DIVA TALK: Tony Talk

DIVA TALK: Tony Talk Hello, diva lovers! I'm writing to you from 60 Center Street, as I've been assigned to sit on a jury for the next few weeks. So, if I haven't responded to your e-mails as promptly as usual, that's my defense! . . . Anyway, let's get to the divas. . .

Hello, diva lovers! I'm writing to you from 60 Center Street, as I've been assigned to sit on a jury for the next few weeks. So, if I haven't responded to your e-mails as promptly as usual, that's my defense! . . . Anyway, let's get to the divas. . .


THE TONYS
Although this year's Tony Awards telecast was not one of the more thrilling ones, there were a few moments that were exciting for diva fans. Who could resist the entrance of Mame co-stars Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur or the pairing of long-time friends and singing partners Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett? And, even if it was very brief, wasn't it great to hear Andrews sing a few lines? But, I think the most moving moments of the evening were the acceptance speeches of the two musical theatre actresses -- Bernadette Peters (for Best Lead Actress in a Musical) and Kristin Chenoweth (for Best Featured Actress in a Musical). Both women were overcome by emotion, and that is exactly what makes these award shows enjoyable. It's a shame, though, that Peters had to rush through the second half of her speech. I would have gladly passed on the awkward reading of lines from the nominated Best Plays to allow one of Broadway's finest stars the chance to properly thank whomever she wished. Nonetheless, congratulations to these two stellar ladies on their Tony triumphs. I thought you might enjoy reading their speeches:


Bernadette Peters: "I'm sorry. I didn't know I'd be so emotional, but... Laugh it up and talk to yourselves a little bit. Thank you for this wonderful honor. I want to thank my manager of 30 years, Tom Hammond, because I wouldn't be standing here without him and my husband, Michael Wittenberg, for his love and support throughout this and Graciela Daniele - see I'm getting myself back -- our director for being the spirit and the force behind Annie Get Your Gun and for actually creating an atmosphere of such creativity -- please wrap it up [she reads on the monitor] -- and closeness that we were allowed to just have this whole thing come together. And Peter Stone and Tom Wopat, a great, great leading man who I adore. And Fran and Barry Weissler, our producers, who I adore and the cast and my dad, who's watching at home, and my family. And, last but not least, I want to thank my mother who 48 years ago put me in show business. And I want to finally say, officially say to her, 'Thank you for giving me this wonderful experience and this journey.' Thank you ma."


Kristin Chenoweth: "I've never changed my clothes so fast in my life! I have two families to thank. B.D. Wong, Ilana Levine, Roger Bart, Stanley Wayne Mathis and Anthony Rapp. I love you guys likes brothers and sisters. Michael Mayer, I'll work for you anytime. Andrew Lippa, for writing me a great song. All the producers that believed in our show. Clark Gesner, Charles Schulz, Jay Binder, my agents at Richard Baum and Associates. Mom and Dad, you drove to me to many, many hours of ballet and dance classes. I hope you feel it's worth it now. My brother, you sat through all those recitals. You're the man for doing that. My fiance, Mark, I love you. Thanks for holding my hand through all this. My mentor, Florence Birdwell, from Oklahoma City University for teaching me how to sing. Thanks to the voters. Love you guys."

TV's MUSICAL MOMENTS
There was an interesting article in this week's TV Guide that listed the magazine's choices of "Television's 25 Greatest Musical Moments." Some of the diva-related entries include (at number 19) Mary Martin performing the title role in Peter Pan on NBC in March 1955; Judy Garland (at number 13) singing the line "You do something to me" to two men offstage -- Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin -- who would then join her onstage on the February 25, 1962, airing of "The Judy Garland Show"; Bette Midler (at number 9), Johnny Carson's last guest ever on "The Tonight Show," singing "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)"; Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett (at number 8) performing at Carnegie Hall in June of 1962; and (at number 5) the airing of Barbra Streisand's first television special on April 28, 1965, titled "My Name Is Barbra." A few others I would have added: Patti LuPone's tearful version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" on the 1979 Grammy Awards and her intense "Rainbow High" on "The Merv Griffin Show" that same year; Betty Buckley's thrillingly belted versions of "Over You" and "Memory" on "The Tonight Show" in the early eighties; Bernadette Peters' powerful rendition of the Irving Berlin classic "Let Me Sing Am I'm Happy," also on "The Tonight Show" in the eighties . . . And, who could forget Jennifer Holliday's emotional roller coaster-ride-of-a-performance of Dreamgirls' "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" on the 1982 Tony Awards telecast? Surely, not a diva lover . . .

