Everything certainly came up roses this week for the current production of Gypsy. Last Sunday, the revival — starring two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters as Momma Rose — nabbed the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. The Angel Records disc competed in a field that included the recordings of Billy Joel's Movin' Out and the revivals of Man of La Mancha, Flower Drum Song and Nine—The Musical. Over the weekend I played through the five recordings, and all are extremely enjoyable. But Peters' performance, especially her delivery of "Some People," "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn," created a superior recording, one that can now be termed Grammy-winning. That news was followed by Wednesday's announcement that the musical at the Shubert Theatre had removed the closing notice posted the previous week. Tickets for the revival — directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes — are now on sale through May 30, and the producers hope to keep the show open longer if ticket sales continue to increase. If you only saw Gypsy during its first few weeks, go back and take another look. All of the actors have grown tremendously in their roles, and Peters is currently offering one of the most thrilling performances to be found on any stage.
MARCY & ZINA'S SONGS
They may not yet be household names, but those who frequent New York cabarets have certainly experienced the work of Marcy Heisler (lyrics) and Zina Goldrich (music). The first time I heard one of the songwriters' tunes was during Kristin Chenoweth's American Songbook concert in October 2002 at the John Jay College Theatre. Chenoweth performed Heisler and Goldrich's "Taylor (the Latte Boy)," and it was one of the evening's highlights. Not only incredibly melodic, the song — about a woman who falls for a Starbucks employee — is both funny and touching. In fact, Heisler and Goldrich seem to have a great ability to inject humor into many of their songs. I recently heard another of the women's gems during Ann Harada's cabaret outing at the Ars Nova Theater. Harada, who is currently starring as Christmas Eve in Avenue Q, performed the comical "The Last Song," and, like Chenoweth's concert, it was one of the evening's high points.
Heisler and Goldrich's tunes have also been embraced by Christiane Noll (she recorded "Taylor" on her solo disc), Saturday Night Fever's Paige Price and Dance of the Vampires' Max von Essen. Now, their work is available for the masses, courtesy of a new 318-page tome that features 32 of their songs; song titles follow:
"Don't You Be Shakin' Your Faith in Me"
"Funny How the Love Gets in the Way"
"How I Love You (Wedding Song)"
"I Want Them . . . (Bald)"
"The Last Song"
"Let Me Grow Old"
"Love Like Breathing"
"Make Your Own Party"
"The Morning After"
"Music of Your Life"
"Now That I Know"
"Oh, How I Loved You"
"Oh My Soul"
"Out of Love"
"Over the Moon"
"Sing Your Own Song"
"Taylor, the Latte Boy"
"There Will Never Be Another Love"
"There's Nothing I Wouldn't Do"
"Welcome the Rain"
"We Remember Love"
"Goldrich and Heisler: Songbook Volume 1" can be purchased by visiting the talented songwriters’ website, www.goldrichandheisler.com.
MAKING IT ON BROADWAY
Earlier this week I received a copy of a terrific new book that will hit stores May 3. Entitled "Making It On Broadway: Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top" (Allworth Press), the often hysterical and extremely candid look at working in the theatre features interviews with more than 150 Broadway performers. Authors David Wienir and Jodie Langel — Langel portrayed Cosette and Eponine in Broadway's Les Miz — spoke to such theatre performers as Chita Rivera, Donna Murphy, Faith Prince, Randy Graff, Jason Alexander, Gary Beach, Brian d'Arcy James, Emily Skinner and many, many others. The book is divided into numerous sections dealing with such topics as surviving the first audition, the Disneyfication of Broadway, backstage and onstage antics and the reality of a life in the theatre. It's a quick, fun and thoroughly entertaining read that is also, at times, quite touching. Performers open up about returning to temp jobs after playing leads roles on Broadway, "the curse" of a Tony Award and the sacrifices made for a life on the stage. What follows are a few of the more comical quotes from this must-have tome.
Nancy Opel discusses her first night as Evita:
"I was the understudy to Eva in Evita. When I went on for the lead for the first time, I had yet to rehearse the show on the full set. My problems began as a result of no one telling me that there was a giant cable bundle on the floor behind the Casa Rosada balcony.
Wearing a big white dress, with a giant spotlight on me, I completely tripped over the cable bundle and went flying. Suddenly, I was lying on my face in the middle of the Broadway stage. I said, 'Oh, this is bad.' Mandy Patinkin was singing 'High Flying Adored.' He was not coming to help. The actress who played the maid was in the wings. She flashed me a look of horror, her hands on her face. I tried to get up, but my heels were hooked into my skirt. I rocked back and forth like a turtle upside down on its shell.
