DIVA TALK: LuPone, Cook And More

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: LuPone, Cook And More
As we head into the holiday weekend, here are a few items that I hope you will enjoy. Have a great holiday, diva lovers!

As we head into the holiday weekend, here are a few items that I hope you will enjoy. Have a great holiday, diva lovers!

Hope you caught Patti LuPone this past Wednesday evening in the PBS program "The Singer and the Song." Part of the "In Performance at the White House" series, the one-hour program boasted a stellar Broadway company, including LuPone (who delivered a one, two, three knockout with "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "As Long As He Needs Me" and "Being Alive"), Jennifer Holliday (who can still raise the roof with Dreamgirls' "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"), Brian Stokes Mitchell and James Naughton. And, as I reported earlier in the week, the Tony and Olivier Award winner who recently thrilled London audiences with her newest concert program, Matters of the Heart, will perform highlights from that act for New York audiences in a special, one night-only gig at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street between East 4th Street and Astor Place). La LuPone brings her evening of song (soon to be available on CD from Varèse Sarabande) to the Public Theater's new cabaret space on Sunday, Sept. 26 at 9 PM. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. There is also a two drink minimum.

A good friend -- but not a diva lover (I do have a few of those) -- recently sent me a copy of the theatre program for the "Divas at the Donmar" series, which featured performances by LuPone, Audra McDonald and Sam Brown. The program includes a brief interview with LuPone (by writer Mark Shenton), and what follows are some of the actress' choice quotes:
about portraying Eva Peron in Evita in New York:
"In New York, there was this irrational hatred for the fact that Eva Peron was being glorified on stage. The reviews were not good, and the reactions were initially so cold. I became desperate for audiences to remember who I was before I played this role. So, on Saturday night, I would go to this club, Les Mouches, which was a dance club with a supper club above it downtown, and do a cabaret at midnight. Our show was so successful that it ran for 30 weeks of Saturday nights."

about performing in a cabaret setting:
"I'm a Juilliard-trained actress, but nothing taught me more about performance before a live audience than cabaret. There is no mask -- I had to be me. And the next time I went back to performing in Evita, I had more confidence in the presentation of the songs as a result. And that had to do with the fact that I had to be naked in front of an audience in cabaret, where the actor or singer has much more ultimate control than in the theatre."

about the songs that form her newest act:
"I don't want to sing show tunes. That's not what I listened to growing up. So we've brought a lot of a contemporary and original music to the table instead. And what we've found were pretty dramatic stories -- by Joni Mitchell, John Bucchino, Randy Newman, and a British pair, Dillie Keane and Adele Anderson. Delivering their songs theatrically makes them become theatrical songs -- what else, after all, is a show tune?"

Thankfully Barbara Cook -- who continues to perform in concert halls and cabarets all around the world -- seems to be churning out albums on a regular basis. Her latest CD, available from DRG in September, was recorded live at the famed Cafe Carlyle (Cook will return to the Carlyle on Sept. 14 with a new act devoted to the songs of Burton Lane) and features songs from a handful of Broadway musicals, including tunes from Annie Get Your Gun, Mack and Mabel and Hello, Dolly!. The complete track listing from "Barbara Cook: Live at the Cafe Carlyle" follows:

Before the Parade Passes By
It Only Takes a Moment
I Got the Sun in the Morning
The Happy Time
Among My Yesterdays (Walking)
Look What Happened To Mabel
The World Must Be Bigger Than an Avenue
I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
About a Quarter to Nine
Her (His) Face
They Say It's Wonderful
I Got Lost in His Arms
Time Heals Everything
Before the Parade Passes By
They Were You

Okay, so she's not a theatre diva, but Olivia Newton-John did star in one of the most successful movie-musical hits of all time, the screen adaptation of the megahit Grease. I have always been a fan of Newton-John's singing, but I never had the chance to witness a live performance until last Friday night at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. A fellow diva lover who is a huge fan of Newton-John accompanied me, and I'm happy to report that the actress/singer captivated a very enthusiastic audience from the moment she set foot on the stage. Looking startlingly youthful despite her 50-some years, Ms. Newton-John opened with the early eighties theme "Xanadu" and proceeded to embark on a thorough and generous tour of her musical career: from her award-winning country hits of the early seventies to her early-eighties ascension to pop-superstar status with the album "Physical," plus a return to her country roots with her most recent release, "Back With a Heart."

I was particularly struck by the preserved quality of Newton-John's rangy voice: Although there is a slightly darker timbre on certain notes, her instrument remains as sweet and pure as ever. In fact, the singer had no difficulty meeting the diverse demands of her large musical repertoire -- from the light, syrupy tones of her early country standards to the chestier, high-ranging belt of her rock hits. Particularly enjoyable during the first half of her program were performances of her country hits "Have You Never Been Mellow," "Let Me Be There," and Dolly Parton's "Jolene," in which she displayed her still strong, high soprano.

Despite a continuous succession of adoring fans coming to the stage offering flowers and gifts before, during and after each selection, Newton-John managed to perform her set without a hitch, and she also received her fans warmly and with grace. The first act offered several other tunes and concluded with an intimate acoustic set with several back-up singers in close harmony. This set, intended as a tribute to some of Ms. Newton-John's musical friends who've passed away, included such classics as "Country Roads" (dedicated to John Denver) and "The Long and Winding Road" (in honor of Linda McCartney) as well as the Karen Carpenter favorite, "Close to You."