QUOTABLE QUOTES
In the June 14 issue of In Theater Magazine, several of Broadway's leading ladies discuss some Tony-winning shows that they starred in on Broadway. Following are a few quotes from this article entitled "Five Decades of Best Musicals":


Betty Buckley discusses 1776: ". . .I was just a young naïve kid from Texas; I didn't even know how to dress for cold weather. I had this skinny leather jacket and cotton jeans. Paul Hecht, who played Dickinson, took me under his wing and bought me a scarf. My scene was with William Daniels and Howard Da Silva, and they were very nurturing. The great choreographer Onna White spent countless hours in rehearsal teaching me how to float across the stage; I had to wear this big costume with panniers, and I loped along in it like a cheerleader. She made me run back and forth across the rehearsal hall, saying, 'Float, Betty, float.'"


Angela Lansbury discusses Sweeney Todd: ". . . On the face of it, my character was absolutely horrendous. She was rather lovable, though, because she was so childlike and innocent about what she was doing. The audience was relieved by the humor she brought to the piece. When Steve Sondheim originally sang and played 'The Worst Pies in London' for me, he created all the banging, whooshing, and staccato interruptions by pounding on the piano top. I was in hysterics when he finished; it was a real tour-de-force. He certainly sold me on the comic aspects of the character. . ."


Debbie Shapiro discusses Jerome Robbins' Broadway: ". . .Opening night was thrilling. We came out for the beginning of the show, which was basically just a bow, and the audience started applauding and wouldn't stop. It was one of those moments when you realize, 'I am part of something extraordinary.' I honestly didn't expect to win the Tony; with three out of four of us nominated from the same show, I thought we'd cancel each other out. Then I won, and I was thanking people and being hysterical, and I forgot to say my husband's name -- which, 10 years later, I am still reminded about!"

IN OTHER NEWS The original cast recording of the recently-closed Marlene will be available in record stores beginning Tuesday, June 15. The Relativity/First Night Records CD features Tony nominee Siân Phillips singing 12 tunes that made Dietrich a legend. Songs include "Laziest Girl in Town," "Lili Marlene," "La Vie En Rose," "Falling in Love Again" and more . . . Quite an exciting cast has been assembled for the upcoming television production of Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse's Annie, which will air during the 1999-2000 season of ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney" series. Cast members include Kathy Bates (Miss Hannigan), Victor Garber (Daddy Warbucks), Alan Cumming (Rooster), Audra McDonald (Grace Farrell), Kristin Chenoweth (Lily St. Regis, Rooster's girlfriend) and 11 year-old Broadway veteran Alicia Morton in the title role . . .

REMINDERS:

SARAH BRIGHTMAN
Following is Brightman's "One Night in Eden" U.S. concert tour schedule:
June 12 Chateau Ste. Michelle in Seattle
June 15 Chicago Theatre in Chicago
June 16 Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI
June 22 and 23 City Center in New York City
June 25 N.J. Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
June 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia
June 28 Symphony Hall in Boston
June 29 Center for the Performing Arts in Providence, RI
July 1 Wolf Trap in Washington, D.C.
June 2 and 3 Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ

BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.