The actress who played the maid was in shock. She came running over to help. I thought, 'I've got to use this. I've got to incorporate this into the show. It's foreshadowing.' As she picked me up, I began weaving a bit, holding my stomach.'
Then, I said, 'Oh, that uterine cancer is kicking in again.' I was such an idiot."
Charlotte d'Amboise discusses the dog that made its Broadway debut during the run of Jerome Robbins' Broadway:
"I went to a pet store with Mary Ann Lamb, my best friend. We found a dog that we thought was the cutest thing in the world. It was a pointer. Because no one wanted him, they were going to put him to sleep. Since we were making money in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, we thought that we should buy the dog and give it to somebody. Each of us already had two dogs and we couldn't take a third. We bought the dog for $400 and gave him to the follow-spot operator in our show. He had a great house in the country.
Eight months passed.
One day, the operator said, 'Hey, I am going to bring Blue into the city.'
I asked, 'Can we take the dog in between shows?'
He said yes. Mind you, the dog was now huge. We took the dog and put him in Mary Ann's dressing room. Her dressing room was five flights up in the theatre, and he would be safe there. Of course, no dogs were allowed in the theatre.
I was about to come out for the Peter Pan number and was waiting in the wings. Mary Ann was doing Gypsy, and was sitting in a chair on stage. Out of nowhere, the dog walked out on stage. He managed to get down four flights of stairs, through a packed theatre, through the wings, between Terrence Mann's legs, and out onto the stage to visit Mary Ann, who was sitting all the way across the stage. She was in the middle of singing her song. The audience broke down laughing.
The dog simply walked out, wiggled, turned around, and walked back off stage. I still don't know how it happened. The dog was as big as a table, and there were sixty cast members in the company."
Brooke Shields discusses a lost line in Grease!:
"One night, during a number in Grease!, an actor was talking in my ear. He said, 'You are going down. You are going down.' That's all I heard.
So, when it was time for me to deliver my line, I said: 'I will go down. And you're in now. Grease lighting.'
I was in shock. I was in front of thousands of people, saying words that made no sense. I got backstage and I unleashed on him. It was the only time I ever yelled at someone in a cast. I said, 'Don't you f%*&ng mess me up again.' I wasn't secure enough to be played with. Also, I am not that irreverent that I can mess around on stage. I can have fun, but I don't try to trip people up. You hear stories of stuff like that happening."
Randy Graff discusses Les Miz vs. Falsettos:
"It is incredible to be in a show from its inception. In Les Misérables, we did improvisations for the entire rehearsal period. The number 'Lovely Ladies' came out of improvisation.
Then I replaced Barbara Walsh in Falsettos. I was learning a 'track.' The stage manager put me into the show and told me where to walk, and where to move the furniture. I didn't get any direction because James Lapine was busy. I had to do it all on my own. I didn't have a rehearsal period. I had two weeks of moving furniture. It was very difficult.
The director came to see the show and had some problems with my performance. Funny, as I was never directed by him. The week before the show closed, I finally rehearsed with him."
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Tony Award winner Betty Buckley will return to the Café Carlyle next month. From March 2-27, the award-winning actress/singer will offer her new show — Portraits — at the famed cabaret. Buckley will be backed by Tony Marino, Todd Reynolds and musical director Kenny Werner on piano. Buckley recently triumphed at Feinstein's at the Regency with her show Journey. That evening included such tunes as "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," "Where Do You Start?," "Hallelujah," "Stormy Blues," "Till It Shines," "Blue Skies" and "Like a Lover." At the Carlyle, BB will play Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:45 PM with late shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:45 PM. There is a $65 cover for weekday shows and $75 for weekend performances but no minimum; dinner is served beginning at 6:30 PM. For reservations, call (212) 570-7189; visit www.thecarlyle.com for more information. . . . Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth will go it solo at Carnegie Hall in 2005. Chenoweth, who is currently starring in the hit new musical Wicked, will join the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra on Jan. 25, 2005, for an evening devoted to the Great American Song. Erich Kunzel will conduct the orchestra, and concertgoers can expect to hear tunes by Rodgers and Hart, Leonard Bernstein, Andrew Lippa, Stephen Foster, Ricky Ian Gordon, Meredith Willson and Jerome Kern. LuPone, who is kicking off the City Center Encores! season in Can-Can, will return for her third solo Carnegie Hall concert on March 14, 2005. The Olivier Award-winning actress-singer is expected to include tunes from her upcoming The Lady with a Torch program, which she will debut at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill and Feinstein's at the Regency in March and April. LuPone and Chenoweth's concerts are part of the "Carnegie Hall Goes Pops" series. Show