DIVA TALK: Tony Time Draws Near, Legends on CD, and Divas Hit the Hamptons!

DIVA TALK: Tony Time Draws Near, Legends on CD, and Divas Hit the Hamptons! Hello, diva lovers! The upcoming Tony Awards telecast is shaping up to be a terrific evening.
Carol Channing in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!
Carol Channing in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Earlier this week, Gary Smith — executive producer of the Tony Awards broadcast — revealed that Peters would perform Gypsy’s climactic number on the three-hour program, and I have to admit that I was quite surprised by the announcement. I had hoped that the show would feature one of Peters’ dazzling solos — “Some People,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” or “Rose’s Turn” — but I assumed that the producers would end up choosing a song that featured more of the cast, perhaps the charming second-act opener “Together” (with Peters, John Dossett and Tammy Blanchard). But, how thrilling that the country will be treated to Peters’ gut-wrenching “Rose’s Turn,” a heartbreaking performance that Peters fans will now get the chance to preserve on tape (I’m sure VCRs will be in full swing that Sunday evening). It’s also a bit of history-in-the-making, as no other Broadway Rose — Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly or Linda Lavin — has ever performed that particular Stephen Sondheim-Jule Styne work on national television. (Bette Midler, of course, did perform the song in the 1993 TV version of the musical.)

It will also be great to revisit Hairspray’s rousing finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which will be led by co-nominees Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur. And, another nominee, Antonio Banderas, will perform Maury Yeston’s “Guido’s Song” along with his three nominated co-stars, Jane Krakowski, Chita Rivera and Mary Stuart Masterson. Man of La Mancha’s Brian Stokes Mitchell will deliver his stirring, full-voiced “The Impossible Dream,” and Billy Joel will open the awards with his tribute to NYC, “New York State of Mind” (the Movin’ Out company will deliver another Joel classic, “River of Dreams”).

Speaking of Gypsy, a friend forwarded me this old quote from Prelude to a Kiss playwright Craig Lucas, who spoke about misunderstood song lyrics. “To this day I cannot listen to certain showtunes without hearing my original mishearing of the words,” said Lucas. “In Gypsy I still think Rose sings at the end of ‘Some People’: ‘Well, they may stay and rock! But not roll!” Each time I think about that, I laugh. This week I finally received the new version of Tell Me On a Sunday (my thoughts in next week’s column), which reminded me of some lyrics I’ve misunderstood through the years. In the live London cast recording, Marti Webb sings — in “First Letter Home” — “This will be the last letter with the postmark stamped N.Y.” I always thought she was singing, “This will be the last letter with the postmark stamped in wine,” although I could never figure out why she was dipping her stamps in wine. And, in the New York version, Bernadette Peters sang — in “English Girls” — “Joan Collins, I ask you, that’s why English girls keep milking the part.” I thought she was saying, “Joan Collins, I ask you, that’s why English girls keep milk in the pot.” The milk-in-the-pot reference was lost on me as well! Any lyrics you’ve been surprised by when you finally see the real ones? E-mail me and let me know. . .

DIVAS ON CD:

I can hardly imagine how exciting it must have been for musical theatre fans — especially Ethel Merman diehards — when it was announced that Broadway’s premier belter would step into the title role of Hello, Dolly!, a role that was originally written for (and refused by) the late star. And, then to find out that composer Jerry Herman was going to reinstate songs into the score that he had withdrawn when Merman chose not to open Hello, Dolly! Of course, that show became the signature piece for Carol Channing, who performed the musical several times throughout her career. RCA Victor will release — June 3 — a Deluxe Collector’s Edition of the original Broadway cast recording starring Channing, David Burns, Eileen Brennan and Sondra Lee. The most exciting aspects of the recording, however, are six bonus tracks featuring three women who played the title role on Broadway or on tour: Mary Martin, Pearl Bailey and the late, great Merman. Martin charms with “I Put My Hand In” and “So Long Dearie” and Bailey brings her raucous appeal to “Before the Parade Passes By” and the title tune, but it is Merman who is the most electrifying, providing belty versions of “Love Look in My Window” and “World, Take Me Back.” The CD also boasts a recent interview with Carol Channing, who chats about the excitement of recording Dolly’s title tune and singing the songs in “Mother Earth” tones.

RCA Victor will also release two other CDs next week: the original Broadway cast recordings of Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver!. All the discs will feature digital remastering, never-before-released recording session photos and bonus tracks.

Starring Zero Mostel, Maria Karnilova and Beatrice Arthur, Fiddler on the Roof opened Sept. 22, 1964, and ran for a record breaking 3,242 performances. In addition to such classic songs as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Miracle of Miracles” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” the new release features two songs cut from the show, “When Messiah Comes” and “How Much Richer Could One Man Be?” Those two songs — plus a version of “If I Were a Rich Man” — are tracks from An Evening with Sheldon Harnick. The CD also features a new interview with lyricist Harnick that was conducted in February 2003.