June 10-13 Theatrefest in Montclair, NJ
June 29 Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
On June 23 and 24 Buckley will appear in "Heart to Heart" -- a concert with her accompanist Kenny Werner -- in the intimate setting of the U.C.L.A. Freud Playhouse Theatre to benefit PAWS/LA, a non-profit organization "dedicated to enriching the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS by empowering them to care for their pets." Tickets to the concerts, which are priced between $50 and $150, may be purchased by calling the U.C.L.A. box office at (310) 825-2101. All ticket holders on June 23 are invited to attend a pre-concert reception at 6:30 PM, with the concert beginning at 7:30 PM; on June 24, there will be a concert only (7:30 PM).

FLORENCE LACEY
Florence Lacey currently stars in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre's production of A Little Night Music at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Stage through June 19, the first of three musicals being offered during the 44th Nutmeg Summer Series. Following Night Music will be Once On This Island and Forever Plaid. Performances for each production are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets range from $20 to $22, with a $3 discount for students and seniors. (The entire series may be purchased for $48 or $54). Call the box office at (860) 486-4226.

PATTI LuPONE
LuPone will sit down with writer Sheryl Flatow in front of a live audience to discuss her stellar career. "A Conversation with Patti LuPone" is being presented by the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (PALM) on Wednesday, June 30 from 6 PM to 7 PM at PALM, 401 Van Ness Ave., 4th Floor. For ticket prices and other info, call PALM at (415) 255-4800 . . . La LuPone will also join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.

KAREN MASON
Mason will appear at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater on Sunday, June 13 and Monday, June 14 at 8:30 PM. The Public Theater is located at 425 Lafayette Street (between East 4th Street and Astor Place). The songstress will also perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on September 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.

ELAINE PAIGE
Following are a a handful of upcoming Paige concert dates in Sweden, which are listed below:
June 12 Finspang Palace in Finspang (outside of Norrkoping), Sweden
June 17 Sofiero Palce in Helsingborg, Sweden
June 19 Tradgardsforeningen Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg, Sweden


Paige will also appear as the special guest of Cliff Richards at his concerts in Hyde Park, London, on July 16, 17 and 18. Tickets are available from First Call: 0171 420 1000. And, don't forget, EP will make a special appearance in New York City in May when she will perform at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's spring gala on Wednesday, May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House in the city. The event is being hosted by Barbara Walters, and Paige -- who is expected to sing a handful of her biggest hits -- will be accompanied on the piano by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch. For more information about this worthy event, contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at (212) 572-4249.

BERNADETTE PETERS
Bernadette Peters currently stars on Broadway as Annie Oakley in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The show's cast recording was recently released from Broadway Angel.

DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from August 9 through August 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from August 23 to August 28, and Sam Brown will open on August 31 and close September 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Saturday at 4 PM. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.

DIVAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
This summer's San Francisco Pops series will include appearances from Patti LuPone and Marin Mazzie. La LuPone will perform her new one-woman show, "Matters of the Heart," on July 1 and 2 with Rob Fisher as musical director. On July 10, an evening entitled "Rodgers and Hammerstein and Friends" will feature performances by the husband-and wife team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. Tickets are available through the San Francisco Symphony Ticket Service (415-864 6000) or by visiting the symphony's website at www.sfsymphony.org. . . . Also, two of cabaret's finest performers, Andrea Marcovicci and David Campbell, will appear together on June 11 and 12 at the Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary Street). Tickets, which are priced at $35, are available by calling Star Classics (415) 552-1110.

DIVAS SALUTE COMPOSERS
The third annual benefit for Temple Beth Simchat Torah, the Gay and Lesbian Synagogue in Manhattan, will salute composers David Friedman and Henry Krieger and will feature performances from many of Broadway's top stars: Brenda Braxton, Kristen Chenoweth, Alix Korey, Norm Lewis, Andrea McArdle, Billy Porter, Sara Ramirez, Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner and Lillias White.


The benefit will be held at B. Smith's Restaurant in New York City on Monday, June 14 at 7 PM (sharp), and it promises to be a thrilling evening of powerhouse vocals. Comedian/performer/writer Seth Rudetsky will serve as producer, music director and the host for the evening. There is a $25 cover plus a $10 food and drink minimum. Call (212) 247-2222 for reservations.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.