time for both concerts is 8 PM. Carnegie Hall is located in Manhattan at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. For more information, log on to www.carnegiehall.org. . . . Principal casting is now complete for the Paper Mill Playhouse's production of Baby. And what a cast it is! Moeisha McGill, who is currently starring Off-Broadway in Who Wrote That?, will play Lizzie, opposite the Danny of Into the Woods' Chad Kimball. McGill has been seen on Broadway in Mamma Mia! and was part of the cast of the ill-fated Florida production of Little Shop of Horrors. Norm Lewis — now starring on Broadway in Chicago — and Once On This Island's La Chanze will star as respectively, Nick and Pam. And, Broadway veterans Michael (Falsettos) Rupert and Carolee (Parade) Carmello will play Alan and Arlene. Lenny Wolpe, who played Dr. Ira Taub in the Paper Mill's recent mounting of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, will play a fertility specialist. Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire’s musical Baby — about three couples whose lives are affected in various ways by the prospect of having (or not having) a baby — will play the Paper Mill March 31-May 9. The 20th anniversary production will be directed by Mark S. Hoebee. Eugene Gwozdz will be the production's musical director. The Maltby/Shire score — one of my favorites — includes such tunes as "At Night She Comes Home to Me," "I Chose Right," "The Story Goes On," "Easier to Love," "Two People in Love," "With You," "I Want It All" and "And What If We Had Loved Like That." "Patterns," which was cut from the Broadway production but preserved on the show's original cast recording, will be heard in the Paper Mill production as will a new song to be performed by the three lead women. The Paper Mill Playhouse is located on Brookside Drive in Millburn, NJ. Tickets, priced $30-$67, are available by calling (973) 376 4343. For more information visit www.papermill.org. . . . Linda Eder, Maureen McGovern and Lainie Kazan will all perform in concert at the North Shore Music Theatre this spring. McGovern, who starred on Broadway in the Sting 3 Penny Opera, will perform April 16; Jekyll & Hyde's Eder will go it solo May 19 and 20; and former Funny Girl Kazan will sing for her supper May 22. Show time for all concerts is 8 PM. Tickets for the concerts are now available by calling the theatre's box office at (978) 232-7200 or by going on-line to www.nsmt.org. The North Shore Music Theatre is located in Beverly, MA at 62 Dunham Road. . . . The feature length documentary, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, will debut on the HBO cable network this spring. A spokesperson for HBO told me that the documentary, which combines footage from Stritch's Tony-winning one woman show with a behind-the-scenes look at the actress, will premiere in May. Specific dates have yet to be announced. Legendary filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker and his partners Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob filmed the documentary about the theatre veteran and her acclaimed one-woman show. Stritch's performance was taped at the Old Vic in London. Filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker said, "We first met Elaine Stritch during the cast recording of Steve Sondheim's Company. Elaine's life as told on stage is brilliant, but following her in her real life is endlessly fascinating. She's funny, brave, quirky, sarcastic, unpredictable and dangerous." Sheila Nevins, executive vice president of original HBO programming, added, "Elaine Stritch is a larger-than-life character who never fails to dazzle a theatre audience. I'm thrilled that HBO will be bringing this electrifying performer to TV viewers."
Betty Buckley in Concert:
March 2-27 at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, NY
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Feb. 13 with Jason Graae in Salt Lake City, UT
Feb. 14 with Jason Graae in Palm Springs, CA
Feb. 26-28 with Jason Graae in West Palm Beach, FL
Feb. 29 with Stephen Schwartz and Friends in Wilton, CT
April 23 with Jason Graae in Sutter Creek, CA
April 24-25 with Jason Graae in San Rafael, CA
May 1 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert:
Feb. 12-15 in City Center Encores! Can-Can in New York, NY
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
March 17-21 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT
March 29-April 1 at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Hollywood, CA
April 3 at the Chattanooga Convention Center in Chattanooga, TN
April 6-24 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York, NY
April 5-8 in Candide with the NY Philharmonic in New York, NY
Louise Pitre in Concert:
February 28 at the Sanderson Performing Arts in Brantford, ON
February 29 at the Silverthorn C.I. Auditorium in Toronto, ON
November 4 at the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catherines, ON
November 5 at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts in Oakville, ON
November 6 at the Dr. J.M. Ennis Auditorium in Welland, ON
November 11 at the Heritage Theatre in Brampton, ON
November 12 at the Imperial Oil Centre in Sarnia, ON
November 17 at the Markham Theatre in Markham, ON
November 20 at the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound, ON
November 21 at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, ON
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!