DIVA TALK: Linda Eder Storms Carnegie Hall + Honking to the Hayes

By Andrew Gans
04 Feb 2000

Linda Eder
What I like most about Linda Eder in concert -- aside from that voice, which seems to have an unlimited range in both her chest (belt) and upper registers -- is her utter lack of pretense. Who else would apologize to the audience for a lengthy intermission by admitting she was breast-feeding her five-month-old baby, Jake? That confession, however, preceded the most moving performance of the evening, a heartfelt version of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Eder explained that every aspect of her life, including her singing, has changed since the birth of her son with husband/composer Frank Wildhorn, and she dedicated this pop classic to her newborn baby. That song, though, was in the second act, but there were plenty of thrills in the first half of Eder's generous recital.



LINDA EDER
What I like most about Linda Eder in concert -- aside from that voice, which seems to have an unlimited range in both her chest (belt) and upper registers -- is her utter lack of pretense. Who else would apologize to the audience for a lengthy intermission by admitting she was breast-feeding her five-month-old baby, Jake? That confession, however, preceded the most moving performance of the evening, a heartfelt version of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Eder explained that every aspect of her life, including her singing, has changed since the birth of her son with husband/composer Frank Wildhorn, and she dedicated this pop classic to her newborn baby. That song, though, was in the second act, but there were plenty of thrills in the first half of Eder's generous recital.

The statuesque singer began the concert with "It's No Secret Anymore," the title song from her most recent recording. "This Time Around," "The Big Time," and "This Must Be Love" followed. Eder then revealed that she had dreamed of performing at the famed Hall since she was a young girl. "I'm pretty excited to be here," she explained. "I think the only person more nervous than me is my Dad. He's just that way," she joked, "and that's why I'm that way." Eder's frankness throughout the concert was also endearing. "In a way I wasn't really cut out to be an entertainer" she related, "because I don't walk out on the stage with any confidence whatsoever. I sort of get it from you as I go along. If I'm lucky, I leave with a whole bunch of it." Well, the trumpet-voiced singer certainly should have left the evening with an abundance of self-assurance. The audience, full of celebrities, critics and die-hard fans were a more-than-enthusiastic bunch, erupting into applause at the beginning and end of most every song -- and, sometimes, even in the middle, when Eder would let loose one of her thrilling, belty high notes.

The next section of the evening paid tribute to the late Judy Garland, Eder's original inspiration. "It all started when I watched this next lady sing," Eder said. "I wasn't lucky enough to see her sing live, but it was enough on television. I'm sure she sang this song here. I don't know how long it's been since it's been heard in these walls, but I hope we do it justice." The "it" was "The Man That Got Away," and, yes, Eder did it justice, building the song to a stirring effect. A gentle version of "Over the Rainbow" followed as Eder's voice glided throughout the vast hall. The singer displayed her great sense of rhythm during "Till You Come Back To Me" and followed with a salute to Broadway, including Les Miserables' "I Dreamed a Dream," Jesus Christ Superstar's "I Don't Know How To Love Him" and the Barbra Streisand anthem "Don't Rain On My Parade." Before singing "Parade," Eder admitted, "I don't even get mad when the critics call me a 'you-know-who wannabe' . . . [Of course], only a fool would take one of her songs and do exactly the same arrangement!" Eder's own anthem, a song from Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde followed, a soaring version of "Someone Like You"; when she sang the line "And I'd feeeeeeel so aliiiiiiive!," it was thrilling. The first act concluded with a spirited version of the title song from another Wildhorn musical, Havana, which may bring the singing actress back to The Great White Way.

Highlights of the second act included a selection of songs written for men, including snippets of "If I Were a Rich Man," "Maria" and "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" plus a simple, sweet take of "On the Street Where You Live" and a rousing, stentorian version of "What Kind of Fool Am I?" She also offered a version of Maury Yeston's "Unusual Way" that had just the right combination of love and longing. Eder finished the evening with a beautiful version of my favorite Wildhorn tune, "Vienna," a touching memory-song about a love that is no longer. The way her voice opens on "cause in Vieeeeeeeeeenaaaaaahhhhhh we were poetry" was an example of supreme belting. Encores included her terrific arrangement of Man of La Mancha's title tune, Jekyll & Hyde "A New Life" and "(We All Need) Something to Believe In."

