DIVA TALK: Tony Acceptance Speeches

DIVA TALK: Tony Acceptance Speeches Hello, diva lovers. Quite a few items this week. . .enjoy!

Hello, diva lovers. Quite a few items this week. . .enjoy!

This Sunday, June 7, is the much-anticipated 1998 Tony Awards program on PBS (8 PM) and CBS (9 PM). With so many great shows and performances this season, it promises to be one of the most exciting awards programs in recent memory. And, of course, the opening number of the CBS portion of the telecast will feature a salute to the divas of Broadway, so be sure to set your VCRs. Host Rosie O'Donnell will be joined by Betty Buckley, Jennifer Holliday and Patti LuPone, and the three Tony winners will instruct O'Donnell in the art of being a diva. A few years back, I spent some time working on an article about Tony Awards speeches through the years. . .the article never ran, but I thought you would be interested to read the acceptance speeches from some of Broadway's grandest ladies:

Betty Buckley for her role as Grizabella in Cats:
"Oh Boy. Umm. I represent a lot of people. . .the Shubert Organization . . .Bernie Jacobs and Gerald Schoenfeld . . . our producers, David Geffen, Cameron Mackintosh, our incredible director, Trevor Nunn . . . one of the most beautiful and strong women I have ever met and who gave me all this lovely cat movement and helped me discover my lovely Grizabella, Gillian Lynne. . . Andrew Lloyd Webber who wrote this incredible music. I want to thank Trevor again for the words to "Memory." And, oh gosh. I don't want to forget anybody. T. S. Eliot, of course, and Valerie Eliot for discovering the four line fragment that became Grizabella. I want to thank my mom and my dad and my brother Norman and my other brothers and my friends and teachers, Chris Mead and Paul Gavert and my friend, Tommy Colbert. And most of all, the ensemble of Cats who have taught me, without a doubt, that theatre's all about unity. Thank you."

Jennifer Holliday for her role as Effie in Dreamgirls:
"Thank you. This is the most important night in my life. And I want to thank God for giving me the gift, and I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to share the gift with you. I would also like to thank my manager, Suzanne Depass . . . Tony Jones for guiding me and pushing me along for the last three years. I'd like to thank the producers of the show, David Geffen and Bernie Jacobs--I call him Daddy--and Gerry Schoenfeld and Bob Avian, a very special friend of mine. And I'd especially like to thank my director, Michael Bennett. Thank you. He's such a wonderful man; he's taught me so much about life and the theatre. You want to fight again?! I want to thank my Momma, she's watching, no special reason, just because I love her. I want to thank Jamie Patterson for the ticket to New York three years ago. And I want to thank the wonderful cast of Dreamgirls. And I love you all. Thank you."

Bernadette Peters for her role as Emma in Song & Dance:
"Thank you. Thank you very much. I . . . I'm overwhelmed. I appreciate this so much. I want to thank my mother for insisting I had talent and continuing with my lessons, and I want to thank my father and my sister and my brother for their love and support. And I have to thank a person for whom I wouldn't be standing here today--my manager and dear, dear friend, Tom Hammond. And I have more . . . I want to thank my acting teacher, David Legrand, and my singing teacher, Adrienne Angel, because I couldn't have sung eight shows a week, and I can't sing eight shows a week without her . . . and the dancers in the show are so talented and so committed and so uplifting. They uplift the show, and they uplift me every night. I want to thank my standby, Maureen Moore, and Richard Maltby. This show wouldn't have happened on this side of the Atlantic without Richard Maltby, our director. And Don Black who I adore, rewrote the lyrics with Richard. And Andrew Lloyd Webber for his gorgeous music. And Bernie Jacobs and Gerry Schoenfeld, my second great experience with them. And Cameron Mackintosh and the Really Useful Co. and FWM Producing Group, and . . . that's it . . .I'm out of cards. I want to thank the audience because they're so warm, and thank you for coming, the audience to the show, and thank you for this, very, very much." LAURIE BEECHMAN
As most of you know, on March 8 of this year, the multi-talented Laurie Beechman lost her decade-long battle with cancer and received a beautiful, moving memorial a few weeks later at the Winter Garden Theatre, where she had played Grizabella for many years in Cats. The NIKO Companies announced this week that they will present The First Annual Laurie Beechman Memorial Golf and Tennis Outing, which will benefit the National Actors Theatre. The outing will take place this Monday, June 8 at The Pelham Country Club in Pelham Manor, New York. The afternoon will include lunch and the sporting events, plus cocktails and a dinner reception following the games. Tony Randall and Jack Klugman will serve as the Honorary Chairmen for the event, and many other members of the Broadway community will participate as well. For more information, contact the National Actors Theatre at (212) 719-5331.

