DIVA TALK: LuPone's Torch Show, Lemper's International Voyage Plus Anne and Alix on CD

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: LuPone's Torch Show, Lemper's International Voyage Plus Anne and Alix on CD
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Patti LuPone (left) and Ute Lemper
Patti LuPone (left) and Ute Lemper


How exciting that our Patti is at work on a new solo show! Following the success of Patti LuPone on Broadway (at the Walter Kerr Theatre), Matters of the Heart (at Lincoln Center) and Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda (at Carnegie Hall) comes The Torch Show. La LuPone will premiere her newest show at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Hollywood, CA, March 29-April 1. The Tony and Olivier Award winner will then bring her Torch Show to Manhattan for an extended engagement at Feinstein's at the Regency, April 6-24. LuPone is again working with Hairspray's Scott Wittman and pianist/musical director Dick Gallagher on the solo evening.

LuPone also has a host of other projects as well: As previously announced, she will join Wicked's Kristin Chenoweth for Candide concerts May 5-8, 2004, at the New York Philharmonic. She has also agreed to her second Encores! outing. LuPone will join Charlotte d'Amboise, Michael Nouri and Reg Rogers for Can-Can, which plays City Center Feb. 12-15. The Cole Porter musical originally debuted at the Shubert Theatre in May 1953, where it played 892 performances before closing in June 1955. Gwen Verdon was among the original cast of the musical, which featured such Porter tunes as "I Am in Love," "Allez-Vous En, Go Away," "C'est Magnifique," "I Love Paris" and the title tune. And, LuPone will reteam with Audra McDonald for the Ravinia Festival's mounting of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George in September.

So, there's Patti-a-plenty in 2004.

UTE LEMPER When one watches the statuesque and stunning Ute Lemper perform, it is obvious that the singer has the utmost respect for the songs she chooses. In fact, the German-born Lemper, who knocked 'em dead in the London and Broadway revivals of Chicago, treats each song as if it were a precious gem, giving careful attention to each and every word, investing each lyric and melodic twist with as much emotion and style as possible.

In an hour-long set at the plush Cafe Carlyle, Lemper rarely sings in English. During her "Voyage" — the title of her newest act — the actress singer offers tunes in Yiddish, German, French, Arabic and takes cabaretgoers on a voyage "through the sleepless cities of the world, between yesterday and tomorrow, either right here or somewhere at the end of the world."

Backed by a musical trio — Vana Gierig on piano, Mark Lambert on guitar and Todd Turkisher on creative drums — Lemper makes a strong case for songs that are rarely heard in Manhattan cabarets. For some reason, her expressive eyes, her lanky frame and her striking, angular face seem to lend authenticity to and heighten her interpretations of tunes by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Jacques Brel.

Lemper began her "Voyage" with the Yiddish "Ikh Shtey Unter a Bokserboym" and followed with one of the staples of her repertoire, Spoliansky and Schiffer's "Life's a Swindle." The evening also included Brecht and Weill's "Alabama Song"; Piazolla's "Buenos Aires," with an English lyric by Lemper; two Brel masterpieces, "Amsterdam" and "Ne Me Quitte Pas"; and Hollaender's "Sex Appeal." One of the most moving moments of the show was Lemper's self-penned tribute to the events of 9/11, entitled "September Mourn." She finished her program with a jazz flavored rendition of Anderson and Weill's "September Song" and a version of Threepenny Opera's "Mack the Knife" that also included bits and pieces of Kander and Ebb's "All That Jazz."

There really is no one around quite like Lemper, and if one wishes she would sing a few more tunes in English, it's still an evening cabaret devotees should not miss. Lemper will offer her "Voyage" through Jan. 31. Call (212) 570-7189 for reservations.

