DIVA TALK: Paige, Champlin, Memphis on CD, Plus News of Friedman and White

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Paige, Champlin, Memphis on CD, Plus News of Friedman and White

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Hello, diva lovers! This week we catch up on a few diva and divo-related recordings.


Elaine Paige, who is arguably the First Lady of the British Musical theatre, has released her first live solo recording, which celebrates her 40 years on the musical stage. Paige, who created leading roles in the original London productions of Evita, Cats and Chess, still boasts one of the great voices in the business, one that soars to the stratosphere, and the new disc, which is titled "Elaine Paige Live: Celebrating a Life On Stage," captures that vocal magic. The 19-track CD, available from EP Records, chronicles Paige's award-winning career through song and story. In addition to her signature tunes, which include "Memory," "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "I Know Him So Well," the CD also features tunes that Paige did not perform on stage: "Broadway Baby," "Tomorrow" and a particularly beautiful rendition of the Beatles tune "Yesterday" (Paige's audition song for Evita). Other highlights include powerful versions of the Sunset Boulevard anthems "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye"; and three songs from Paige's turn as the late French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Listeners are also treated to a few showbiz anecdotes, including Dustin Hoffman's advice to a young Paige; the singing actress also presents a tune co-written by Hoffman and Bette Midler that is titled "Shoot the Breeze." It's a terrific act that one hopes Paige will bring to this side of the Atlantic.

Donna Lynne Champlin, the Billy Elliot star who played Pirelli in the Tony-winning revival of Sweeney Todd, brings new dimension to the term "one-man band" on her debut solo recording, which is entitled "Old Friends." Not only does the talented artist provide all the vocals on the new CD, but she also plays piano, accordion, flute, tin whistle, synthed guitar, bass, strings, chimes and percussion. If that weren't enough, Champlin recorded the disc in her New York studio apartment utilizing a budget of just $1,000. For those interested, the singing actress also blogged about the process on donnalynnechamplinsfirstsolocd.blogspot.com. Champlin's debut disc features an eclectic mix of material, including show tunes, film songs, standards and traditional tunes, among others. Highlights include the country tearjerker "Where've You Been?," "Still Hurting" from The Last Five Years, the "Toy Story II" anthem "When She Loved Me," Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" and the traditional Irish song, "The Parting Glass," which concludes the disc.

Christmas may have already passed, but thanks to Brent Barrett's new holiday recording, the sounds of the season can linger throughout the year. Barrett, whose Broadway credits include Chicago and Annie Get Your Gun, recently released his third solo recording, which is his first to focus on holiday tunes. Entitled "Christmas Mornings," the single CD is available on the Kritzerland label. Barrett is in wonderful voice, and the joy of the season comes through on the disc's 12 tracks. In addition to such holiday favorites as "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "The Christmas Song," Barrett also wraps his lush lyric baritone around two new tunes: "A Star to Guide Me," which he co-wrote with Bernard Blanks and Barry Kleinbort, and "Christmas Mornings," penned by Blanks. Other highlights include a beautiful delivery of "O Holy Night," a wonderful pairing of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "A Place Called Home," a gentle "White Christmas" and a duet of "Silent Night" with songwriter Blanks. The recording features musical direction and arrangements by Christopher Denny and orchestrations by Larry Moore.

When it was originally announced that five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein would join forces with Broadway leading man Cheyenne Jackson — recently seen in the short-lived but heralded revival of Finian's Rainbow — for a cabaret act, it seemed an unlikely melding of talents. However, the show they presented at Feinstein's namesake club in Manhattan was greeted with critical accolades, and a recording of that show, titled "The Power of Two," has just been released on the Harbinger Records label. Both men possess rangy, powerful and smooth voices, and the recording, like the show it is based on, celebrates relationships of all kinds. Feinstein and Jackson get the chance to shine in both solos and duets; among the highlights of the latter are the CD's title track (a ballad that was originally performed by The Indigo Girls) and a wonderful rendition of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II ballad, "We Kiss in a Shadow." It's also great to hear Nancy Ford and Gretchen Cryer's "Old Friend," a song that Feinstein recorded on his first solo disc and now sings with even more passion. Jackson, whose voice pours out with ease, is especially effective on "Old Devil Moon," a song from the aforementioned musical Finian's Rainbow.

