DIVA TALK: LuPone & Cook Sing Sondheim, Errico Goes Solo and More "Idol" Thoughts

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: LuPone & Cook Sing Sondheim, Errico Goes Solo and More "Idol" Thoughts
Patti LuPone will make her third foray into the world of Stephen Sondheim.
Patti Lupone at the 32nd Annual Theatre Hall of Fame Ceremony Jan. 27
Patti Lupone at the 32nd Annual Theatre Hall of Fame Ceremony Jan. 27 Photo by Aubrey Reuben

This will mark La LuPone's third foray into the world of Stephen Sondheim: The first was her celebrated turn as Mrs. Lovett in the concert version of Sweeney Todd that was eventually aired on PBS, and this past summer she took part in a concert staging of A Little Night Music also at the Ravinia, offering a wonderful, full-voiced rendition of the Sondheim anthem "Send in the Clowns." I love that our Evita gal is finally getting the chance to strut her stuff in some classic Sondheim musicals. LuPone has often said in interviews that she longed to perform in a Sondheim production, even writing the composer a note asking to succeed Bernadette Peters in the original production of Sunday in the Park with George. LuPone had also been offered the role of the Witch in the original mounting of Into the Woods, although she ended up heading the cast of the Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes instead.

Let's hope one of these LuPone Sondheims finds its way to Broadway. In the meantime, however, her multitude of fans will have to content themselves with LuPone in concert; several new dates were recently announced:

March 27 at the East County Performing Arts Center in El 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 Ham Auditorium at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV ("Matters of the Heart")
April 5 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Aug. 5 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")

Barbara Cook will also be featured during the upcoming Ravinia Festival. The legendary singer will bring her Mostly Sondheim concert to the Chicago festival Sept. 7 and 8, and she will also offer the Tony-nominated program at Carnegie Hall Nov. 22. Her original Sondheim evening at Carnegie Hall — featuring guest vocalist Malcolm Gets — was recorded live and released on DRG Records. DRG will also release the program on DVD/video April 22.

Cook's current concert itinerary follows: Feb. 14-15 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA
Feb. 28 and March 1, 2, 6-9 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, CA
March 21 at the Flynn Center in Flynn, MI
March 28 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY


Melissa Errico: "Blue Like That"
I never understand the decision Broadway performers make when they record their first solo album and include virtually no theatre songs, especially when their fan base is nearly 100 percent theatre fans. I guess I actually do understand the decision, usually a desire to have a pop hit, although it's rare that theatre performers crossover. That said, I received an advance copy of Melissa Errico's solo debut disc — "Blue Like That" (Manhattan Records) — earlier this week, and, though it came as no surprise, there was only one theatre song on the 12-track disc, Rodgers and Hart's "He Was Too Good to Me," which was cut from the musical Simple Simon. Thankfully, Errico also includes Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," one of the composer's most heartfelt tunes that is as beautiful as many theatre songs. It is on these two songs, which tell stories rather than simply create moods, that Errico is most effective.

Errico possesses a beautiful voice, one of the loveliest sopranos around, but there is a sameness to her singing on many of the tracks, an almost detached quality that fails to make the unfamiliar songs register with the listener. It may very well also be that many of the songs are just too similar in tone. However, it's not a bad recording, far from it. Some of the tracks are quite pretty — I particularly enjoyed "When He Loved Me" and the title tune — but overall, it's just somewhat too mellow from a performer who can be much more exciting.

"Blue Like That" hits record stores Feb. 25. Errico will celebrate the CD's release with several performances at the Public Theater's Joe's Pub. Backed by a full band, Errico will offer tunes from the new CD March 3 (9:30 PM) and March 10, 26 and 31 (7:30 PM); call (212) 539-8777 for reservations


From the many e-mails I received last week, it seems a lot of diva lovers are also enjoying FOX-TV's "American Idol," so I thought I'd write a bit more about the show. This past week's Tuesday-night broadcast, which began the second round of competitions, was a bit disappointing. The second round — four weeks — consists of four sets of eight singers. Each week, the eight singers vie for two spots, and those two will advance to the third round next month. I didn't think any of this week's competitors — Bettis Richardson, Charles Grigsby, J.D. Adams, Julia DeMato, Kimberly Caldwell, Meosha Denton, Patrick Fortson and Trenyce — offered sensational performances. If I had voted, I would have probably picked Trenyce, who delivered the most polished, vocally secure performance of the bunch. It turned out that the reactions from the singers' families were more moving than the actual performances. Watching Bettis' teary-eyed sister react to the judges' verbal pummeling of her brother and Charles Grigsby's also teary-eyed mom and sister react to his successful performance were extremely touching.

I hadn't realized that the two finalists would not be announced until the following evening, and, although it makes for good TV watching, the way the evening is conducted is somewhat brutal for the contestants. I was happy that Grigsby made the cut, and although I didn't think Julia DeMato performed as well as she had during the initial open-call tryouts (she was one of my two favorites of the women singers), I was glad that she advanced. Most surprising was the fact that Kimberly Caldwell, the young blonde singer who seemed to be the judges' favorite, didn't make the cut. I think personality has as much to do with the outcome as the singing, and Caldwell came off a bit cold, which may have hurt her with the voting public. . . This Tuesday we'll get to see eight more competitors sing-it-out for the two spots: Candice Coleman, Clay Aiken, Hadas, Jacob John Smalley, Jennifer Fuentes, Kimberley Locke, Rebecca Bond and Ruben Studdard. . . And, one final TV thought: How fabulous was ten-year-old Tiffany Evans, who won the Junior Singer competition on CBS' "Star Search" singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"?