FOR THE RECORD Listen to My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman:

Were it not for the late, multi-talented chanteuse Nancy LaMott, this diva lover may have never heard the marvelous songs of New York-based composer David Friedman. Of course, were it not for David Friedman, Nancy LaMott may not have had the success she had, for it was Friedman who recorded LaMott’s first solo CD, "Beautiful Baby," as well as her four subsequent discs. Furthermore, it was Friedman who penned many of what would become LaMott’s signature tunes: “Listen to My Heart,” “Help Is On the Way” and “We Can Be Kind.”

Recently Off-Broadway was a revue of Friedman’s works, simply titled Listen to My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman. Though it was much-too-short-lived, the cast, which included composer Friedman on piano and occasional vocals, recorded the show live at Upstairs at Studio 54, and the two-CD set — featuring complete lyrics — is now available from Midder Music. The revue included the three aforementioned LaMott anthems as well as a host of other heartfelt and comical delights. Friedman has a remarkable ability to capture the longing and the joy that are a part of life, and his truly moving ballads contain a wealth of melody that sends the songs soaring.

The Off-Broadway cast included the talents of alto Allison Briner, baritone Michael Hunsaker and tenor Joe Cassidy, but it was two of Broadway’s finest belters, Anne Runolfsson and Alix Korey, who shone most brightly and who make the recording a must for musical theatre and Friedman fans.

In terms of sheer beauty, there are very few voices around today that can compare to Runolfsson’s. Not only blessed with a powerful and remarkably rangy high belt, she also possesses a ravishing, pure soprano. Runolfsson lends her beautiful sound, which was also heard in Cyrano and Victor/Victoria (Runolfsson was the acclaimed standby to Julie Andrews), to such Friedman gems as “What I Was Dreamin’ Of,” “Nothing in Common” (a duet with Hunsaker) and “We Can Be Kind.”

And, when Alix Korey sings, one may be reminded of the old television commercial slogan, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” For when Korey belts, people listen—anyone within a 100-mile radius that is. Korey boasts one of the biggest belts and one of the most expansive belt ranges of any singer today, and when she pours out that voice in a comedic or dramatic number, the effect is always thrilling. Among the Friedman titles Korey interprets are the touching “He Comes Home Tired,” a poignant “If I Were Pretty,” the comedic “I’m Not My Mother” and the hilarious show-stopper “My Simple Wish.” It would be hard to imagine that anyone could wring more laughs out of the latter.

Other highlights of the recording include Cassidy’s heartfelt “Catch Me,” the beautiful opening “Trust the Wind,” and the company’s harmonies on “Listen to My Heart,” “Help Is On the Way” and “As Long As I Can Sing.”