One of the highlights of the first half of the current theatre season was the emotion and vocal prowess that Chad Kimball brought to the David Bryan-Joe DiPietro ballad "Memphis Lives in Me," which is performed near the end of the new musical Memphis, which plays Broadway's Shubert Theatre. The original cast recording of the musical offers a special treat: Not only does Kimball get to preserve his wonderful rendition of the aforementioned "Memphis Lives in Me," but founding Bon Jovi member/keyboardist Bryan also offers his own version of the tune. The 19-track disc, now available on the Delray Records Inc. label, also boasts the equally gifted Montego Glover, who portrays a black singer in the segregated South of the '50s, whose life is forever changed by a white DJ named Huey Calhoun (Kimball). The powerful rock and gospel-tinged score allows Kimball and Montego to shine throughout; especially memorable are Glover's "Colored Woman" and Kimball's "The Music of My Soul." DIVA TIDBITS
A host of theatre artists — including several Tony winners — will join forces Jan. 31 for Just a Piano Open Mic Launch: A Benefit for Haiti. The 7:30 PM concert will boast the talents of Tony winners Adriane Lenox, LaChanze and Lillias White as well as Kecia Lewis-Evans, Tituss Burgess, Todd Hunter, Kevin Anthony, Kenny Williams, Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Bobby Daye, Connie Pachl and Jim Conant , and singer/songwriters Crystal Joy, Joseph P. Murray and Tahraqa Patterson . Lee Summers will co-host the evening with motivational speaker Shaun Derik. Zane Mark will be featured on the piano. Proceeds will go to The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and The American Red Cross. There is a $10 suggested donation and a one-drink minimum. For reservations go to www.triadnyc.com or call (212) 362-2590. The Triad Theatre is located at 158 West 72nd Street (between Broadway & Columbus).

Maria Friedman
photo by Alastair Muir

Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman will release her latest solo recording in April. Friedman, who made her Broadway bow in The Woman in White, has recorded a new disc based on a concert act that she debuted in February 2009 at London's Shaw Theatre. Entitled "Maria Friedman Celebrates the Great British Songbook," the recording is due April 13. Musical director for the CD is Jason Carr. Friedman will celebrate the release of her new disc at the London showbiz shop Dress Circle April 10. The award-winning actress will autograph copies of the recording beginning at 1 PM London time. The complete track listing for "Maria Friedman Celebrates the Great British Songbook" follows: Opening Medley: Spread A Little Happiness/Smile/If I Ruled The World
I Sit In The Sun
Georgy Girl/Downtown
As If We Never Said Goodbye
Alone Again Naturally
The Boy In The Gallery/Mad About The Boy
Norwegian Wood/Eleanor Rigby
A Garden
If Love Were All
War Medley: Part 1: It's A Long Way To Tipperary/Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts For Soldiers
Part 2: The White Cliffs Of Dover/Dido's Lament
What Kind Of Fool Am I
We'll Meet Again
Diamonds Are Forever (Bonus Hidden Track)

Tony Award winner Judy Kaye , who will be seen in the Old Globe production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers, will offer a solo concert in the Globe's new Hattox Hall next month. The acclaimed singing actress will play the San Diego venue Feb. 8 at 8 PM. David Green will direct the evening with music direction by Dennis Buck. Cabaretgoers can expect to hear songs by Harold Arlen and other tunes from the Great American Songbook. Tickets to the performance are $30 each and are available online at www.TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE or by visiting the Box Office.

Tony Award winner Lillias White, back on Broadway in the new musical Fela, will offer a Valentine's Day concert at the Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan. The midnight concert on Feb. 14 will be "all about love – the good, the bad and the ugly," according to press notes. White will be backed by a six-piece band that includes Miles Dalto on piano and Patience Higgins on saxophone and flute. The Iridium Jazz Club is located at 1650 Broadway (corner of 51st). Tickets are $25 with a $10 food and beverage minimum. For tickets go to www.ticketweb.com. Visit www.iridiumjazzclub.com or call (212) 582-2121 for more information. Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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