DIVA TALK: Chatting with LuPone at Les Mouches's Leslie Kritzer Plus Rogers' Evita on Disc
By Andrew Gans
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Last season Leslie Kritzer received a rave in The New York Times and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her often-hysterical performance as the dim-witted Pickles in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, and later this season she will be part of the new Broadway musical Legally Blonde, based on the film of the same name and featuring direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell. Before she returns to Broadway Kritzer made her Main Stem debut as Shelly in the Tony-winning musical Hairspray the big-voiced singing actress with a gift for comedy will head to Joe's Pub for what promises to be a diva lover's delight: Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches.
Directed by Joy's Ben Rimalower a long-time LuPone fan the Oct. 4 concert (with encore dates Dec. 8 and 9) will re-create the Tony and Olivier Award winner's legendary concerts at the Manhattan nightclub Les Mouches. It was at the now-defunct club where LuPone played a record-breaking engagement of midnight Saturday shows during her run in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita. LuPone's Les Mouches musical director, David Lewis, will assume the same duties for Kritzer's evening, which will boast his original arrangements for such LuPone signature tunes as "Meadowlark," "Rainbow High" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" as well as "Because the Night," "Love for Sale," "Downtown," "Not While I'm Around" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."
Rimalower told me earlier this week that when he decided to direct LuPone at Les Mouches as a "sort of performance art piece, I immediately thought of Leslie because of the rich character work she does. Leslie can inhabit a personality, fiction or non, with striking conviction. I didn't want some tired spoof of Patti's diction for 70 minutes. Without even trying, Leslie has a similar vocal quality to a young Patti and a similarly electric energy on stage and off that makes the match really right." I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the multi-talented Kritzer, who spoke about her many upcoming projects; that interview follows.
Question: How did the idea of performing Patti LuPone's Les Mouches show come about?
So, he called me, because we're friends, and he said, "I have this great idea. Come over!" I come over, and he explains it, and I was like, "No, no way! There's no way I'm doing this." [Laughs.] . . . So, I watched the video. And, still ten, fifteen minutes [later], "There's no way I'm doing this." Then I get through it, and he coaxes me along, [and] two hours later I'm like, "I have to do this!"
Q: What changed your mind?
A lot of people haven't seen this, and acts like this don't exist anymore. What a great idea to breathe life back into it and do it with David and do an homage to her and bring myself into it. So, it's kind of like me meets Patti LuPone. I'm not doing an impersonation. It's not Forbidden Broadway. And, it's still a process. I'm still figuring out what I want it to be. I'm just learning the songs, and I'm definitely putting qualities of Patti into it. I'm definitely doing all the banter. I'm doing it very much how she did it, but I'm also putting me into it, so it's a performance-art piece. It's very much what Rufus Wainwright did with Judy Garland, but of course, there's going to be more Patti in mine than there was Judy in his.
Q: So, you are performing Patti's patter as well?
Q: It's a lot to learn in a month.
Q: And Ben is directing . . .
Q: It should be fun. I think it's going to be an event.
Q: Let's talk about you a bit. Where were you born and raised?
Q: When did you start performing?
Q: When did you realize it would be your career? When did it change from a hobby to a profession?
It wasn't a day that the light bulb went on - it was just like, "I'm going to go to school. I'm going to major in this, and I'm going to work." I'm not going to listen to my friends who are going to Cornell [who ask], "Don't you have a backup plan?" "I don't have a backup plan. There is no backup plan." And I did, and I got into school.
Q: Where did you go to school?
Q: What was your first professional job?
Q: Your bio says you starred in a production of Evita. Where did you play the lead role?
Q: Talk about your experience in Trailer Park, which brought you a Drama Desk nomination.
Q: You made your Broadway debut in Hairspray. What was it like finally getting to Broadway? Did it seem much different than performing in other places?
Q: What will you be doing in Legally Blonde?
Q: This will be your first time originating a role on Broadway.
Q: When do you start rehearsals?
Q: You were also the standby for Alice Ripley in the Kennedy Center's Tell Me on a Sunday. Did you ever get the chance to go on?
Q: Do you have a favorite role so far?
Q: Would you like to play the role again at some point?
Q: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Q: Do you think the Les Mouches show will be done again if the reception is good?
[Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches will be presented Oct. 4 at 9:30 PM (with encore dates Dec. 8 and 9 at 11:30 PM) at Joe's Pub, which is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Avenue. There is a $25 cover charge plus a food/drink minimum. Call (212) 239-6200 for reservations or visit www.telecharge.com.]
FOR THE RECORD: Evita
For those of us who grew up listening to the various Evita recordings - the original concept album with Julie Covington in the title role, the London cast recording with Elaine Paige as Eva, the Broadway cast recording starring Patti LuPone and the world tour highlights disc with Florence Lacey - the arrival of a new Evita is big news. So it was with great anticipation that this writer and admitted Evitaphile opened the Polydor CD of the 2006 London cast recording of the Andrew Lloyd Webber (music)-Tim Rice (lyrics) musical.
