DIVA TALK: Chatting with Color Purple’s Felicia P. Fields Plus Gravitte’s “Defying Gravity”

By Andrew Gans
20 Jan 2006

Q: How difficult is it performing eight shows a week?
Fields: Eight shows a week is rough. What happens is you don’t really have a life outside of that because you have to protect your vocal chords and your energy. . . . When you’re beginning to set your work, you have to make sure you set it at a place where you can maintain it even on a day when you’re not feeling well. . . . Certainly you can do things in a higher range, but you have to set it at a place where you can be consistent.

Q: Are you getting a chance to enjoy New York at all since you’ve been here?
Fields: I’m still looking for a place to live! I haven’t been able to enjoy New York yet, and I really miss home. It’s hard to be away from home. I have a house there, and my daughter’s 15. Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t get the opportunity — even if I wanted to bring her here, I couldn’t have, it just wasn’t enough time. My son is older, so he’s pretty much holding down the fort at home, and my sister and my mother are all helping out.

Q: How long do you think you’ll stay with the show?
Fields: I don’t know. It depends on how long they want me [laughs] and if I can find a place to live. That’ll make it feel like it’s home.

[The Color Purple plays the Broadway Theatre, Broadway at 53rd Street. Call (212) 239-6200 for tickets or visit www.telecharge.com.]



FOR THE RECORD: Debbie Gravitte’s “Defying Gravity”

On her third solo recording, and her first for the Jay Records label, Debbie Gravitte performs songs from seven of the eight musicals she has appeared in on The Great White Way, including “Mr. Monotony” from Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, which won the singing actress a 1989 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Gravitte also performs seven additional theatre tunes, including the first symphonic recording of Stephen Schwartz’s “Defying Gravity” from the hit musical Wicked.

Gravitte, who possesses a full, lush and rangy Broadway belt, often sounds similar to some of the great gal singers of days gone by — including Eydie Gorme and the late Dolores Gray — but with a contemporary twist. Highlights of the 15-track recording, which features the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Craig Bana, include the aforementioned “Gravity” and “Monotony” as well as a passionate “Time Heals Everything”; Mame’s “If He Walked Into My Life Today,” which builds to an exciting climax; a zesty version of the Gypsy classic “Some People”; a surprisingly enjoyable rendition of the much-performed Cats anthem, “Memory”; a thrilling take on “Don’t Rain On My Parade”; and a quiet, jazz-inflected rendition of Zorba’s “Only Love.”

Gravitte also acknowledges her name-changing years: the singers listed for the three-part harmonies on Rodgers and Hart’s delightful “Sing for Your Supper” include Debbie Shapiro, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte and Debbie Gravitte.

DIVA TIDBITS

Natalie Joy Johnson, best known for her performance in Bare: A Pop Opera, will make her solo cabaret debut Feb. 1 at 7:30 PM at Joe’s Pub. Featuring direction by Ben Rimalower and musical direction by Jonah Speidel, Johnson will perform such songs as “Moondance,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “Ribbons Down My Back,” “I Had Myself a True Love,” “Smooth Criminal” and “The Voice Within” as well as “A Quiet Night at Home,” which was penned by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere Jr. About her upcoming show, Johnson recently told me, “I am so excited to be doing my own show and particularly thrilled to be doing it at Joe's Pub. Working with Ben and Jonah is a dream come true — they both totally get me! And, Jonah is simply a musical genius. I can't wait for you to hear the arrangements we've come up with!" Joe’s Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Avenue. Tickets, priced at $25, are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or by visiting www.joespub.com.

More from Julia Murney about her debut solo recording, “I’m Not Waiting,” which will be released by Sh-K-Boom Records this spring: “It's a real hodge podge of songs — the whole song list isn't set yet, but there will be something cut from Wild Party as well as a song that Andrew Lippa wrote for me, an original song by Tom Kitt, and then a random assortment ranging from Reba McEntire and John Lennon to Annie Lennox and U2. We actually [just] finished doing all the vocal stuff . . . and it was really fun — mostly because of everyone who was working with me these past few weeks . . . . I even got some of my crazy talented friends to come in and sing a little back up stuff for me, so it made me very happy.” Among those who will be heard singing back-up are former Lennon co-stars Mandy Gonzalez, Marcy Harriell, Julie Danao-Salkin and Michael Potts as well as Murney's former Ragtime castmates Michael James Scott and Montego Glover. Song titles include “When I First Met Him,” the cut Wild Party tune; Tom Kitt’s “Perfect”; and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” “I’m Not Waiting” is being produced by Andrew Lippa. Joel Moss is the disc’s engineer with assistance by Jan Folkson. Tom Kitt and Stephen Oremus are the music directors.

The 22nd Annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.), which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles, will salute the works of Betty Comden and the late Adolph Green. Entitled Do Re Mi — Comden & Green’s Broadway, the March 10-12 concerts will be held at Cal State University Los Angeles’ Luckman Fine Arts Complex. David Galligan will direct with musical direction and arrangements by Gerald Sternbach. Show times are March 10 and 11 at 8 PM and March 12 at 3 PM. Those currently scheduled to take part in the annual event include Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins, veteran stage and screen legend Betty Garrett, recent Hairspray star Bruce Vilanch and cabaret favorites Wesla Whitfield and Karen Mason as well as Neile Adams, Adam Lambert, Ian Abercrombie, Clay Adkins, Paul Ainsley, Jamie Anderson, Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, Cristalee, Nancy Dussault, Bill Hutton, Lorenzo Lamas, Rod McKuen, Linda Michele, Ann Morrison, Christine Pedi, Valarie Pettiford, Joan Ryan, Mark W. Smith, Sally Struthers, Ruth Williamson and JoAnne Worley. For ticket information call (323) 656-9069 or visit www.stagela.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.