DIVA TALK: Tony’s Turn! PLUS A Revised Sunday and News of Buckley, Paige and MORE

DIVA TALK: Tony’s Turn! PLUS A Revised Sunday and News of Buckley, Paige and MORE Hello, diva lovers! Well, they’re finally here!
Bernadette Peters at the 2003 Tony Awards Nominees press reception at the New York Marriott Marquis, 1515 Broadway.
Bernadette Peters at the 2003 Tony Awards Nominees press reception at the New York Marriott Marquis, 1515 Broadway. (Photo by Aubrey Reuben)

This Sunday, June 8, the 2003 Tony Awards will be bestowed upon some of Broadway’s finest performers and shows at Radio City Music Hall.

And, how exciting for diva lovers that the program will feature a performance from Gypsy’s Bernadette Peters — who will offer her sensational, heartbreaking “Rose’s Turn” — as well as those from stars of Hairspray, Nine, Man of La Mancha, Movin’ Out and A Year With Frog and Toad. Speaking of Peters, “CBS News Sunday Morning” will offer a profile of the award-winning actress on Tony morning, June 8. Robert Schlessinger interviewed the Gypsy star, and the segment will feature footage from the hit revival at the Shubert Theatre. The program airs on CBS-TV 9-10:30 AM ET; check local listings.

I thought this would be an appropriate time to look back at last season’s winners in the Best Leading Actress and Best Featured Actress in a Musical categories. What follows are the acceptance speeches from those award winners, Sutton Foster (Best Actress in a Musical) and Harriet Harris (Best Featured Actress in a Musical), and the somewhat-truncated, now infamous speech of Elaine Stritch (Best Special Theatrical Event).

Sutton Foster (Best Actress in a Musical)

"To say that this is a dream come true is an understatement. I could not be more honored to be a part of this show. It is truly a thrill to work with this incredible company every night. I want to personally thank the entire creative staff and the producers for trusting their work, to take a risk on hiring me. I want to thank my parents for all of their support and encouragement to follow my dreams. My incredible brother, Hunter Foster, for his unbelievable friendship. All of my teachers, Joan Leder, Joan Rosenfeld, my high school drama teacher, Mr. Bodick, who is here tonight! Thank you! My dresser, Julien Havard, my agent Steven Unger, oh my gosh, my beautiful boyfriend Christian, our incredible stage manager Bonnie [L. Becker]. Thank you so much! Thank you." Harriet Harris (Best Featured Actress in a Musical)

"I'm flabbergasted. I have a speech prepared, but I am flabbergasted. My mother once said that my first words were 'Tony Award.' Being Texan, she was prone to exaggeration. I think it was something more like 'Give me Tony.' I want to thank the nominators and the voters. You are the most attractive group of people I've ever seen. And our producers for not insisting on a name — the late Richard Morse for suggesting mine. Dick Scanlan, Jeanine Tesori, Michael Mayer for reinvestigating territory so beautifully mapped by the inimitable Bea Lillie. Martin Pakledinaz, Rob Ashford, Michael Rafter, Paul Huntley — four guys who really know how to bring out the best in a girl. And an incredibly, freakishly talented group of actors and crew and orchestra, and I am so flustered! And my darling, darling boyfriend, Matt Sullivan, who thinks I can do anything. My agent Steven Unger, who hoped I would get to do this. And the late Meghan Robinson, who I revered as an artist and treasured as a friend. I wanted her to be up here some day. Thank you very much. I appreciate it."

Elaine Stritch (Best Special Theatrical Event)

"Don't take up my time. I came to rehearsal today for the understudy part of the Tonys on PBS. 'Cause I dig understudies. And I made a presentation, and a young girl came up to me and she said, 'Can I have your autograph? I want to follow in your footsteps.' I told her to wear comfortable shoes. I salute the company I'm keeping tonight: Barbara Cook, Bea Arthur, John Leguizamo, who really— I applaud their courage to having a go at it out here alone. I applaud all four of us. But judging from the Greek chorus behind me, there's no such thing as a one-man or a one-woman show. John Schreiber — I gotta face front or you won't hear me. John Schreiber made me do it. The Public Theater allowed me to do it. George Wolfe told me how to do it. John Lahr helped me do, oh boy, how he helped me do it. (Orchestra becomes louder.) Stop! Oh, please! Don't do that to me!"

FOR THE RECORD: Tell Me on a Sunday:

After Evita, Tell Me on a Sunday — in its various incarnations — is the Andrew Lloyd Webber recording I’ve listened to most often. My first experience with the song cycle about an English woman in America was the 1985 Broadway production starring Bernadette Peters, Song & Dance. The first act — Song — featured Peters’ Tony-winning turn as Emma, the English hat designer who vows to “work hard, get my card, have a brilliant career, stay in love and outshine any New York girl you’d see.” Peters offered a moving, thrillingly acted and sung performance that I was lucky enough to witness four times. She grew funnier and funnier each time I saw her performance, and her singing was always phenomenal.