After a brief intermission during which her band performed a much too long and somewhat numbing song, Olivia Newton-John returned with one of the musical theatre's best-known songs, Evita's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," which she first recorded in the late seventies. Although a bit more passion would have been welcomed in her delivery, I couldn't help but think how excitingly she could have sung the score, had she been hired to record the original white album (as she was a star across the Atlantic at the time) rather than the vocally colorless Julie Covington.

Fans of the Grease film were not disappointed, as Ms. Newton-John treated the sold-out crowd to three numbers from the musical: "You're the One That I Want," a strongly sung "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Summer Nights," which featured members of her ensemble as well as audience participation. Other highlights of the show included a few tracks from her latest release, most notably "Precious Love," a pretty ballad that used her clear mid-range to its best advantage, and her huge hit, "Physical." Newton-John offered the gentle Peter Allen ballad "I Honestly Love You" as a fitting encore.

Fans of the talented performer will be pleased to learn that this performance was taped for a future television broadcast to be announced at a later date.

IN OTHER NEWS Tickets are now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring Patti LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500. Although just a rumor -- but an exciting one -- we hear that Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis may take part in the production as well. Stay tuned for more . . . "During her solo concert at London's Royal Festival Hall, the pert but sexy songster croons and swings in songs from Broadway shows and the work of Stephen Sondheim. The big numbers knock down the house, particularly 'We're in the Money' with a chorus in pig Latin, but she ends quietly, leaving her fans wanting more." So says Laurence Vittes in the August 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Vittes is writing, of course, about the recent PBS concert of one of this column's favorite ladies, Bernadette Peters. . . Cabaret's Karen Mason will open a brand-new night-club space in New York City on November 3. She'll play through Nov. 27 at Arci's Place, 450 Park Avenue South (between 30th and 31st Sts.). Performances are Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 pm, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8:30 and 11 pm There will be a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; for reservations, call (212) 532-4370 . . . Speaking of Mason, the former Sunset Boulevard standby-to-the-stars will join Alix Korey, Tom Andersen, Georga Osborne and Richard Skipper in The Amazing Singing Voice: A Celebration in Song on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at 24 Fifth Ave., Ballroom, New York. The special concert will benefit the Long Island Jewish Medical Center's Schein Voice and Laryngeal Center. In addition to delighting the crowd in song, the performers will also discuss their singing techniques. The $75 ticket includes the show and food; for further information, call (718) 470-8892.

Next week: A review of Linda Eder's upcoming Atlantic release (she's in superb voice) and more . . .


Sarah Brightman's complete U.S. tour listing follows:
September 4 in Reno, NV at the Lawlor Events Center
September 5 in Las Vegas, NV at the MGM Grand
September 6 in Phoenix, AZ at the America West
September 8 in Los Angeles, CA at the Universal Amphitheater
September 10 in Santa Barbara, CA at the Santa Barbara Bowl
September 11 in San Diego, CA at the SDSU Open Air Theater
September 14 in San Jose, CA at the Center For Performing Arts
September 16 in Seattle, WA at the Opera House
September 17 in Portland, OR at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall
September 19 in Sacramento, CA at the ARCO Arena
September 21 in Denver, CO at the Temple Buell Theater
September 23 in Chicago, IL at the Chicago Theatre
September 25 in Detroit, MI at the Opera House
September 26 in Akron, OH at the EJ Thomas Hall
September 28 in Pittsburgh, PA at the Benedum Center
September 29 in Cincinnati, OH at the Aranoff Theater
October 1 in Buffalo, NY at the Sheas Theatre
October 2 in Hartford, CT at the Bushnell Auditorium
October 3 in Portland, ME at the Civic Center
October 6 in Newark, NJ at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
October 8 in Boston, MA at the Wang Center
October 10 in State College, PA at the Bryce Jordan Center
October 12 in Washington, DC at the Constitution Hall
October 13 in Greensboro, NC at the War Memorial Auditorium
October 15 in W. Palm Beach, FL at the Kravis Center
October 16 in Tampa, FL at the Ruth Eckerd
October 17 in Miami, FL at the Jackie Gleason Theater

A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer.
September 24 Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA
October 2 South Street Theater Company in Morristown, NJ
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 23 Foellinger Great Hall in Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon State University Aud. in Springfield, IL
October 27 Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, NY (Benefit dinner)
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 12 Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
November 14 Music Hall in Cincinnati, OH
December 13-14 St. Barth's Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Aud. in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
February 5, 2000 Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
February 6 Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
February 8-9 Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
February 11 Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
February 12 Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
March 18 Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19 Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24 Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26 Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4 Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7 Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8 Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

And, "Bravo Profiles: Betty Buckley," an insightful documentary that includes an interview with the Tony Award-winning actress as well as footage from Buckley's recent sold-out Bottom Line concert will air on Bravo November 1 at 10 p.m.

Mason's Christmas album, simply titled "Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" will be available this fall. The busy chanteuse will join other B'way performers for a European tour of Broadway music that will play Stockholm (Sept. 1-4); Birmingham, England (Sept. 5); and the Barbican in London (Sept. 8). . . Also, on September 25 Mason will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.

What follows are some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
October 30 and 31, 1999 at the Sun City Superbowl in South Africa
November 5, 1999 at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa
January 21 and 22, 2000 with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah

The two-time Tony winner currently stars as the gun-toting Annie Oakley in the acclaimed revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com

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