On her official website, Sutton Foster responds to a fan's question about any mishaps during the run of Thoroughly Modern Millie:
"Okey dokey. Now I'm proud of this. . . but one time in Millie — I guess it was over the summer — during the final 'Restaurant Scene' with Jimmy, Graydon and Millie . . . we all just lost it. I mean LOST IT . . . I am usually the rock in that scene. Gavin [Creel] and Marc [Kudisch] will get little twinkles in their eyes and I just try to keep us all together. But something made me laugh that night. I started to giggle and then it was over. The audience noticed that we were laughing and started laughing and then we couldn't stop laughing. I remember bowing my head and staring at my lap with uncontrollable laughter and not believing that this was happening. Oh, and one time in La Jolla, my underwear 'tap pants' fell off after the opening number. I hit my final pose and SWOOSH . . . they fell around my ankles. I tried to discreetly step out of them and then shoved them under my armpit."

In David Drake's upcoming "Cabaret Beat" article for Playbill® Magazine, singer-actress Maureen McGovern — who will open a two-week engagement at Feinstein's at the Regency March 4 — discusses the many positive effects of her 1973 hit "The Morning After":
"People can read into it what they need. I've had fans write me, telling me how they've used the song in dealing with depression, from the loss of a loved one. I've even been told that people have played a tape of the song — on a loop! — while going through surgery. . . . I've sung it to patients in hospitals, on telethons. In that way, it's been a gift. . . . I don't generally do 'The Morning After' in my act. But since it's the thirtieth anniversary of the song winning the Academy Award and a gold record and all, I thought it should be a celebration."

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Ann Hampton Callaway will join the Seattle Men's Chorus for a month-long tour entitled Up Over! Down Under, which begins Feb. 21 at the Auckland Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand. Other dates include two in Australia — Feb. 24 at the Melbourne Town Hall and Feb. 26 at the Sydney Town Hall — and one in Seattle, WA on March 9 at the Benaroya Hall. Callaway, who received a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in Swing!, will sing the Hairspray ditty, "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful." . . . Speaking of Callaways, Ann's sister Liz — of Baby and Miss Saigon fame — will be part of the Feb. 10 festivities when the Lark Theatre Company presents the New York premiere of the new musical Children's Letters to God. Composer Stephen Schwartz will host the Lark benefit at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and Callaway, soon to return to Broadway in the Burt Bacharach revue The Look of Love, will offer Stephen Sondheim's "Not While I'm Around" and the Big anthem, "Stop Time." Schwartz will premiere "The Wizard and I," a song from his Broadway bound musical Wicked, and he and Callaway will join forces on a song yet-to-be-announced. Children's Letters to God, based on the best selling book of the same name, was written by Stuart Hample, David Evans and Douglas J. Cohen and concerns a group of children who write to God to try to understand the world around them. The Lucille Lortel Theatre is located in New York's Greenwich Village at 121 Christopher Street. Tickets are priced at $75 for adults and $35 for children under 16. Special benefit tickets, ranging from $150 to $500, include the post-show party at NYC Restaurant (75 Greenwich Street). To purchase tickets, call (212) 246-2676. . . . Varla Jean Mermanhas landed a role on the ABC soap "All My Children." Beginning Feb. 20, Varla Jean will bring the role of Rosemary Chicken to life. The "international star" was also recently seen in the feature film "Girls Will Be Girls," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, and on March 28 and 29, Varla Jean will present her newest show, "I've Got the Music in Me!," at Joe's Pub; call (212) 539-8777 for reservations. . . . Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth — soon to be seen in the TV adaptation of "The Music Man" — will head to the Kennedy Center Feb. 13-15. "A Valentine's Date with Kristin Chenoweth" is part of the National Symphony Orchestra's Pops series and will feature Chenoweth backed by two Broadway dancers, Sean Hingston and Vince Pesce. A Chorus Line's Marvin Hamlisch, represented on Broadway last season with the short-lived Sweet Smell of Success, will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra. Tickets for the evenings — Feb. 13 (7 PM), Feb. 14 and 15 (8 PM) — are priced between $20 and $72 and are available by calling (800) 444-1324. . . . And, finally, the one-and-only Betty Buckley will return to her favorite downtown haunt, The Bottom Line, for two concerts on Valentine's Day. Show times are 7:30 and 10:30 PM; doors will open at 7 PM for the first concert and at 10 PM for the second. The Bottom Line is located on the corner of West 4th and Mercer Streets. Tickets are priced at $25 and are available by calling the box office at (212) 228-6300. For more information, go to www.bottomlinecabaret.com. Don't miss the magnificent Buckley in action!


Betty Buckley in Concert:

Feb. 14 at the Bottom Line in New York, NY
May 31 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
March 3 at the Wintergarden in the NYC World Financial Center in New York, NY
May 16 Broadway Showstoppers in Philadelphia, PA

Maureen McGovern in Concert

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

Christiane Noll in Concert

Feb. 14 Fort Meyers, FL Southwest Florida Symphony with Doug Webster
Feb. 15 Fort Meyers, FL Southwest Florida Symphony with Doug Webster
Feb. 20 Carnegie Mellon Alumni Event in NYC with David Budway
April 5 Springfield, MA with Springfield Symphony
April 9 Florida Philharmonic with Peter Nero
April 21 Florida Philharmonic with Peter Nero
May 24 Williamsburg, VA with the Virginia Arts Festival
Aug. 28 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 29 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 30 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Oct. 11 Chattanooga, TN with Don Pippin
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little

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

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