DIVA TALK: Thoughts on the Final Miz and “Idol” PLUS Diva News

News   DIVA TALK: Thoughts on the Final Miz and “Idol” PLUS Diva News It was the week of final performances. Not only did the stage version of Urban Cowboy play its second final performance, but the long-running international hit Les Misérables ended its 16-year-run and the much-in-the-news “American Idol” finally crowned a new star.

THE FINAL MIZ:

The audience’s reaction at the final performance of Les Misérables was, perhaps, as exciting as the show on stage. Jam-packed with former company members and others associated with the show’s 16-year-long run, most every moment of the musical was greeted with a blast of applause and cheers from the adoring crowd. This is not to say that the final company didn’t offer a terrific version of the Alain Boublil/Claude-Michel Schönberg/Herbert Kretzmer musical. Standouts of this last Broadway company included Randal Keith’s Valjean, Michael McCarthy’s Javert and Diana Kaarina’s Eponine. The longest applause seemed to greet Keith’s haunting final tones — in falsetto — of “Bring Him Home” and Kaarina’s seemingly unending belt on the “On My Own” climax: “A world that’s full of happiness that I have never knooooooooowwwwwn.”

That said, however, the most moving moments of the four-hour evening occurred after the musical concluded and the show’s creators — including Cameron Mackintosh, Trevor Nunn, John Caird, Boublil and Schönberg — had had their say. Producer Mackintosh spoke about the new “high school version” of Les Miz that was released a year ago, noting that since that time over 200,000 students around the country had stormed the barricades. After his speech, the now-familiar lettering that flashes the various French cities on the stage flashed the names and ages of three high school students who had been chosen to re-create their versions of the musical’s famous characters for this remarkable evening. A sixteen year-old Fantine belted out a portion of “I Dreamed a Dream” to a thunderous applause; she was followed by a 15-year-old Eponine, who offered part of “On My Own,” and a young Valjean who sang the final portion of “Bring Him Home.” As he absorbed the cheers from the crowd, the musical’s original Broadway Fantine, Randy Graff, entered from the wings singing part of the show’s finale. It was one of those extremely touching moments — watching one of the musical theatre’s finest performers, who brings a warmth and honesty to everything she does, share the stage with this up-'n'-coming performer — that only live theatre seems to be able to create. It was truly moving. As Graff continued singing, the show’s original London and Broadway Eponine, Frances Ruffelle, walked onstage and joined her. The trio sang together to more cheers, and then the stage suddenly filled with the rest of the original Broadway company (with the exclusion of a few who were unable to attend the festivities) who continued the finale, singing with much emotion, “Do you hear the people sing/ Lost in the valley of the night?/ It is the music of a people/ Who are climbing to the light. . .” The entire theatre joined in the singing of the now-familiar anthem as colored balloons and confetti filled the house, and the cheers seemed to continue for several minutes.

I thought I would have been saddened by the closing of this musical, which was such a part of my high school and college years, but the evening was such a celebration, it seemed like an apt time for, not a good-bye, but an “au revoir.” One suspects Les Misérables will not be gone for too long.

THE FINAL "IDOL":

After the three-night finale of “American Idol,” I was more than ready to bid adieu to this year’s competition. Spreading one hour’s worth of television over three nights can certainly do that to a viewer. Not that I didn’t enjoy being swept up by the talent of the season, but the Ruben vs. Clay drama could only spread so far. I have to admit that I was rooting for Clay Aiken — I thought he was the one true star of all the contestants, bringing a thrilling voice and a self-assured charisma to each performance — but the oh-so-close vote went to 25-year-old Ruben Studdard, who also possesses a fine, textured voice. It should be interesting to see how the careers of both young artists progress; hopefully each will have long-term success in the music world. The competition does give me hope for the world of pop music; the millions of callers throughout the FOX series seemed to vote for talent over image, and it makes me wonder if pop record producers will realize that people are willing to buy music from entertainers who don’t need six-pack abs if they have the vocal chops to deliver exciting music.

BARBARA COOK:

The one-and-only Barbara Cook has released her latest concert itinerary, which includes a nearly month-long engagement at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Cook, who will bring a new show to the famed Center June 5-22, will also team with opera singer Marilyn Horne for Marilyn Horne & Barbara Cook—Just Between Friends: Selections from the American Songbook later in the year. Her concert schedule, as of press time, follows:

June 5-22 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 14 Master Class at the Tulsa Opera in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 16 at the Krannert Center at the University of Ill. in IL
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
Oct. 4 at Rhode Island College in RI
Oct. 18 with Marilyn Horne at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
Nov. 1 at the Ferst Center at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
April 10, 2004 at the University of Alabama in AL
Sept. 3, 2004 at the North Carolina Blumenthal Center in NC