The newest production of Evita - currently playing London's Adelphi Theatre - is the first major staging not to utilize Hal Prince's original, Tony-winning direction. Instead, the musical about the life and untimely death of Eva Peron features brand-new staging by Michael Grandage with choreography by Rob Ashford. The current London production is also unique, as it boasts the first Argentinean actress (Elena Roger) to portray Eva either in the West End or on Broadway.
Of course, the fate of any production of Evita rests in the hands - or, more aptly, the vocal chords - of the woman playing the lead role, and Roger, a heretofore unknown actress outside her home country, greets the challenge head on and is blessed with her own brand of "star quality." In fact, from the moment Roger begins her portion of "Eva Beware of the City," it is obvious this is an Eva to be reckoned with: There is fire in her soul and voice, and there is no denying that this Eva will find her way to Buenos Aires.
Roger, it should be noted, possesses a strong accent, which produces an Eva that sounds unlike any of her predecessors. Her earthy, gritty belt rises to the demands of Lloyd Webber's score, which may be the most challenging role for a belter, as it requires the actress to sing in her uppermost belt for much of the show. If Roger's voice doesn't scale the heights quite as easily as Tony winner LuPone or have the lush quality of West End star Paige, she does well with the songs, managing to bring new life to the score while simultaneously adding a few flourishes - including new high notes that conclude an exciting, determined "Buenos Aires" and a show-stopping "Rainbow High."
Roger also delivers a lovely, understated "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," brings a nice bite to the "Waltz for Eva and Che" and is the first stage Eva to have the chance to perform the one new song penned for the Madonna Evita film, "You Must Love Me." Roger's interpretation of the latter is extremely moving, as is her deathbed "Lament."
As for the other roles, Matt Rawle is a less intense Che than his predecessors, though he sings the role well in a light tenor. Philip Quast's Peron is a sheer delight, bringing the most to his brief solos, including a wonderfully sung "She Is a Diamond." And, as Peron's young Mistress, Lorna Want brings the requisite dejection to "Another Suitcase in Another Hall."
This recording of Evita also features several new orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber, who were inspired to create an exciting new passage in "Buenos Aires" as well as new arrangements for "The Art of the Possible" and the penultimate "Montage" that are surprising improvements over the enjoyable originals.
One minor quibble: For some reason London Evas seem to get short shrift from the record companies. Both the Paige and the new Roger discs are highlights recordings, denying Evita fans the chance to hear all of Eva's vocal work. Most missed: "Eva and Magaldi," the introduction to "A New Argentina" and the second bedroom scene, "Dice Are Rolling."
The Italian Welfare League will honor Broadway favorite Melissa Errico with its 2006 Woman of the Year Award Oct. 14. Errico, most recently on Broadway in Amour, will be presented with her award during the League's Autumn in New York Luncheon and Fashion Show Oct. 14 at the St. Regis Hotel. The event, which begins at 11:30 AM, will also include the presentation of the Man of the Year Award to FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. In addition to her acting-singing credits, Errico teaches master classes at the LaGuardia High School and the Actors Center. She has helped raise money for Worldwide Orphans and recently created Lila Mamas, a mother's support group in downtown New York. The event will begin with a silent auction, followed by lunch and the fashion show. The latter will feature the work of Clifford Michael. Proceeds will help "Italian American children in poor health or who've suffered tragic events." The St. Regis Hotel is located in Manhattan at 2 East 55th Street. For tickets call (212) 861-8480. Visit www.italianwelfareleague.org for more information.
Daphne Rubin-Vega, the former Rent star who will be seen as Fantine in the upcoming Broadway revival of Les Misιrables, will release a new solo recording next month. On Oct. 17 "Redemption Songs" on the Sh-K-Boom Records label is scheduled to hit stores around the country. The recording is a collection of "original and diversely classic songs reflective of [Rubin-Vega's] experiences in life, love and motherhood." In a statement, the actress says, "Some of these songs were written when I experienced deep losses and incredible firsts. I was inspired to write again. It was a very 'fertile' time for creativity." For more information visit www.daphnerubinvega.com or www.sh-k-boom.com.
And, finally, a new compilation disc entitled "Andrew Lloyd Webber Divas" is scheduled to hit stores Sept. 26 on the Decca Broadway label. The 15-track CD features songs from Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects of Love, Jesus Christ Superstar and Song and Dance as well as one originally penned for the now-aborted project Phantom 2. Among the "divas" represented on the recording are Broadway favorites Betty Buckley ("Memory") and Patti LuPone ("Buenos Aires"), West End star Marti Webb ("Tell Me On a Sunday"), international recording artist Sarah Brightman ("Surrender"), Academy Award winner Barbra Streisand ("As If We Never Said Goodbye") and opera star Kiri Te Kanawa ("The Heart Is Slow to Learn"). When listening to the disc, you will probably notice one surprising error: the back cover and liner notes state that "Rainbow High" is performed by Elaine Paige; it is actually Julie Covington's version from the original recording of Evita.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.
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