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEKTwo-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters has been asked to extend her run in the hit revival of Gypsy at the Shubert Theatre. Peters' publicist confirmed to me that Peters, who was Tony-nominated for her thrilling performance as Momma Rose, has been asked to extend her contract in the Sam Mendes-directed revival through September 2004. The actress, who is currently signed with the show through March 2004, is seriously considering the extension. . . . Ann Harada and John Tartaglia, who star in the hit new musical Avenue Q, will offer solo concerts at the Ars Nova Theater. As previously announced, Harada will step into the "Broadway Spotlight" — the series that presents concert evenings with stars of the musical theatre — Feb. 2. Her Q co-star, John Tartaglia, will offer his solo evening April 5. (Celia Keenan Bolger will enter the "Spotlight" March 1.) Harada, who portrays the comical therapist Christmas Eve in Avenue Q, will be joined on stage at the intimate theatre by Swing!'s Everett Bradley, Assassins' Alexander Gemignani and writer Michael Heitzman. Alan Muraoka will direct Harada's "Spotlight" debut, and David Holcenberg will be the evening's musical supervisor. Avenue Q conductor Gary Adler will music direct and accompany Harada on piano; the band will also include Jeffrey Lee Campbell and Michael Croiter. Harada is expected to perform songs by William Finn, Ahrens and Flaherty, Lopez and Marx, Goldrich and Heisler, Andrew Lippa, Amanda Green, Phoebe Snow and Paul Simon. The Ars Nova Theater is located in Manhattan at 511 West 54th Street. Tickets are priced at $12; doors open at 7:30 PM. Call (212) 868-4444 for tickets or go to www.SmartTix.com. . . . Two-time Tony nominee Christine Andreas returns to the Cafe Carlyle next month. Andreas will offer tunes from her newest recording, "The Carlyle Set," as well as several songs she has yet to record. Andreas will be backed by a quartet of musicians, including musical director Lee Musiker at the piano. The soprano will play the intimate room Feb. 3 28. The Cafe Carlyle is located in Manhattan at Madison Avenue at 76th Street. Andreas will play Tuesday-Saturday nights at 8:45 PM with additional late shows Friday and Saturday evenings at 10:45 PM. Call (212) 744-1600 for reservations. . . . Ellen Greene, who starred in the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors, will offer Valentine's Day concerts Feb. 14. Greene will return to the Public Theater's Joe's Pub with her acclaimed show Torch!, which features musical direction by Christian Klikovits. The singer actress will perform at the intimate boîte on Feb. 14 at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Her evening of cabaret will feature a host of standards as well as contemporary tunes by Sarah McLachlan, Queen and Jane Siberry. Tickets for Greene's evening of Torch! are priced at $20. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place. Tickets are available at the Public Theater's box office or by calling (212) 539-8776. . . . Sharon Lawrence, who was most recently on Broadway in the Tony-winning revival of Chicago, will head the cast of the Reprise! mounting of I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road. The one-night-only presentation of the Nancy Ford-Gretchen Cryer musical is part of Reprise!'s "Marvelous Musical Monday" series. Kay Cole will direct and choreograph the 25th anniversary staged reading of the landmark 1978 musical; Paul Baker will be the evening's musical director. Show time is 8 PM on Monday, Jan. 26. I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road made its New York debut in May 1978. The musical concerns the story of a 39-year-old pop singer named Heather who is attempting a career comeback. The musical spawned the cabaret classic, "Old Friend." Tickets, priced at $50, are available by calling the UCLA central ticket office at (310) 825-2101. Go to www.reprise.org for more information. . . . Tonya Pinkins, who received rave reviews for her work in Caroline, or Change, will head to the intimate stage of Joe's Pub Feb. 15. The Tony Award-winning actress will present an evening devoted to the works of composer Harold Arlen. The 7 PM concert, titled "My Shining Hour," will celebrate the 99th anniversary of the composer who penned such classics as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Stormy Weather," "Paper Moon," "The Man That Got Away" and "That Old Black Magic." Kimberly Grigsby will be Pinkins' musical director. Tickets, priced at $25, are available at the Public Theater's box office or by calling (212) 539-8778.


Liz Callaway in Concert:

Jan. 17, 2004 in Asheville, NC
Jan. 31 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
Feb. 7 in Sibling Revelry in Riverfront, IL
Feb. 13 with Jason Graae in Salt Lake City, UT
Feb. 14 with Jason Graae in Palm Springs, CA
Feb. 26-28 with Jason Graae in West Palm Beach, FL
Feb. 29 with Stephen Schwartz and Friends in Wilton, CT
April 23 with Jason Graae in Sutter Creek, CA
April 24-25 with Jason Graae in San Rafael, CA
May 1 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert:

Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Jan. 24, 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ

Louise Pitre in Concert:

Jan. 31, 2004-Feb. 8 in Sweeney Todd with the Calgary Opera Company at the Jubilee Auditorium in Canada
February 13 at the Capitol Theatre in Windsor, ON
February 28 at the Sanderson Performing Arts in Brantford, ON
February 29 at the Silverthorn C.I. Auditorium in Toronto, ON
November 4 at the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catherines, ON
November 5 at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts in Oakville, ON
November 6 at the Dr. J.M. Ennis Auditorium in Welland, ON
November 11 at the Heritage Theatre in Brampton, ON
November 12 at the Imperial Oil Centre in Sarnia, ON
November 17 at the Markham Theatre in Markham, ON
November 20 at the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound, ON
November 21 at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, ON

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

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