ups.


Michael Padletta in Billboard:
“While Betty Buckley can ably turn on the vocal generator with dramatic results, ‘Heart to Heart’ finds the musical theatre/concert star delivering an exquisitely intimate performance . . . the mood here is one-on-one, with most of the backing by the artist’s long-time keyboard accompanist Kenny Werner . . . the songs . . . are presented with a new expressiveness. Buckley’s debut on her own label is enchanting . . .”


Thomas May on Amazon.com:
“Singer-actress Betty Buckley has earned her status as a contemporary Broadway icon through the power and presence of her various theatrical incarnations . . . Surprisingly underrecorded for someone of her stature, Buckley has crafted a beautifully integrated program for ‘Heart to Heart’: she extends her uniquely vivid interpretations from standards (with real gems by Kern and Berlin) to Mary Chapin Carpenter's thoughtful pop-folk idiom, even including two new compositions of her own. What's more, she gives us a chance to hear her passionate art up close, inviting us into an intimate setting through arrangements as spare and direct as the simple pen-and-ink caricature Buckley designed for the album's cover. Pianist partner Kenny Werner's coolly elegant keyboard frames and dovetails with Buckley's vocals -- passionate, vulnerable, and full of yearning -- in a graceful pas de deux . . . ‘Heart to Heart’ is bracing and fresh, an antidote to the overproduced belters of too many recital albums.”
And, a host of new BB concert dates just came in, too. What follows are Ms. B’s confirmed concert dates through the end of 2000. More to come. . .
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, 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
May 13 Huntington Theatre in Boston, MA
June 30 & July 1 John Drew Theatre (Guild Hall) in East Hampton, NY
July 24 Martin Theatre (Ravinia Festival) in Highland Park, IL
August 21-September 3 Donmar Warehouse in London, UK
September 16 Stranahan Theatre in Toledo, OH
October 6-7 Scottsdale Center for the Arts Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ
October 28 Univ. of Texas Cowan Fine & Perf. Arts Center in Tyler, TX

UTE LEMPER
Ute Lemper is best known in the U.S. for her knockout turn as Velma Kelly in the Broadway production of Chicago, a role she first performed to enthusiastic notices in the London revival of that Kander and Ebb musical. A long-time proponent of the works of Kurt Weill and the French repertoire of Prevert and Piaf, Lemper now turns her attention to such legendary renegade composers as Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Philip Glass, Tom Waits and others. Reinventing herself as an “alternative pop diva,” Lemper’s new recording, “Punishing Kiss,” celebrates these pop composers as does her new concert tour, which kicked off on April 7 in Los Angeles. In the liner notes for her new CD, Lemper has this to say about the composers represented on her newest recording: “Making this album was truly challenging and a fun ride. My wish to work with contemporary songwriters is as old as I am a performer but various marginal collaborations aside, there was and is always so much historical repertoire urging itself right at the entrance of my stage door that this wish had been diluted for years by other priorities . . . The songs of this album . . .are like contemporary Kabarett songs, theatrical and passionate.” Though the recording is not to my particular liking, fans of Lemper will want to check out her approach to these non-theatre tunes. Lemper certainly sounds like no other singer and delivers the songs in a style all her own. That said, however, I think the stunning chanteuse is better suited to the theatre and cabaret songs that have made her an internationally renowned performer. In fact, her cabaret performance this past season at Joe’s Pub was like no other I’ve seen -- an in-your-face evening of raw emotion.


Other Lemper concert dates for the month of April include the Chicago Theatre in Chicago, IL on Saturday, April 15; the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, April 16; and New York City’s Town Hall on Friday, April 28.

HELEN SCHNEIDER
I received a few e-mails from diva fans who were able to attend Schneider’s concert last Friday night at the Weill Recital Hall. Schneider delivered a two-act program devoted to the songs of Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill. The dynamic belter, who portrayed Norma Desmond in the German production of Sunset Boulevard, will soon be back on the German stage in a production of another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Evita. One hopes that her version of the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical will finds its way to CD . . . I thought you would enjoy seeing the generous program for Schneider’s recent concert, which follows:


Act I: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim:
Move On
Everybody Says Don't
Another Hundred People
Now You Know
There Won't Be Trumpets
Anyone Can Whistle
Broadway Baby
Uptown, Downtown
Can That Boy Fox-Trot
Not While I'm Around
Old Friends
What More Do I Need
Getting Married Today
Send In the Clowns
Losing My Mind


Act II: The Songs of Kurt Weill
Mack the Knife
Barbara's Song
Pirate Jenny
Surabaya Johnny
I Wait for a Ship
My Ship
How Can You Tell an American
Progress
I'm a Stranger Here Myself
Mon Ami, My Friend
September Song
Brack's Song
Lonely House
It Never Was You
What Good Would the Moon Be
Johnny's Song

