By Andrew Gans
17 Mar 2000
BACK TO CHICAGO
Whenever friends are planning a trip to New York and ask me to recommend a show, I always inquire whether or not they’ve seen Chicago. It seems to be the safest choice for both theatre lovers and for those who only go once or twice a year. How can you resist a show that provides one show-stopper after another? So, when I was recently invited back to the Shubert Theatre, I thought it would be a good chance to see whether the production was still worth recommending to friends and relatives. And, I’m happy to report that the Kander and Ebb musical remains an exciting evening of song, dance and, well, just dynamic theatregoing. The night I attended, the two merry murderesses were Bebe Neuwirth, back in the role of Velma Kelly through March 22, and Belle Calaway as Roxie Hart.
I must admit, if I didn’t know the show was a revival, I would assume the role of Velma was tailor-made for Neuwirth. It’s easy to see why the former “Cheers” star has returned so frequently to the production, for it’s hard to imagine a role that could be more suited to her unique talents, one that embraces her unique gifts as a dancer, singer, actress and comedienne. As for Calaway, who has performed the role of Roxie on the road to much acclaim, picking up a Helen Hayes Award nomination along the way, she has, perhaps, the strongest voice of any Roxie I’ve seen live, and she makes you wish she had more solo vocal moments. Interestingly, the actress looks like a cross between the show’s two original stars, Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, and her dancing is wonderful. She acts the role well, too, although she has the misfortune of following Sandy Duncan’s performance, who remains, for this theatregoer, a Roxie of unequaled status.
Like Marcia Lewis, Brent Barrett gets better and better each time I see the show, and his singing is exemplary, one of the finest male voices currently on Broadway. Chicago remains a great place to visit.
For those of you who were unable to catch Linda Eder’s thrilling solo Carnegie Hall debut last month, the former Jekyll & Hyde star is currently belting her heart out at Feinstein’s at the Regency, New York’s newest cabaret space, through March 25. And, it’s a rare chance to see Eder in such an intimate environment, as she usually plays much larger venues. Reservations may be made by calling (212) 339-4095, and you can expect the new mother to wrap her phenomenal vocal chords around these tunes: “Till You Come Back To Me,” “All the Way,” “Smile,” “It's No Secret Anymore,” “I Don't Know How To Love Him,” “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “What Kind of Fool Am I,” “When I Look in Your Eyes,” “Havana,” “Anything Can Happen,” “Romancin' the Blues,” “You Never Remind Me,” “The Little Things,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Man of La Mancha” and, of course, “Vienna.” Also, several new Eder concert dates will be announced shortly, and it looks like Michael Feinstein will join the statuesque singer for many of these performances. Stay tuned!
JAMIE DEROY and FRIENDS
The Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Cafe (407 W. 42nd Street) will host three special editions of “Jamie DeRoy and Friends” on three consecutive Saturday evenings at 8:30 PM: March 25, April 1 and April 8. The cabaret performances will feature direction by Barry Kleinbort and musical direction by Rod Hausen; former Phantom star, Davis Gaines, will direct the final performance on April 8. There is a $20 music charge for each performance and a one-drink minimum (MAC members receive a $5 discount on the cover), and the March 25 outing will benefit the Nick Springer Fund. The scheduled performers follow:
March 25: The Accidentals, Eddie Brill, Mario Cantone, Peter Cincotti, Tim Draxl, Rita Gardner, Anya Turner and Robert Grusecki
April 1: Mark Nadler, Heather MacRae, Jessica Molasky, Carolyn Montgomery, Joel Plue, Jason Robert Brown and Jane Stroll
April 8: Polly Bergen, Lorna Dallas, Michael Garin, David Robinson, Craig Rubano, Nancy Witter and Sara Zahn
Call (212) 695-6909 for reservations.
Toni Collette discusses Queenie, her character in The Wild Party (in an upcoming Playbill article by Mervyn Rothstein):
“[Queenie] is open-minded and closed-hearted. She’s a party girl, always seeking affection, but nothing ever touches her soul. Then she meets somebody who opens up something in her, and at the end, instead of dancing on the tables, she’s questioning what she’s doing with her life.”