BETTY BUCKLEY
Hope you caught Betty Buckley on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" this past Wednesday morning when she delivered a passionate, full-voiced version of "Much More," the title song from her newest album for Sterling Records. Betty also spoke with Rosie about auditioning for her Broadway and London debuts in, respectively, 1776 and Promises, Promises.

Add a role in the new film Of Love and Fantasy to the long list of BB projects announced last week. Buckley co-stars in this Kenneth Waddell Film, which is being billed as "a romantic comedy." Others in the cast include Amy Redford, Linda Taylor, Wade Howard, Gerry Bamman, Rica Martens and Shea Whigham. Also, it was announced in Ken Mandelbaum's In Theater column that Buckley will star as Mama Rose in a JAY/TER complete recording of the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents classic, Gypsy. As many of her fans know, Buckley starred in a production of this musical at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company in Arizona in 1992, and her superb delivery of "Rose's Turn" was one of the highlights of her Carnegie Hall concert two years ago. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting project.

And more on BB. . .Buckley is the subject of a Q & A in this month's issue of Movieline Magazine in which she discusses her role in The Horse Whisperer that was unfortunately cut due to the movie's length ("I played Robert Redford's ex-girlfriend, but, alas, as so often happens to ex girlfriends, I ended up on the cutting room floor"), her time spent in Sunset Boulevard in London and in New York ("it was the best two years of my life--so far") and her future plans ("I'm doing several concerts to promote my new CD, Much More. Also, now that I'm 50, I plan on using my full name--Betty Lynn Buckley").

I also thought you might be interested to read a few excerpts from The Dallas Morning News, which reviewed Buckley's recent concerts in her home town of Fort Worth, Texas. Titled "Intense Buckley Sounds New Depths and Heights," Lawson Taitte's reviews had this to say about Ms. B:

"It doesn't matter what kind of handicap you pile on Betty Buckley, she wins anyway. She came to Forth Worth on Thursday with bronchitis and still gave a performance that no other singer could match.

At least we know now that Ms. Buckley could have a great career in cabaret. There, singers who have lost their chops (or never had any) compensate with rhythmically inventive, blindingly emotional interpretations.

In Mary Chapin Carpenter's 'Come On, Come On' and Rodgers and Hart's 'My Funny Valentine,' Ms. Buckley proved herself as quirky and nakedly passionate as you could wish. Her opening group of Rodgers and Hammerstein ballads even found her distorting her vowels in that inimitably cabaret way.

Still, no matter how many prescriptions she was taking for her lungs or how many cups of hot liquid she quaffed onstage, she couldn't resist showing her audience her real stuff. In 'Meadowlark,' written for her, and in the Andrew Lloyd Webber songs she had made her own, she belted her all. Her still healthy high and low notes sounded as brilliant as any trumpet and as sultry as any saxophone. . ."

And a few reminders for other BB projects:
June 8: Betty performs to honor Peter Stone, who will receive the Oscar Hammerstein Award at the York Theatre Company's annual gala benefit on Monday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. (in the sanctuary of Saint Peter's Church). For more information call (212) 935-5820.

June 13 and 14: The Triumph of Love cast will reassemble in New York to record the Jeffrey Stock/Susan Birkenhead score for Jay Records.

June 24: Shooting begins for the independent feature film, Vanilla Fog, in which Betty co-stars with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sean Patrick Flannery.

July: Betty will tape the narration for Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley, a PBS special focusing on women composers and lyricists who reached their peak during the first half of this century.