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK Tony Award winner Phyllis Newman will be the featured speaker at the Women’s American ORT June 16, 11 AM-3 PM at the Greystone Manor at Van’s Freehold Inn, 260 South Street, Freehold, NJ. The afternoon features a luncheon, a talk by Newman and a question-and-answer period with the actress. The cost of the entire event is $50; for further information call (888) 675-2678. Other Newman activities: On May 31, she will narrate a Family Concert at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium. The 2 PM performance features Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops; go to www.carnegie-hall.org for more information. On June 4 Newman will perform Ed Kleban’s “Better” at the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre benefit/tribute to Daniel Liebeskind, and on June 9 she’ll join an array of performers — including Donna McKechnie, Karen Mason, Sylvia McNair, Steven Brinberg and Hairspray’s The Dynamites — at Symphony Space for a benefit for the Broadway Mall Association. Go to www.broadwaymall.org for more information on that evening. . . . After she completes her month-and-a-half long run at the Algonquin’s Oak Room this weekend, Karen Akers will bring her acclaimed collection of “Theatre Songs” to several venues this summer. The statuesque performer who starred on Broadway in the original production of Nine will perform at Cabaret at Odette’s in New Hope, PA, June 20-29. In July Akers will offer shows at Stockbridge’s DeSisto School (July 3-5), White Lake’s Bradstan Country Inn (July 6) and at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (July 26). . . . Rosemary Harris will play Mrs. Higgins in the upcoming Aug. 3 concert of My Fair Lady at the Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl’s official website also says that Kevin Early and Lauri Johnson have joined the cast of the one-night-only event as, respectively, Freddie Eynsford-Hill and Mrs. Pearce. They join the previously announced John Lithgow (Prof. Henry Higgins), Melissa Errico (Eliza Doolittle), Roger Daltrey (Alfred P. Doolittle) and Paxton Whitehead (Colonel Pickering). Errico and Whitehead are reprising the roles they played in the 1993 revival of My Fair Lady starring Richard Chamberlain. The Hollywood Bowl will present the famed Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe musical as part of its Weekend Spectaculars series. Gordon Hunt will direct the musical, featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri. Show time is 7:30 PM. The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 Highland Avenue in Hollywood, CA. Tickets for My Fair Lady are available by calling (323) 850-2000. Go to www.hollywoodbowl.org for more information. . . .

Tony Award winners Christine Ebersole and Judith Ivey will take part in a reading of Enid Rudd’s Dearest Cousin May 28. Ebersole and Ivey will play, respectively, Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I in the reading of the new play at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre. Directed by Leonard Peters, the by-invitation-only reading is scheduled for 3 PM. Produced by The Storyline Project LLC, Dearest Cousin is set on the eve of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution. Elizabeth I visits her on this evening and offers a scheme to save her life. A New York production of the play is scheduled for the 2003-2004 theatre season. . . . Acclaimed illusionist Richard Skipper will return to the Duplex with An Evening with Carol Channing next month. Skipper will offer a night with everyone’s favorite Dolly Levi Mondays, June 16, 23 and 30 at 9 PM. Other June highlights at the Village cabaret include bassist Jay Leonhart, who’ll perform Tuesdays at 7 PM; singer Baby Jane Dexter, who will offer her newest show, Another Spring: Then and Now, Saturdays at 9 PM; MAC Award winner Brandon Cutrell, who’ll take to the intimate stage with I’m Not Waiting: The Music of Andrew Lippa, Mondays, June 2, 9 16 and 23 at 7 PM; and celebrated singer-songwriter Tim Dipasqua, scheduled to perform June 17 (9 PM), 28 (7 PM) and 30 (7 PM). Others scheduled for the month of June include Terri Lynn Paul’s tribute to Elvis Presley (June 19 and 26, 7 PM), Bobby Belfry’s Rented Realities (June 25 and 26, 9 PM), Rock Albers’ new collection of songs and parodies (June 13 and 20, 7 PM) and the continuation of the Duplex’s Newer Sundays series (June 1 and 15 at 5 PM). Brett Kristofferson will host the June 1 Newer Sundays evening and Sam Davis is the June 15 host. The Duplex is located in New York City at 61 Christopher Street (at 7th Avenue). For reservations, call (212) 255-5438.

REMINDERS

Betty Buckley in Concert:

May 31 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA Barbara Cook in Concert:

June 5-22 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 15 at the Mountain Laurel Center for the Perf. Arts in Bushkill, PA
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

Maureen McGovern in Concert

May 30 - 31 at the Palmer Events Center with the Austin Symphony Orchestra in Austin, TX
June 7 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN

Christiane Noll in Concert

May 24 Williamsburg, VA with the Virginia Arts Festival
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!