Liza Minnelli discusses her parents and her new show, Minnelli on Minnelli, which is currently touring the country (in an upcoming Playbill article by Patrick Pacheco)
“"I wanted them [Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland] to live on through this work; that's exactly part of the reason I wanted to do this show . . . It's so wonderful because I don't think either my dad or my mom ever thought that there would be video and DVD and that their work would continue in such an immediate way. What I think I love most is the way my dad captured my mom in his movies. You can see his love for her in every frame of Meet Me in St. Louis. They are certainly the most memorable and most loving images that I have of her.”
an excerpt from Frank Rich’s interview with Stephen Sondheim in the magazine section of Sunday’s New York Times:
“Sondheim thinks ‘stars are great’ for the theater, but doesn’t believe the theater has any stars now except itinerant visitors from movies and TV. Bernadette Peters comes closest, he says, but when ‘she does a show that’s a hit like Annie Get Your Gun, she has to stay with it for two years. In the old days, Bernadette would have done at least as many shows as Merman, a couple of dozen. She’s done maybe 10 shows.’ Sondheim’s own favorite star performances in musicals, his or others? Among male performances, he cites two: Alfred Drake in Kismet and John McMartin in Follies. The list of women is longer, including Peters in Sunday in the Park, Lansbury in Sweeney Todd, and ‘obviously, Ethel was thrilling in Gypsy.’”
IN OTHER NEWS Nell Carter fans in the metropolitan area can catch the Tony winner at the Morristown Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, on March 31 at 8 PM. For tickets to “An Evening with Nell Carter,” call (973) 539-8008 . . . Donna McKechnie and Merle Louise will star in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music for the North Shore Music Theatre in September. The NSMT season will also include the New England premiere of Honk! (June 13-July 2), Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan (July 18-August 6), Roxane Barlow in Sweet Charity (October 3-22) and more. Call (978) 232-7200 for the latest information or visit www.nsmt.org . . . I also had the chance to return to Dame Edna: The Royal Tour last weekend, and the unique show remains a laugh riot. Don’t miss the Dame while she’s on Broadway. Bring your friends, and be prepared for a two-hour laughathon! . . . Liz Callaway will take part in this weekend’s “A Sondheim Afternoon: Stephen Sondheim and Guests” to be held Sunday, March 19 at 3 PM at the 92nd Street Y. The award-winning lyricist/composer will be interviewed by Ned Rorem, and there is word that the program will be broadcast on a local PBS station sometime soon. For more information call (212) 996-1100 . . . Shauna Hicks and Jeff Harnar salute the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland songbook in their new cabaret act, “Shauna & Jeff Sing Mickey & Judy,” which they will perform at the FireBird Cafe (363 W. 46th Street) beginning March 22. Show times are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at 9 PM and Fridays at 11 PM through April 8. There is a $30 cover charge and a $15 minimum; call (212) 586-0244 for reservations . . . And, finally, Audra McDonald received rave reviews for her recent Southern California concert debut before a sold-out audience. Daryl H. Miller, in The Los Angeles Times, had this to say about McDonald’s electrifying performance: “The selections proved illuminating and, at times, heartbreaking, as in a three-song set that grouped ‘Dream Variations’ and ‘Song for a Dark Girl’ (recent Ricky Ian Gordon compositions based on Langston Hughes poems) with ‘Supper Time’ (a Berlin song for Ethel Waters in the 1933 Broadway show As Thousands Cheer). The first, filled with black pride and suffused with hope (‘To fling my arms wide/In the face of the sun,/Dance! Whirl! Whirl!’) stands poignantly beside the other two, in which women cry to a seemingly unhearing heaven (‘I asked the white Lord Jesus/What was the use of prayer,’ in ‘Dark Girl’) after the lynching of their lovers. . .In addition to the aching mother's apology ‘Your Daddy's Son’ (from Ragtime, the program's one sample of her Broadway work), she put tears in her own and others' eyes with such songs as the doting aunt's lullaby ‘I Won't Mind,’ the regret for loves that might have been in ‘Stars and the Moon,’ and a quiet, satin-smooth tribute to Judy Garland in ‘The Man That Got Away.’”