PATTI LuPONE
Just a short item about Patti LuPone's upcoming concert engagements. . . LuPone's new concert will be titled "The Heart of the Matter" and will include songs by such composers as Don Henley, Jimmy Webb, Nanci Griffith, Rickie Lee Jones, Stephen Sondheim, Randy Newman and Judy Collins. The Kent Land Trust Concert will serve as a testing-ground for the many new songs that LuPone has added to her repertoire.

LuPone in concert:
June 27: Benefit for the Kent Land Trust at the Kent School in Connecticut. Tickets, which are priced between $40 and $1,000, are available by calling 860-927-3936.
August 28 and 29: The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; call 562-916-8500.

MORE TONY TALK
There was an enjoyable round-up of theatre personalities in this week's issue of In Theater Magazine. Fifty-two Tony winners were interviewed about the night they won the coveted award, and included in this group were many of our favorite ladies. Here's a sampling:

Betty Buckley for Cats:
"I always wanted to get another nomination, because the night I won for Cats is such a blur. The show was up for so many awards; my chief worry was that I'd be the only person who didn't win, and I'd embarrass the whole company. When they called my name, I felt like I was in a dream. I told myself, 'Remember to thank everybody.' But I was so stupid, because I said, 'I'd like to thank my brother Norman, and . . .my other brothers.' The other two, Pat and Mike, couldn't believe I said that! My plan this year is just to enjoy the experience. I'm grateful I was remembered for a nomination, even though our show [Triumph of Love] closed."

Randy Graff for City of Angels:
"None of it hit me until I got home, way after the event. We performed a number from City of Angels at the ceremony, and I was so concerned with that, there was no time for it to sink in. You do this gigantic press room thing after you win, and they take the actual award away from you--so when I tried to get back into the theater through the stage door, they wouldn't let me in. I said, 'I'm Randy Graff! I just won a Tony Award!' Fortunately, some press person said, 'She's okay, you can let her pass.' It was an incredible evening. I used to rehearse my Tony speech when I was on line at unemployment in my 20's, to keep my mind occupied, but I never thought I'd have to use it."

Patti LuPone for Evita:
"My best friend Jeffrey Richman told me--and I have no recollection of this whatsoever--that they came to leading actress in a musical, and I said, 'Here! Hold this!' Before they even mentioned our names, I gave him my program and my pocketbook, ready to get up! I don't remember that. I do remember Faye Dunaway giving me my Tony. She and I have this strange history together; are there two more different actors? Yet we play the same roles."

Donna Murphy in Passion and The King and I:
"Being honored with the Tony Award has reminded me how fortunate I am to investigate these lives and worlds onstage and to receive the support and confidence of my colleagues. I do feel a kind of responsibility in being part of a tradition of dreams pursued and challenges met--and I will work to continue to be an honorable member of the community of dreamers." Lillias White in The Life:
"I remember looking out into the audience and seeing my whole family. My mom was saying to everybody, 'That's my daughter! She just won a Tony!' But my greatest joy was that Chuck Cooper won as well, because he didn't think he was going to get it. I told him he would win the night before, but he didn't believe me."

IN OTHER NEWS:
Liz Callaway will make her first solo concert appearance in Seattle when she appears with the Seattle Men's Chorus on June 27 and 28. The evening is titled "Bustin' Out All Over" and will salute the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Call 206-323-2992 for tickets. . . Debra Byrne has been nominated for an MO Award for Best Female Performer in a Musical for her role in the Australian production of Sunset Boulevard. The awards will be presented on June 23.


REMINDERS:

LIZ CALLAWAY
Liz Callaway and her sister Ann Hampton Callaway will bring their cabaret act, Sibling Revelry, to London's Donmar Warehouse from August 17-29.

JUDY KUHN
The revival of As Thousands Cheer stars Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin, Paula Newsome, Mary Beth Peil, B. D. Wong and Kevin Chamberlin. Now in previews at the Greenwich House Theatre (27 Barrow Street, near 7th Avenue South), the musical revue is directed by Christopher (Jeffrey) Ashley. Tickets are only $12 and may be purchased by calling (212) 541-8441.

FLORENCE LACEY
Florence Lacey will be returning to Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which will also star Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award-winning composer himself. The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, will begin performances at the Booth Theatre on July 15 with an official opening on July 28. Call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 for tickets.