JOHNNY MATHIS: “MATHIS ON BROADWAY”
(Okay, he’s not a diva, but two of Broadway’s finest do join him on the CD!) It seems hard to believe that it could be 40 years since the ever-youthful, golden-throated Johnny Mathis released an all-Broadway collection of songs. However, the year was 1960 when Mathis recorded “Rhythms and Ballads of Broadway,” and his newest CD, “Mathis on Broadway,” hits stores April 25. This millennial collection of contemporary show tunes features songs from an array of recent musicals, including Jekyll & Hyde’s “Once Upon a Dream” and The Phantom of the Opera’s “All I Ask of You.” Other highlights of the nine-track disk include a haunting version of “They Live in You” from The Lion King, an intense and seemingly personal take on Passion’s “Loving You” and duets with Broadway Tony winners Betty (Cats, Sunset Boulevard) Buckley and Nell (Ain’t Misbehavin’) Carter. Buckley, who is in thrilling voice, joins the legendary singer on a moving medley of Into the Woods’ “Children Will Listen” and Ragtime’s “Our Children,” and Nell Carter lends her rousing tones to the Rent anthem, “Seasons of Love”; the latter also includes back up from an exhilarating choir. A special bonus: The cast of Forever Plaid join Mathis on an older gem that has been given new life in the current hit Fosse, “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” “Mathis on Broadway” is available on Columbia Records.

IN OTHER NEWS Tony winner Randy Graff will be among the cast of Neil Simon’s Hotel Suite, which will begin previews on May 19 at the Roundabout’s Gramercy Theatre . . . Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s Side Show will be presented at Arlington’s Signature Theatre from May 9 through June 18. Tickets range from $28 to $30 and may be purchased by calling 1-800-955-5566 . . . Jennifer Simard, who received a Drama Desk nomination for her work in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (now in its fourth year at the Westside Theatre), will fly to Hollywood this weekend to attend the premiere of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. Simard portrays Wilma’s obnoxious, filthy-rich cousin Muffy in the film, and she landed the role when she was appearing in the L.A. company of Perfect, Now Change . . . A host of Broadway and cabaret faves will take part in “Storybook: The Lyrics of Nan Knighton” on Thursdays, April 27, May 4, 11 and 18 at 11 PM at Sam's Restaurant on West 45th Street. Anne Runolfsson, Paige Price, Tom Andersen, Bryan Batt, Rob Evan and Marc Kudisch will perform during the first evening saluting Knighton, who is best known to New York audiences for her lyrics to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Following shows will include turns from Carolee Carmello, Gilles Chiasson, Tim DiPasqua, Tovah Feldshuh, Dee Hoty, Alix Korey, Orfeh and many more. There is a $12 cover and a $10 minimum, and part of the proceeds will go to BC/EFA. Call (212) 719-5416 for reservations . . .Bistro Award-winner Anne Tofflemire will celebrate the release of her debut CD, “Let's Face the Music,” a salute to the works of Irving Berlin, this Sunday (April 16) at 7 PM at the FireBird Cafe (365 W. 46th Street). There is a $20 music charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 586-0244.

REMINDERS
KAREN AKERS
Karen Akers is currently performing her latest 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.

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 at the Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656-4401
September 14 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
September 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
September 28-October 1 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787

LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
April 14 at the Copley Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 536-8800
April 15 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT (203) 562-5666
April 25 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ (973) 376-4343
May 6 at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Benefit in the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston, TX (713) 334-4400
July 8 with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14 with Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15 with 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
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
August 6 with Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
August 8 with Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
August 9 with Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
August 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050

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

KAREN MASON
April 22 Appearance with Tommy Femia at Don't Tell Mama in NYC
April 29 Benefit for Community Health in Chicago; call (773) 395 9901
May 3-14 Davenport’s Cabaret in Chicago; call 773-278-1830
May 26-27 Mason opens the Cabaret series at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
June 1-4 Theatre concert at the new Metropolis Theatre in Arlington Heights, IL; call (847) 577-2121
June 5 Opening night of the San Francisco Cabaret Convention
June 7 The Plush Room in San Francisco; call 415-885-2800
Sept. 5 - Oct. 14 Arci’s Place, 450 Park Avenue, New York, NY; call (212) 532-4370.

AUDRA McDONALD

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

LIZA MINNELLI
Tour dates for Minnelli on Minnelli follow:
Through April 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
September 13-17 at the Wharton Ctr. for the Perf. Arts in East Lansing, MI
October 6-22 at Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI
November 1-5 at the Wang Center in Boston, MA
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
December 27-31 at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida
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.”Sam Harris join Rudetsky 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