“Food, Glorious Food,” “Boy for Sale,” “Where Is Love?,” “Consider Yourself,” “It’s a Fine Life,” “I’d Do Anything” and “As Long As He Needs Me” are just a few of the well-known tunes from Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, which opened on Broadway with Clive Revill and Georgia Brown. The new release also features three tracks from the original London cast recording: “That’s Your Funeral” (sung by Barry Humphries a.k.a Dame Edna, Paul Whitsun-Jones and Sonia Fraser), “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” (Ron Moody, Keith Hamshere and the Boys) and “Reviewing the Situation” (Moody). Patti LuPone also offers her belty version of “As Long As He Needs Me” — lifted from “Patti LuPone Live!” — and the recording concludes with an interview with Donald Pippin, who conducted Lionel Bart’s score on Broadway.

DIVAS HIT THE HAMPTONS:

Several events will bring some of Broadway’s favorite gals to the Hamptons this summer. Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba will join Brent Barrett and some surprise special guests for All That Kander and Ebb at East Hampton’s Guild Hall Sunday, Aug. 17. The concert, of course, will explore the canon of work by the writers of The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Chicago, Cabaret, Steel Pier, Zorba and Woman of the Year. The evening is part of the Guild Hall’s American Musical Theater Salutes Series, which begins June 29 with Jerome Kern: The Touch of His Hand, starring Rebecca Luker and Patrick Quinn, and concludes Sept. 7 with A Tribute to Adolph Green, starring Phyllis Newman, Melissa Errico and George Dvorsky. All three shows will feature post-show “Meet the Stars” receptions, for an additional charge of $15 per reception.

The Guild Hall — in association with the Mabel Mercer Foundation — will also host the first-ever Hamptons Cabaret Convention, July 18-20. Following in the footsteps of the acclaimed New York Cabaret Convention, the evenings will present a roster of singers, each performing a few selections. The weekend of concerts begins Friday, July 18 with recent Urban Cowboy star Sally Mayes and Mamma Mia!’s Karen Mason as well as Barbara Carroll, Natalie Gamsu, Jeff Harnar, Shelley Mac Arthur, Sylvia McNair, Sidney Myer, Karen Oberlin, Craig Rubano, Billy Stritch and Larry Woodard. The second evening — Saturday, July 19 — boasts Tom Andersen, Christine Andreas, Brent Barrett, Mark Coffin, Eric Comstock, Mary Foster Conklin, Barbara Fasano, Rita Gardner, Alix Korey, Amanda McBroom, Colleen McHugh, Julie Reyburn and KT Sullivan. And, the mini convention concludes Sunday, July 20 with a cast that includes Lisa Asher, Anna Bergman, Joyce Breach, Natalie Douglas, Tovah Feldshuh, Mark Nadler, Phillip Officer, Georga Osborne, Daryl Sherman, David Staller, Maureen Kelly Stewart and Julie Wilson.

Other summer highlights at the Guild Hall: Wicked’s Kristin Chenoweth will perform in concert — accompanied by Rob Fisher and the Coffee Club Orchestra — on Saturday, Aug. 2; Christine Andreas will go it solo Friday, June 27; and KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler will team up for Puttin’ On the Ritz: Irving Berlin’s American Dream Aug. 6-10.

Tickets for all Guild Hall events are available by calling (631) 324-4050. The Guild Hall is located in East Hampton, NY, at 158 Main Street. For more information visit www.guildhall.org.