KAREN MASON
Karen Mason is scheduled to star in the Sundance Institute's production of Gypsy on their outdoor Eccles Stage in Sundance, Utah, from June 24 through August 29. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Sundance Box Office at 801-225-4100.

MAUREEN McGOVERN
Maureen McGovern has joined the national touring company of The King and Following is the tour schedule to date:

June 2-7 in Portland, OR at the Portland Civic Auditorium (503-248-4335)
June 9-15 in San Diego, CA at the San Diego Civic Theatre (619-615 4100)
June 19 - July 5 in Chicago, IL at the Auditorium Theatre (312-431-2395)

ELAINE PAIGE
Tickets are available to The Misanthrope by calling 011-44-171-287 0464. . .On June 7 and 8 EP will take part in the charity concert Hey Mr. Producer. . . .And, Paige will appear in concert at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on June 19. Tickets may be purchased by calling 011-171 344-4444

BERNADETTE PETERS
On June 7 and 8 Bernadette Peters will be among the many stars who will take part in the charity benefit, Hey Mr. Producer, which will celebrate the work of producer Cameron Mackintosh. Then, from July 29 through August 2, Peters will perform in concert at London's Royal Festival Hall.

Concert schedule for BP:
July 4 in St. Louis, MO at the Fair Saint Louis
July 17 in San Francisco, CA at the Louise Davie Hall
August 11 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Music Center
September 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
October 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
October 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
February 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
February 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
April 9-10 in Kansas City, Kansas (venue to come)
December 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)

DIVAS PLAY CARNEGIE
On June 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. Lorna Luft will host a tribute to her mother, the late Judy Garland, in an evening titled "Carnegie Hall Celebrates the Music of Judy Garland." . . .On Monday, November 9 at 8 p.m. theatre and concert star Barbara Cook will grace the stage with her long-time friend Wally Harper as musical director and conductor. . .For more information and for ticket reservations to any of these great events, call (212) 247-7800.

I LOVE NEW YORK
Janet Metz
and Heather MacRae will be joined by Bryan Batt and Lewis Cleale in the musical celebration I Love New York at Rainbow & Stars beginning June 2. Rainbow & Stars is located on the 65th floor at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. There is a $40 entertainment charge; call (212) 632 5000 for reservations.

SWEET CHARITY
Here are the names that appear on the invitation to the upcoming all-star, one-night-only production of Sweet Charity on Monday, June 15: Debbie Allen, Carol Arthur, Hinton Battle, Betty Buckley, Carol Channing, Jim Dale, Dom Deluise, David Dinkins, Helen Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Goulet, Pamela Isaacs, Ed Koch, Marla Maples, Donna McKechnie, John McMartin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles Nelson Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Lillias White. (Wow!) The concert will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; for more information, call (212) 806-1733.

A SWELL PARTY
A plethora of performers will unite this June for a three-evening extravaganza that celebrates the art form that is called cabaret. Titled "A Swell Party," the celebration will take place on June 8, 9 and 10 to benefit The Mabel Mercer Foundation. On the first evening, June 8 at 6 p.m., a host of newcomers will be welcomed onto the stage of Town Hall. The second evening will pay tribute to the legendary Cole Porter, and those who will warble his songs include Ann Hampton Callaway, Claiborne Cary, Paula Laurence, Marcia Lewis, Marin Mazzie, Liliane Montevecchi, Patricia Morrison, Sidney Meyer, Abe Reybold, Steve Ross, Jon Soleather, David Staller, Elaine Stritch, Margaret Whiting, Julie Wilson and Gretchen Wyler. The final evening commemorates what would have been Gertrude Lawrence's 100th birthday. Donna Murphy will be joined by Jeff Harnar, Celeste Holm, Alix Korey, Andrea Marcovicci, Patricia Morison, Christian Nova, Phillip Officer, KT Sullivan and many others. Ticket orders are accepted only by mail ($10 per performance; send checks made out to "The Mabel Mercer Foundation" to Finell Enterprises, 301 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021), and further information is available by calling (212) 980-3026 or (212) 980-3109 during regular office hours.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the Tonys and, of course, happy diva watching!

-- By Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com