Diva Talk: Constellation of Divas in NY

News   Diva Talk: Constellation of Divas in NY


The Feb. 25 event benefiting The Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative of the Actors' Fund of America lined up a star-studded cast of, excuse the term, dames. Perhaps the program, entitled Nothing Like a Dame should have been called Nothing Like a Diva, for some of our great ladies of the theatre entertained: Lauren Bacall, Betty Buckley, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Uta Hagen, Irene Worth and many others.

The Initiative, committed to the good health of the women in the entertainment industry, has three main goals: (1) encourage and teach healthy living; (2) promote increased awareness of life-saving measures that can be taken to avoid health-related problems; and (3) continue to provide assistance to those women who are ill and in need of assistance.

The evening consisted of songs and skits, including a farcical version of Medea written by Wendy Wasserstein and Christopher Durang, starring Carol Burnett as Medea, who was then thrown off the stage by Kathleen Turner, who announced she'd be playing Medea. Bebe Neuwirth and Penny Fuller served as the Greek chorus, and Sandy Duncan played the angel. Later, Debra Monk spoke about the pleasures and pains of exercising and Jane Powell read a letter from Hillary Clinton, who mentioned the recent loss of singer Nancy LaMott. Lynn Redgrave and Randy Graff performed "Supreme Beings Create the World," a Kathy and Mo skit about how women were chosen to be the child bearers.

And, the music selections . . . Laurie Beechman spoke about her battle with ovarian cancer and then sang "If You Remember"; Marin Mazzie delivered a belty version of Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By"; that great "dame" of the theatre, Irene Worth, probed the dramatic depths of A Little Night Music''s "Liaisons"; Andrea Martin reprised her comical "Nobody's Chasing Me," which she performed last season in the Encores! production of Cole Porter's Out of This World; How To Succeed's Lilias White sang a rousing song titled "Flowers in the Sky"; and Judy Kuhn was in glorious voice, singing two Jule Styne songs--"Just in Time" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance." There was also a mother/daughter segment that featured Phyllis Newman and daughter Amanda Green; Jo Sullivan Loesser with daughter Emily; and Lucy Simon with daughter Julie all singing "I'm Becoming My Mother." However, the musical highlight of the evening was our own Betty Buckley, who after being greeted by a thunderous applause, dazzled the audience with "Over You," from the film "Tender Mercies."

Two of the non-musical highlights were Carol Channing's hilarious monologue about Cecilia Cisson, a silent movie star's ill-fated attempt to make it in the world of talkies; and recently-recovered Zoe Caldwell's squirrel (!) sonnet.

After Phyllis Newman sang "Happy Birthday/Natural High" from I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, the four ladies from Smokey Joe's Cafe delivered a spirited "I'm a Woman." A reprise of "Nothing Like a Dame" ended the show, with all the glorious women coming onstage in one united front. There is nothing like a dame, indeed.

Happy diva-watching!

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