A few minor quibbles: At times Eder lacks a certain dramatic intensity that would lift some of the heavier ballads into the next level of interpretation. Admittedly, however, the press seats were so far up that it was hard to see her facial expression, so more may have been going on than I could see. And, why eliminate the four lines of "I Dreamed a Dream" -- "He slept a summer by my side/He filled my days with endless wonder/He took my childhood in his stride/but he was gone when autumn came" -- that are the subtext for the entire song? Those two thoughts aside, the evening was a wonderful celebration of singer and song, and Eder wowed all in attendance with her superb vocal instrument: a triumph for the woman who dreamed of Carnegie Hall as a child.

ALISON FRASER in HONK!
Honk!, a sophisticated musical version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, which received an Olivier Award nomination during its West End run, will hit these shores on February 12 at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, New York. Composed by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, this story of hope and bravery will star Gavin Creel as the ungraceful but hopeful, Ugly, and Alison Fraser as Ida, Ugly's loving mother. Other cast members include The Mystery of Irma Vep's Stephen DeRosa, Les Miz's Evalyn Baron, Encores! Babes in Arms's Melissa Rain Anderson and others. Directed by Gordon Greenberg, tickets are $24.50-$38.50 and can be purchased by calling the Helen Hayes box office at (914) 358-6333.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

From a review by Celia R. Barker (in the Tribune) of Elaine Paige's sold-out concert with the Utah Symphony on January 21:
"Abravanel Hall was fitted with banks of stage lights, a black backdrop and even a smoke machine for this performance, and the orchestra was joined by Paige's own rhythm section. Members of the Utah Chamber Artists were on hand for vocal backup. Thus it was possible for Paige to make a dramatic entrance amid smoky theatrical lighting, to the sound of sizzling Latin-flavored licks from 'Evita,' the show that made her a star. From the first notes of 'Don't Cry for Me, Argentina,' Paige held the audience in her hands. Her big voice is one mighty expressive instrument, and she puts the stamps of her unique personal style on every song she sings. And there were many. The music of Webber was prominently featured, with songs from 'Sunset Boulevard,' 'Chess,' and, of course, 'Memory,' from 'Cats.' That song was -- literally -- made for her, and no one does it better."

Another Paige review from Deseret News and written by Alan Edwards:
". . .the woman has a great sense of the theatrical. 'So dramatic, so early,' the British native sighed after her first song, 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina,' in Friday's concert with the Utah Symphony. The sold-out performance was only Paige's second public concert with a U.S. orchestra and was attended by people as far away as Seattle, Atlanta and, yes, England, according to the Abravanel Hall ticket office. As expected, Paige sang a sampling of songs from her more well-known musicals, in character and with great fervor. She used her arms and hands like props, waving them about, spreading the fingers, wrapping them around herself. She also sang a few other, widely disparate songs. Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'? Believe it. She also did a version of 'From a Distance' that put Bette Midler to shame . . ."

A loyal diva watcher forwarded Paige's program for the evening, which follows:
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
"I Get a Kick Out of You"
"I Gaze in Your Eyes"
"As If We Never Said Goodbye"
"I Know Him So Well"
"From a Distance"
"Bohemian Rhapsody"
"Mad About the Boy"
"Memory"
"Cry Me a River"
"Mon Dieu"
"Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien"
"If You Love Me"
Encore: "With One Look"

John Kander discusses Liza Minnelli's "comeback" with gossip columnist Liz Smith (New York Post, Feb. 2)
: "I have known many artists who lost their voice, their vocal abilities. Truly lost them. But I have never known anyone of these to 'come back.' Liza did something incredible and unique. She worked and studied so hard, and she won her vocal abilities back. She is actually singing better and with more skill today than she did before. She is using her voice with better effect. She is a phenomenon. I would also add that, in her entire life, Liza has never done a wrong or a hurt to anyone."

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