DIVA TALK: Falsettos and Norma Desmond Revisited

News   DIVA TALK: Falsettos and Norma Desmond Revisited
Hello, diva lovers! First, a bit of Gypsy news: tickets for the much anticipated revival — starring two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters — will now go on-sale to the general public Feb. 2, and the Shubert Theatre box office will be open for business beginning, Feb. 24.

During my freshman year in college, I took a course entitled "American Musical Theatre." One of the assignments of the semester-long class was to go to the listening room in the school's library and listen to the original cast LP of March of the Falsettos. (It was one of the few courses I've ever taken where I looked forward to doing the homework!) Having never heard the recording, I was quite surprised and thrilled by the subject matter and the tuneful, witty William Finn score. I didn't get to see either the Off Broadway production of March of the Falsettos or its sequel, Falsettoland, but when the two productions became one on Broadway — Falsettos — I caught the musical several times. A moving tale of one man's journey through life, love and AIDS in 1970's and 80's New York City, Falsettos remains one of my top-ten list of favorite musicals, so I was quite excited when it was announced that Playwrights Horizons was going to present a few concert performances of the show with most of the original cast.

I attended the evening performance this past Saturday, and it was a memorable night. Falsettos is exactly what a musical should be: tuneful, funny, poignant and moving. Fittingly, the evening — directed by Lonny Price — began on a comical note, with the actors arriving onstage via the audience.

Chip Zien: We never should have done this . . .
Rupert: Would you stop complaining?
Zien: [Playwrights artistic director] Tim Sanford said this building would be finished. Have you seen my dressing room?
Dokuchitz: Hello, hello. . .
Rupert: Who are you?
Dokuchitz: Jonathan Dokuchitz. We met at that thing.
Rupert: Where's Bogardus?
Zien: Man of La Mancha. He's on Broadway, and 20 years later we're just still milling around here.
Rupert: Could you please shut up?
Zien: No, I won't shut up. You shut up!
Dokuchitz: I knew this was going to happen. I told my agent, "Violet or Floyd Collins, Violet or Floyd Collins."
Jesse Nathanson Greenwald: I oughta be in school.
Rupert: Where's Finn?
Zien: Yeah, 'cause if Lapine was here ...
Greenwald: Patti Lapine?
Zien: I'm gonna slit my wrist right there.
Fraser: Guys, guys, guys, can you try to keep it down. I'm working on my ...
Zien: Where's Faith?
Fraser: Second act, second act!
Prince: Second act?!
Prince: Lonny told me that Falsettoland was gonna be first.
Rupert: Yeah, Lonny "I used to be an actor" Price.
Fraser: Second act.
Mac Rae & Metz: Hey, wait a minute. Did somebody say second act?
Music. . .

All of the performers had the chance to shine throughout the evening, and they all seemed remarkably untouched by time. Alison Fraser, who looked better than ever, scored with her frenetic "I'm Breaking Down," seemingly falling apart before our eyes; Michael Rupert, who has a bit more gray but no less voice, was incredibly moving throughout, especially in his final, heartfelt, teary-eyed rendition of "What Would I Do?"; Chip Zien was as lovably hammy as always, grabbing laughs with most every line; Heather Mac Rae and Janet Metz as the "lesbians from next door" also charmed — Mac Rae delivered a stirring "Something Bad Is Happening," and Metz's belt continues to thrill; Faith Prince was also in top form, both moving and funny — her "Holding to the Ground" was beautifully rendered, and her facial expressions, especially after Metz sings "Oh, Mummy" to Mac Rae, were priceless; Jonathan Dokuchitz had the unenviable position of standing in for original Whizzer Stephen Bogardus (now in Broadway's Man of La Mancha) but came through extremely well with thrillingly sung versions of "The Games I Play" and "You Gotta Die Sometime"; and Jesse Nathanson Greenwald did well as the child at the center of all the madness, Jason.

So, for a few performances last week, Marvin was back with Whizzer, and all seemed right with the world . . . Miramax, how 'bout a film of Falsettos?! NORMA REVISITED
This week, gossip columnist Liz Smith wrote in one of her daily columns, "I continue to hear rumblings and whisperings that Liza Minnelli will star in the movie musical version of Sunset Boulevard." It seems odd that producers of a film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Don Black Christopher Hampton musical would choose Minnelli when Glenn Close, who won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway musical, is certainly a more bankable film commodity at this point. Personally, I'd love to see Betty Buckley, Elaine Paige or Patti LuPone (wouldn't that be a great way to end the Sunset saga?) get the chance to capture her Norma on screen, though the prospect of a theatre star is unlikely. If a film actor is chosen — and with the success of the star-driven "Chicago" film, it would seem likely that's the route producers will go — I guess I'd vote for Meryl Streep. Since I've already seen what Close can do with the part — and her singing of the tunes remains my least favorite of the Normas to date — I'd be curious to see Streep's work. What other film actress do you think could do justice to the role vocally and acting-wise? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

How much do you resemble Ethel Merman? A special prize will be awarded for the best "Ethel-inspired outfit" at the Jan. 23 party celebrating the re-release of "The Ethel Merman Disco Album" (Fynsworth Alley label). The CD, which hits stores Jan. 28, features disco versions of several of Merman's signature tunes, including "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Something for the Boys," "Some People," "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "I Got Rhythm" as well as a bonus, never-before-released eighth cut, "They Say It's Wonderful." The party celebrating the re-release of the 1979 recording will be held from 10 PM to midnight at SPA, which is located in New York City at 76 East 13th Street. Sunrize Highway will host the event, and DJ Lady Bunny will play non-stop disco classics. Attendees must be 21 or over; call (212) 352-4455 for reservations.

