DIVA TALK: Goodbyes From Nancy LaMott

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Goodbyes From Nancy LaMott

Before her untimely death last year from cancer at age 43, singer Nancy LaMott was about to be catapulted from local cabaret fame to superstardom, as she was finally gaining national recognition as one of the country's foremost interpreters of classic songs. LaMott, who used to joke that "cabaret's been a great hobby for 20 years," had known her share of hardships‹a battle with Crohn's disease had plagued her most of her adult life as well as financial struggles that earlier in her career often found her without enough money to do a pre-show mailing.

The chanteuse with the throbbing voice, however, possessed a sunny disposition and a great sense of humor that when combined with these hardships and one of the must luscious voices around, made her a superb singer. She left behind five musical gems on the Midder Music Label, and David Friedman and Scott Barnes, composer and manager, respectively, had enough unreleased material for additional CDs. The first posthumous recording, Nancy LaMott: What's Good About Goodbye, will be released this month, and it is another example of LaMott's exquisite musicianship.

About the posthumous recordings composer David Friedman has this to say about Nancy's tragic death: "The world lost not only a warm, wonderful, fun-loving, compassionate human being, but a future of recordings that Nancy had in her head and had planned to do. Although we will never get to hear those recordings, and can only imagine what they would have been, we are fortunate in that Nancy left behind many, many recordings of songs she did in the studio, as demos, in performance, as gifts and just for fun. They vary widely in their completeness and sound quality, and span many different periods in Nancy's singing life, but to listen to them is to be reminded of just how deep and wide Nancy's talents ran. It is our mission to bring to the world, in the best possible setting, as much of this material as we can. What's Good About Goodbye will hopefully be the first of many more albums on which we present this material to the listening public."

Many of the tracks on this first posthumous album were initially recorded as presents for radio personality Jonathan (WQEW) Schwartz, a long-time LaMott admirer and one of the people largely responsible for her increasing popularity. These "gift" tracks were luckily recorded on two separate tracks‹one for piano and one for voice, which enabled the Angeles String Quartet to further enhance the recordings. The majority of the re-orchestrations were done by the legendary Peter Matz‹who had worked on Nancy's last album Listen To My Heart‹ based on musical director Christopher Marlowe's original work.

Some of the songs on the recording include LaMott's wonderful version of the Petula Clark classic "Downtown"; Rodgers and Hammerstein's "If I Loved You"; "Something You've Never Had Before" from The Gay Life; and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Newer composers are also represented: David Friedman's "Your Love" and "On Borrowed Time," David Zippel's "Another Mister Right" and Alex Rybeck and Bob Stewart's "What a Funny Boy He Is." The 12-track recording, available in stores or by calling 212 665-0699 (or fax: 212-222-6579) is the perfect holiday present, a reminder of Nancy LaMott's enduring legacy.

LaMott's manager, Scott Barnes, also informed me that both a PBS documentary for WLIW in New York and a TV-movie based on Nancy's life are in the works. He and many others are also working to bring the Nancy LaMott Foundation to fruition. This foundation would give small grants to cabaret singers who have also faced difficult times. (Nancy's other solo recordings: You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby; Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer; My Foolish Heart; Just in Time for Christmas; Listen To My Heart.)

A devoted Elaine Paige fan sent a copy of a great article that recently ran in the London Sunday Times. The author of the article, Richard Johnson, spent the day of her official Broadway opening in Sunset Boulevard with Paige. Following are some of my favorite passages:

"EP has flown Irene and Eric, her parents, over from Bognor Regis on Concorde to witness it. 'I made sure the limo driver went over the right bridge to give them the best first impression of the Manhattan skyline. With champagne, on ice, of course. I share everything with them. My father used to say to me, "Perseverance furthers." I think it's out of the I Ching. I remember reading it in the sixties. Tonight I want to prove he was right."

... Paige can't open the first-night presents ("It's the nails, darling"), but still they come. Tea sets. Toy monkeys with Tiffany silver neckchains. And Cellophane bouquets that spill out into the hall. Glenn Close, who played Norma in Los Angeles and on Broadway, has sent peonies with a card that reads "Brava, Lady." Trevor Nunn, Sunset's director, has sent roses and a handwritten letter advising that "the secret of success is in the detail." "And this little thing here," says EP, pointing at a sweet little posy standing just 5in tall, "is from Patti LuPone."

A Question and Answer with Elaine, entitled Her Perfect Year, appeared in a recent issue of HX Magazine. Following are some of EP's choice quotes:

Gregory Young: What was it like to finally walk down that long staircase?
Elaine Paige: It was an extraordinary occasion, really. There was an announcement made to the audience informing them that it was my debut Broadway performance, and they all went wild. I came down the staircase to thunderous applause, which just would not abate. It went on and on and on and on. I got to the place where I would usually deliver my first line, and I couldn't say it. It was truly exciting and thrilling in one respect, and in the other, it was a bit daunting. And they also gave me a standing ovation in the middle of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and again at the end. The audiences in London were terribly responsive to this character, but I've never enjoyed an ovation in the middle of a song.

GY: Do you have any opinions on Madonna stepping into Evita in the role you created?
EP: Oh, I'm so sick of that question! Some newspaper in England rang me the other day and wanted me to hear a new song that was not originally in the musical. So they played this scratchy thing over the phone. I could barely hear it. It was a pretty song. I could only imagine that possibly it was presenting an element of Evita that was not in the stage version. I haven't heard any more from it, but of course Madonna is Madonna. She's a huge star with huge charisma. She's reinvented herself so many times; she's quite a chameleon. And I think Eva was similar in all those aspects. So I think Madonna is possibly the perfect person for the part. CONCERT REMINDERS:

Betty Buckley will make her first professional concert appearance in New York since departing the Boulevard. Buckley will appear in the beautiful new cabaret room at Maxim's for three shows on November 22 and 23. The shows will be held at 8:30 on both nights, with a 10:30pm show on the 23rd as well. Call 212-751-5111 for ticket information and reservations. Maxim's is located in New York City at 62nd Street and Madison Avenue.

The Tony-winning Song & Dance gal, Bernadette Peters, will make her long-awaited solo Carnegie Hall debut in December to benefit the Gay Men's Health Crisis. BP will perform on the legendary stage on December 9, singing songs from her new album, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" plus an array of Sondheim material. Tickets are priced at $40, $100, $150, $250 and $550. The top two ticket prices include a post-concert party/reception. Call 212-247-7800 for more information.

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!

-- By Andrew Gans

(My e-mail address is andrew_gans@playbill.com.)

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