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Tony-nominated Hairspray stars — Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur — will co-host Broadway Bares 13 Sunday, June 15 at the Roseland Ballroom. Broadway Bares, the annual fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, will once again be directed by Jerry Mitchell, choreographer of this season’s Hairspray and Gypsy. Broadway Bares 13 is subtitled “Burlesque Is Back!” and promises to “bring back the bump and grind of Blaze Starr and Gypsy Rose Lee.” This year’s striptease extravaganza will feature over 200 dancers from such Broadway shows as Aida, Cabaret, Chicago, Gypsy, Hairspray, Movin’ Out, The Lion King, The Producers and Mamma Mia! The evening will also feature appearances by Eartha Kitt, Nine’s Jane Krakowski, Gypsy’s “Gotta Get a Gimmick” gals — Kate Buddeke, Julie Halston and Heather Lee — as well as Cabaret’s Deborah Gibson, who will kick off “the rotation,” where the performers go-go dance for tips for the charity. Two performances of Broadway Bares 13 will be offered on June 15, one at 9:30 PM and the other at midnight. The Roseland Ballroom is located in New York City at 239 West 52nd Street. For tickets — $40-$600 — to the fundraiser, call (212) 840-0770, ext. 268 or visit www.BroadwayCares.org. . . . It looks like three-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald will return to Broadway in the fall. So says the actress, who picked up Tonys for her work in Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime. In a May 27 interview for the Boston Globe, McDonald says, “I can tell you I am in discussion right now about doing one of two projects on Broadway. I can't tell you anything about either one of them, but I will definitely be on Broadway in the fall.” McDonald spoke to the Globe about her May 30 concert at Boston’s Sanders Theatre. It’s been a busy year for the singer-actress, who starred in the NBC drama “Mister Sterling,” which received good reviews but was recently canceled. She also filmed a new pilot “Partners in Crime,” which was not picked up for the fall but may appear midseason. Says the actress, “You have no idea what a crapshoot a TV pilot is. This new show is a kind of remake of ‘Cagney and Lacey.’ No, I don't sing at all — I'm too busy carrying a gun and being a mother!” McDonald also plans to return to the recording studio for another solo recording. “I'm getting ready to start on a new album,” McDonald tells the Boston paper, “and once again it is quite different from anything I've done before. I'm not at liberty to say anything more, but it's not going to be as intellectual a piece as some of my others, and it will show a completely different part of me.” . . . The 2004 season of 92nd Street Y’s famed “Lyrics & Lyricists” series will feature a host of guest artistic directors. While still championing the American Songbook, the 2004 “L&L” season will feature five artists who will design a show specifically for the series. John Pizzarelli, Andrea Marcovicci, Rob Fisher and Mary Cleere Haran will all work with L&L artistic advisor Kristin Lancino to devise shows celebrating the works of American composers. One additional artistic director will be announced at a later date. The 2004 season kicks off Jan. 10-12, 2004, with John Pizzarelli’s Pentimento, which features Pizzarelli and his wife, singer-actress Jessica Molaskey. Their show explores how song lyrics acquire various meanings over time; concertgoers will be treated to renditions of “We’re in the Money,” “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and “What’ll I Do.” The evening will also feature Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Johnny Frigo on violin, Ken Peplowski on clarinet and pianist Ray Kennedy. From May 8-10, 2004, cabaret veteran Andrea Marcovicci will serve as chanteuse and host of Easy to Love: The Lyrics of Cole Porter. Marcovicci, who recently performed an acclaimed set of Porter tunes at New York’s Algonquin, has selected a company of performers she calls her “dream team”: Anna Bergman, Klea Blackhurst, Mark Coffin and Jeff Harnar. Bergman will offer some of Porter’s soprano-friendly work (“You Do Something to Me”); Blackhurst, an Ethel Merman aficionado, will handle the belty material; Harnar will croon the works written for the “male ingénue” (expect to hear the multi-versed “It’s Delovely”); and Coffin will lend a Sinatra-like sensibility to the Porter repertoire. Rob Fisher, the musical director of the City Center Encores! Series, has fashioned a show entitled The Wit and Wisdom of Ira Gershwin, which will be presented June 12-14, 2004. The show — starring a cast to be announced — will explore the lyrics of Ira Gershwin, who worked with brother George and, after George’s death, Burton Lane and Kurt Weill. Says Fisher, “There’s a certain joie de vivre in Ira’s work with George, which comes partly from George’s music. They were a perfect team for the 20 years they worked together, and although he never found an equally perfect partner, he continued to grow and develop as a lyricist. I’m interested in how he was a different lyricist with different composers, and in how the music changed his approach to words." Mary Cleere Haran, who is currently performing a month-long engagement at the Algonquin Hotel, will also create a show for the new “Lyrics & Lyricists” season. As of press time, however, the cast and theme have yet to be announced. The title, date and artistic director of one additional show are also pending. Subscriptions to the 2004 “Lyrics & Lyricists” season will go on sale July 1. Call (212) 415 5500 for reservations or visit the 92nd Street Y box office, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. For more information, go to www.92y.org. . . . "Stars in the Alley," Broadway's annual live concert featuring current Broadway performers, is scheduled for 11:30 AM on June 4. Held in Shubert Alley between 44th and 45th Streets, the 50-minute concert will include appearances by a host of performers currently appearing on Broadway. Those scheduled to appear include performers from several Tony-nominated productions: Gypsy’s Bernadette Peters, Hairspray’s Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur, Man of La Mancha’s Brian Stokes Mitchell and A Year with Frog and Toad’s Mark Linn-Baker. The event will also feature appearances from stars of long-running musicals, including Frenchie Davis (Rent), Deborah Gibson (Cabaret), Louise Pitre (Mamma Mia!), Don Stephenson (The Producers) and Tony Award winner Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie). The Look of Love’s Liz Callaway will also offer the Burt Bacharach hit, “Alfie.”

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

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!

Ethel Merman and the Company in <i>Hello, Dolly!</i>
Ethel Merman and the Company in Hello, Dolly!