Patti LuPone speaks from the heart on her website (www.pattilupone.net):
"I shot an episode of 'The In-Laws' in California. I fell in love with Dennis Farina and Jean Smart. I also became extremely fond of the kids. But let me tell you what happened during my week at 'The In-Laws.' I had a great director, I was surrounded by a great crew, not to mention a cast that absolutely adored each other. However, there was a slight bit of tension as to whether they would be picked up or canceled. Two hours before we shot in front of a live audience the show was canceled. WHERE ARE THE SHOWMEN? Why are actors treated as if we are so many carrot peelings? You would think they would have kept the tension alive so as to produce a good show. When it came time to shoot, Bonnie [Somerville] & Elon [Gold] (the kids) were exhausted from their emotions. These guys who run our business now are cruel and insensitive. No, they're not insensitive, they're just not showmen. They haven't a clue as to what it takes to be an actor. Temperament. Temperament should be nurtured. Then it can handle any blow. But to disregard an essential ingredient of the actor, well..."

David Hurst's Show Business Weekly review of Shoshana (Hairspray) Bean's concert at The Duplex:
". . . Bean has an unbelievable voice that is thrilling in its beauty, theatricality and sheer power. In fact – and as crazy as this will sound to those who haven’t heard her – she can sing circles around her idols with one of the most category-defying, voices I’ve ever heard . . . Bean sang an eclectic program of R&B and pop as well as a few show tunes to highlight her days at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She’s comfortable in any genre, but clearly favors R&B, as she proved with songs by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and India Arie. Ironically, her reading of "My Funny Valentine" (in the three ‘versions’ she auditioned with at CCM) as well as a medley of songs from shows she longs to star in (The Life, Ragtime, Once On This Island, The Wiz, etc.) displayed her jaw-dropping versatility and stunning vocal control. Her effortless, operatic singing of "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" from Porgy & Bess was as unexpected as it was gorgeous." [Bean returns to the Duplex, Sunday, Jan. 19 for an 8 PM sold-out show.]

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: How exciting that Elaine Paige will return to the West End stage this summer! Paige's official website reveals that the award-winning actress will star in a yet-to-be named play on the London stage directed by Sir Peter Hall. Hall directed Paige in one of her greatest stage hits, Piaf; her performance in that musical drama remains one of my favorite theatregoing experiences. Stay tuned for more details! . . . Longtime friends and performing partners Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett will be honored at The Museum of Television & Radio's annual gala. This year's gala, which will be held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 5. The Museum will salute Andrews and Burnett for "their outstanding and award-winning careers on television," which include the 1962 "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall" as well as two follow-up specials. A host of Burnett and Andrews' celebrity friends will be on hand to pay tribute to the legendary performers. The Museum of Television and Radio is located at 25 West 52nd Street in New York and 465 North Beverly Drive in Los Angeles. For more information, call (212) 621-6800 in New York or (310) 786-1000 in Los Angeles. . . . Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday will offer two concerts at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts this weekend. The former Dreamgirls star will perform in concert at the California performing arts center on Jan. 17 and 18. Show time is 8 PM for both evenings. Part of the Sierra Nights Series, Holliday is expected to sing several of her chart-topping hits, including "I Am Love," "Just Let Me Wait" and "I'm On Your Side" as well as her signature tune, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Tickets for Holliday's concerts are priced at $45 and are available by calling the Cerritos box office at (800) 300-4345. . . . Another Tony Award-winning belter, Heather Headley, can also be heard this weekend. Headley will sing the National Anthem at the Jan. 19 AFC Championship football game, which airs on CBS-TV at 6:30 PM ET. Check local listings. . . . At his solo New York cabaret debut on Feb. 15 and 16, John McDaniel — of "Rosie O'Donnell Show" fame — will introduce a new, rising talent, singer-actress Eden Espinosa, who recently starred in the workshop of Brooklyn, the Broadway-bound musical produced by McDaniel, director Jeff Calhoun and Mitchell Maxwell. The 7:30 PM concerts will be held at Joe's Pub, located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place. Tickets, priced at $25, are available at the Public Theater's box office, on-line at www.telecharge.com or by phone at (212) 239-6200 . . . . And, finally, Titanic's Victoria Clark will star in the Intiman Theatre's production of Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza May 30 through July 19. Clark's official website says that Clark will play the lead role of Margaret, the mother, in the new musical, which is based on the Elizabeth Spencer novella of the same name.


Betty Buckley in Concert:

May 31, 2003 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA

Liz Callaway in Concert:

Feb. 14-15 Stephen Schwartz and Friends at the Edison Theatre at Washington University in St. Louis, MO
Feb. 3 at the Wintergarden in the NYC World Financial Center in New York, NY
May 16 Broadway Showstoppers in Philadelphia, PA

Barbara Cook in Concert:

Jan. 31, 2003 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Long Island, NY
Feb. 14-16 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA

Linda Eder in Concert:

Jan. 25 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT
Jan. 30 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, CA
Feb. 1 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO
Feb. 14 at the Proctor's Theatre in Albany, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert

March 27 at the East County Performing Arts Center in Cajon, CA ("Matters of the Heart")
March 28-29 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA ("Matters of the Heart")
March 30 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV ("Matters of the Heart")
April 5 at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")

Maureen McGovern in Concert

Jan. 30-Feb. 2 at Orchestra Hall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Detroit , MI
Feb. 7-9 at the San Diego Museum of Art in San Diego, CA
Feb. 14-16 at the Marcus Center with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee, WI
March 4-15 at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City
April 12-13 at Center Stage—Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, CA
April 14-19 at Founder's Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
May 30 - 31 at the Palmer Events Center with the Austin Symphony Orchestra in Austin, TX
June 7 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN

Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!

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