After seeing Peters in previews in the musical, I purchased the London cast recording starring Marti Webb in the first half and Wayne Sleep in the second (Dance, set to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s cello Variations). Lyrically, the Webb version varied dramatically from the show that wound up on Broadway. (For the New York run, Richard Maltby, Jr. helped original lyricist Don Black rework his lyrics.) As for Webb, she may not have mined the songs as fully for their dramatic/comedic value, but she belted them with power, and the live recording is quite enjoyable. She is especially exciting on the ballad “Last Man in My Life,” which was dropped for the Broadway mounting and replaced by “Unexpected Song.”

It was a few years later — on my first trip to London during senior year of high school — when I purchased the original concept album of Tell Me on a Sunday (also starring Marti Webb) as well as the Sarah Brightman version, which was released on video. The original concept album featured many lyrics that were changed for the first London mounting, and the show’s title song did not feature the now-familiar climax — “Don’t run off in the pouring rain, don’t call me as they call your plane, take the hurt out of all the pain” — which was added prior to the staging of the song cycle. The Sarah Brightman version also had many lyric changes, the order of a few songs switched and the deletion of one of the score’s weakest songs, “I’m Very You, You’re Very Me.” This was also the first time “Unexpected Song” appeared in the score. A very young Brightman was, perhaps, not quite ready to tackle such a demanding role — her chest tones are quite nasal, though she fared better when she was able to show off her rangy soprano. It’s still interesting, though, to watch an artist’s early work, one who would soon blossom into an international singing star.

Now comes another revised version of Sunday, starring British talk show host (and Chicago star) Denise Van Outen. This Sunday returns to the London version, omitting the revisions that were made for Broadway by Richard Maltby, Jr. — an unfortunate decision as the Broadway lyrics were markedly improved. That said, however, the new CD has its moments, even if Van Outen lacks the vocal power of her predecessors: high notes are often omitted (the final portion of “Unexpected Song”), not held (“Let’s Talk About You”) or lowered (“Tell Me on a Sunday”). Van Outen, a sweet, modest voice, seems more suited to the less rangy tunes; she’s at her best in quieter moments like “Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known.” The recording has more of a pop than Broadway feel to it, which may be what the composers were aiming for — after all, Sunday’s “Take that Look Off Your Face” was a #1 U.K. hit for Marti Webb back in the seventies.

Unlike the previous versions, the revised Sunday — with additional material by Jackie Clune — begins in London as Van Outen’s character decides to head to the Big Apple after splitting with her latest boyfriend. In fact, the men in this version are even worse cads than the ones from the earlier productions. Van Outen has flings with an alcoholic, an “appalling” California agent named Tyler King, a younger man who “knows lots of girls,” and a married man with a pregnant wife. Thankfully, though, the recording ends on an upbeat tone with the best of the new songs that Andrew Lloyd Webber composed for the production at the Gielgud Theatre, “Somewhere, Someplace, Sometime.” Other new titles include “Goodbye Mum, Goodbye Girls,” set to the tune of “I’m Very You, You’re Very Me,” which also is included later in the show with revised lyrics; “Haven in the Sky”; “Speed Dating,” an ode to the current craze of 25 dates in a two-hour period; a melodic “Tyler King,” which replaces “Sheldon Bloom”; “Ready Made Life”; and the aforementioned “Somewhere, Someplace, Sometime.”

If this isn’t the ultimate Tell Me on a Sunday, it’s interesting to note the many changes and to hear the new Lloyd Webber tunes. Van Outen does well enough, and I imagine she brings more to the role live. The recording — released in London by Polydor — is now available in the U.S. on the Decca Broadway label.

