ELAINE PAIGE & BETTE MIDLER
It was a diva lover's dream evening this past Wednesday night when two supreme artists, Elaine Paige and Bette Midler, strutted their stuff at the Gala Spring Dinner to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The benefit honored one of the leading doctors/specialists in the fight against breast cancer, Dr. Larry Norton, and the evening was co-chaired by Evelyn H. Lauder, who is President of the Organization, and by Susie and Tommy Hilfiger. Barbara Walters was the emcee for the gathering, and Paige and Midler capped off a wonderful evening that boasted such celebrity guests as Elizabeth Hurley, Cy Coleman, Carly Simon and others.
Before the entertainment portion of the event, which was held at the new Christies Auction House at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, there was a live auction to raise funds for the Foundation. The most interesting item auctioned was a private jet trip to anywhere in the world for the bidder and seven friends. The flight also includes a private concert by Carly Simon with composer Marvin Hamlisch at the piano. That grand item was auctioned for over $120,000. After the auction, Mr. Hamlisch took to the small stage and offered a medley of songs from his award-winning A Chorus Line as well as a song to honor Dr. Norton, his moving tune "Dreamers," which featured a revised lyric.
This column's favorite Brit, Ms. Paige, was up next, and she began her set with a thrilling rendition of Sunset Boulevard's "With One Look." Paige added a few riffs and trills to the Andrew Lloyd Webber tune, which she built to a mega-decibel finale. Paige joked that it was great to be back in New York "singing, not shopping" and then launched into her signature tune, "Memory." What's most remarkable about Paige's singing -- besides her dramatic intensity -- is that her voice has improved as she's aged. It's richer and stronger than ever before, with a throbbing vibrato that cuts through the listener. EP then spoke briefly about portraying the life of Edith Piaf on the West End stage and concluded her all-too-short set with two songs from the Pam Gems' musical: "No Regrets" (in French) and "If You Love Me." Paige remains a supreme vocalist, which was never more evident than in her rendition of her final song, which she expertly delivered. She received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd, which was seated at large tables surrounding the stage on all sides.
The final performer for the evening made her own entrance to a tumultuous applause. Bette Midler walked to the stage and began singing a verse from her worldwide hit, "From a Distance." Midway through the song, she joked, "Good evening friends of the breast. . .Mine have been very good to me. Everyone knows that I built a career and a few small houses around them. . .I couldn't miss this evening even though my career is on the upswing. I've been offered Beauty and the Beast -- as the Teapot." Midler then sang "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," a tune from her latest album, Bathhouse Betty. Halfway through the tune, she offered a few bawdy jokes that became more and more risque as the audience begged for more. She then changed the mood, and spoke movingly about losing her own mother to breast cancer. A poignant version of "Some People's Lives" followed, and Ms. Midler concluded her set with the upbeat "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."
Although Paige and Midler's styles are completely different, the two ladies complemented each other wonderfully, and each thrilled the entire audience (and this writer) with her performance. It was a terrific and emotional evening for a very worthy cause. To find out more information about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation or to make a donation to the "first and largest national organization strictly dedicated to funding clinical and genetic research on breast cancer at outstanding medical centers across the country," call (212) 572-4249.
One last comment: I had the chance to speak with the always-delightful Paige after the show, and she admitted that she is definitely planning to return to Broadway. Let's hope it's soon. . .
On Monday morning, the Tony nominations for the 1998-99 Broadway season were announced at Sardi's on West 44th Street. As usual, there were a few surprising omissions -- Lea DeLaria in On the Town, Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room are the first two who came to mind at the reading of the nominations -- but, overall, the nominating committee seemed to spread the glory over as many shows as possible. In the musical actress categories, those who have a chance at the coveted Tony Award include Bernadette Peters (Annie Get Your Gun), Carolee Carmello (Parade), Dee Hoty (Footloose) and Sian Phillips (Marlene) for Lead Actress and Gretha Boston (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Kristin Chenoweth (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Valarie Pettiford (Fosse) and Mary Testa (On the Town). And, speaking of awards, don't forget the Drama Desk Awards will be televised live on NY1 this Sunday, May 9 featuring Bernadette Peters as the host. The broadcast begins at 9 p.m., so set your VCRs!