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: The one-and-only Betty Buckley, who is currently in rehearsals for the upcoming production of The Threepenny Opera at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, has joined the Sundance Theatre Program’s The Power of American Popular Song weekend. A spokesperson for the Aug. 7-10 weekend confirmed that Buckley will be part of the program, which is a joint presentation of Sundance and the Johnny Mercer Foundation. BB will be one of the master class teachers and will also take part in the Aug. 8 concert with songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The weekend of master classes is designed for professional theatre and film actors — as well as writers and directors — and will feature a host of famed artists discussing their craft. Others scheduled to teach master classes include singer Margaret Whiting, Oscar-winning songwriting team Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Broadway actor Douglas Sills, composers Carol Hall and Shelly Markham and director/producer Jack Wrangler. In addition to the master classes, the weekend will include two performances in the Sundance Screening Room. As stated above, Aug. 8 will feature Buckley and the Bergmans, and all of the artists as well as several of the instructors will offer a final performance on Aug. 9 at 8 PM. Limited tickets for these performances will be available at a later date. Admission to the program will be held through an open application process, where 30 professional performers will be selected. Those interested should apply no later than June 15. There is no application fee, although tuition for the weekend is priced at $750. Applicants will be required to submit an application form, accompanied by a tape, CD or video. For more information about The Power of American Popular Song, visit www.sundance.org. . . . Deidre Goodwin will segue from one hit musical revival to another when she joins the Broadway company of Chicago at the end of June. Goodwin, who is currently playing Our Lady of the Spa in the Tony-nominated revival of Nine at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, will begin playing Velma Kelly in the Tony-winning revival of Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre June 24. Goodwin has previously played the role of the merry murderess on Broadway, and she also has the distinction of playing June in the Academy Award winning “Chicago” film. . . . The 9th annual gala benefit for Career Transition for Dancers is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 27 at City Center. Entitled Gotta Dance! A Dance Tribute to Hollywood, the 7 PM evening will pay tribute to the memorable dance moments created for such Hollywood films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Red Shoes,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “West Side Story,” “Sweet Charity,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “The Turning Point.” Those already lined up to take part in the evening include Tony winners Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera and Ann Reinking, 2003 Tony nominee Elizabeth Parkinson as well as the legendary Cyd Charisse and Jane Powell. The one-night-only event will also boast dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Complexions, Les Ballets Grandiva, New York City Ballet, National Dance Institute and The Royal Ballet. (Participants are subject to change, however.) Tickets for Gotta Dance! A Dance Tribute to Hollywood are priced at $550 and $1,000, which includes the City Center performance (131 West 55th Street) and a post-performance black-tie supper with the stars at Cipriani 42nd Street. For tickets or more information, call Michael Weiss or Gary Tigner at Weiss Creative Group, (212) 582-6690. (Performance-only tickets will be available at a later date.) . . . . London musical theatre star Elaine Paige — who made her Broadway debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard — has scheduled several international concert dates. Paige, who is currently starring in a U.K. tour of Georges Feydeau’s Where There's a Will, will perform in concert at the Chelmsford Spectacular 2003 on Aug. 24. An Evening with Elaine Paige will feature the West End Concert Orchestra and special guest Alexander Hanson. Paige will offer tunes from her illustrious stage career as well as pop favorites from her many recordings. Show time is 7:30 PM; tickets are priced at £16 and are available by logging on to www.chelmsfordspectacular.org.uk. This autumn, Paige has also scheduled several concerts in Denmark. As of press time, her schedule includes stops at the Radisson SAS Falconer Salen (Oct. 31), Vaerket Randers (Nov. 2), Musikhuset Aarhus (Nov. 3) and Musikteatret Vejle (Nov. 5). Visit www.elainepaige.com for ticket information. . . . Another Norma Desmond, the first national tour’s Linda Balgord, who was the last actress to portray Grizabella the Glamour Cat in the Broadway production of Cats, will reprise her feline role for the North Shore Music Theatre’s production of the record-breaking musical this summer. Balgord will join Ken Prymus (as Old Deuteronomy) — another Broadway Cats alum — in the musical, which plays the Massachusetts Theatre July 8-Aug. 3. The official opening is scheduled for July 10. Rounding out the cast of 22 singers, dancers and actors are Joe Abraham, Jacob Brent, Mark Burrell, Lou Castro, Rob Flebbe, Kevin Loreque, Tina Moya, Brian Noonan, Carolyn Ockert, Susan Owen, Julie Tollivar, Pamela Rainey, Dani Schaffel, Matthew Sipress, Shylo Smith, Grant Turner, Kyle Patrick Vaughn, Sharon Wheatle, Nikol Wolf and Gustavo Wons. Tickets, priced between $26 and $63, are available by calling (978) 232-7200. The North Shore Music Theatre is located in Beverly, MA, at 62 Dunham Road. Visit www.nsmt.org for more information. . . . Three stars of the Tony-nominated Gypsy revival are set to bump and grind for the cameras June 7. Julie Halston, Heather Lee and Kate Buddeke who play cosmetically challenged strippers Electra, Tessie Tura and Mazeppa in the hit revival of Gypsy, will sing their second act show-stopper “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” on CBS-TV’s “The Saturday Early Show.” “The Saturday Early Show” airs 7-9 AM ET; check local listings. . . . And, finally, Melba Moore will make her Joe’s Pub cabaret debut this summer. The Tony Award-winning actress will offer two shows nightly (at 7 and 9:30 PM) on Sundays, July 13, 20 and 27. Moore will perform songs from her lengthy Broadway and pop career as well as tunes from her recently released gospel CD “I’m Still Here.” Moore will also be seen this fall in the new Paramount film “The Fighting Temptations.” That film co-stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles. Tickets for Moore’s concerts are available by calling (212) 239 6200 or by logging on to www.telecharge.com. Those wishing to dine before the show, should call (212) 539-8778. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place.

REMINDERS

Liz Callaway in Concert:
June 16 at Broadway Under the Stars in Bryant Park, New York, NY
June 28 in Divas On the Hudson in Westchester County, NY
July 18-19 in 101 Years of Broadway at the Lenape Center in Marlton, NJ
Aug. 29-30 at the Stockbridge Cabaret in Stockbridge, MA
Jan. 31, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
May 8, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY

Barbara Cook in Concert:

Now through June 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

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!