Speaking of Ms. Peters, a loyal diva watcher forwarded me a copy of the most recent issue of Hero magazine, which featured an in-depth interview with Peters. I thought you would enjoy reading some of her quotes from this article by Jeffrey L. Newman:
about the loss of friends from AIDS:
"I've lost two very close friends, Peter and one of the dancers who worked with me. When Peter went, it really affected me a lot. When you work that closely with someone and you perform with them a lot, you get to know their soul. He was a good person. But I've been fortunate in that I haven't lost a lot of close friends. Peter was the closest."
about her solo album, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight":
"It was very eclectic, which is what I love about it. It has surprised a lot of people because it includes music from all walks of life. People forget that I had a pop hit on the charts years ago ["Gee Whiz"], but that was before I came to Broadway and did all the Sondheim shows and all. People forget that I sing other types of music. What I love though is being able to jump back and forth between the different styles."
about her large gay following:
"I think gay people are lovers of performers who are expressive and who throw themselves into things very deeply, which I do. If I thought about all the actresses on Broadway, they all probably have a huge gay following. Anyone who is deeply expressive would have that kind of following I believe. I'm very definitely very honored. It's a great following to have. But I guess I do have a large gay following. I just never thought of it that way. I have a lot of friends who are gay. I just think that gay people in general are big supporters of the theater, and when they like you, they let you know it and they appreciate you."
DIVAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
This summer's San Francisco Pops series, which features the acclaimed San Francisco Symphony, will include appearances from two of New York's finest performers, Patti LuPone and Marin Mazzie. La LuPone will perform her new one-woman show, "Matters of the Heart," on July 1 and 2 with Rob Fisher as musical director. On July 10, an evening entitled "Rodgers and Hammerstein and Friends" will feature performances by the husband-and-wife team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. Tickets are available beginning this Monday through the San Francisco Symphony Ticket Service -- (415) 864-6000 -- or by visiting the symphony's website at www.sfsymphony.org.
Also, two of cabaret's finest performers, Andrea Marcovicci and David Campbell, will appear together on June 11 and 12 at the Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary Street). Tickets, which are priced at $35, are available by calling Star Classics (415) 552-1110.
On June 22 and 23, admirers of The Phantom of the Opera star will get a chance to see the singer in concert at City Center in New York City. BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.
June 5 Myerson Symphony Center -- Obelisk Awards in Dallas, TX
June 7 PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
June 10-13 Theatrefest in Montclair, NJ
June 29 Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA
July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.
The songstress will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20, and on Sept. 25 KM will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
Following are a a handful of upcoming Paige concert dates in Sweden, which are listed below:
June 10 Ulriksdal (as part of the Royal Ulriksdal Palace Festival) in Stockholm, Sweden
June 12 Finspang Palace in Finspang (outside of Norrkoping), Sweden
June 17 Sofiero Palce in Helsingborg, Sweden
June 19 Tradgardsforeningen Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg, Sweden
Paige will also appear as the special guest of Cliff Richards at his concerts in Hyde Park, London, on July 16, 17 and 18. Tickets are available from First Call: 0171 420 1000. And, don't forget, EP will make a special appearance in New York City in May when she will perform at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's spring gala on Wednesday, May 5 at the New Christie's Auction House in the city. The event is being hosted by Barbara Walters, and Paige -- who is expected to sing a handful of her biggest hits -- will be accompanied on the piano by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch. For more information about this worthy event, contact The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at (212) 572-4249.
Bernadette Peters currently stars on Broadway as Annie Oakley in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The show's cast recording was recently released from Broadway Angel.
DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from August 9 through August 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from August 23 to August 28, and Sam Brown will open on August 31 and close September 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Saturday at 4 PM. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.
THE DIVA SERIES
The Public Theater's Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) celebrates the best of Broadway and cabaret in a new series devoted to the women who scat, swing, belt and croon. Lea DeLaria was the first in the series, and she is being followed by Mary Cleere Haran (May 10 and 11), Ann Hampton Callaway (May 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22) and -- most exciting of all -- Ute Lemper (May 26, 27, 28, June 3, 4, 5 and 7). All shows are at 8:30pm . Call (212) 239-6200 or (212) 539-8777.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.