Hello, diva lovers! “Diva Talk” will be on hiatus next week but will return with more diva news on Friday, Jan. 5. I hope you all have a wonderful, diva-filled holiday and a great new year!
In April I announced that it looked very likely that Bernadette Peters would star as Rose in a London production of Gypsy, so I was quite happy to read in last week’s Liz Smith column that this announcement had been confirmed. Although no dates have been set, the two-time Tony winning star of Song & Dance and Annie Get Your Gun will indeed make her London stage debut in a production of the classic musical for the Royal National Theatre, and the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim Arthur Laurents masterpiece will boast direction by Sam Mendes of Cabaret and American Beauty fame.
Although I have heard some question whether Peters is appropriate for a part that has been played to great acclaim by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and, most recently, Betty Buckley at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, I have to assert that I think she will be wonderful in the role of the quintessential, overbearing stage mother and will surprise those who think she is only suited to material without such a dark edge. My reasoning?
First, the singing. If you were lucky enough to attend Peters’ Carnegie Hall concert or if you’ve heard the live Carnegie CD, “Sondheim Etc.,” then you know how magnificently she delivered one of Rose’s major songs, “Some People.” It was passionate, fiery and wonderfully sung, her vibrato-filled belt filling the hall with goose-bump intensity. And, although “Rose’s Turn” is one of the more vocally demanding pieces to sing, Peters should have no difficulty with the song’s final and often troublesome “for me, for me, for meeee,” since she has one of the best “e” vowels in town, a clear, closed-vowel, focused delivery (listen to the way she sings “you don’t know meeeee” on the Song & Dance CD). And, of course, how wonderful will she sound on “Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away from Me”? Second, her comedy. Although Rose is one of the most dramatic roles in the musical theatre repertoire, there is much comedy in both the show and in the character. If you’ve seen Peters in any of her Broadway outings, you know she is able to wring a laugh out of even the most mundane line or lyric, and with Laurents’ brilliant book for Gypsy, she will surely have the audiences laughing with every line and gesture meant to evoke a humorous response. Third, Rose’s indomitable strength. This is where many believe Peters is not quite right for the role, but I disagree. The singing actress has already played one mother -- “The Witch” in Sondheim’s Into the Woods -- whose actions wouldn’t nab her a Mother of the Year Award, and her powerful delivery of “Last Midnight” in that show only hints at what, I believe, is a darker aspect of the actress only now ready to explode onstage. What makes me believe Peters will be ideal for the role is her own experience as a child who was -- if not in the brutal way that Louise and Baby June are forced into the business -- definitely steered in the direction of an acting career by a mother who was herself denied the chance to be an actress. Add Peters’ innate vulnerability to the mix, and that will only increase her power to move the audience in Rose’s plight to have “everything come up roses.” Bernadette Peters in Gypsy will no doubt be one of, if not the, most exciting prospect of its theatre season. Let’s just hope that it quickly transfers from the RNT to a Broadway house, so we call all witness another Peters star turn.
My favorite Brit, Elaine Paige, has been quite busy this holiday season. As she continues to perform to sold-out audiences in the hit revival of The King and I at London's Palladium Theatre, the dynamic actress/singer has also been active in a few fund-raising events for charities. Most recently, she helped raise over $100,000 for AIDS research on World AIDS Day. Paige also taped the annual "Royal Variety Performance" show, which airs on BBC. The award-winning performer sang "Getting To Know You" with the children from King and I. And, it’s looking more and more likely that Paige will bring Piaf to these shores sometime soon. Stay tuned for more.
LINDA EDER at CARNEGIE HALL
What is it about Linda Eder’s singing that is so exciting? While enjoying her second solo Carnegie Hall concert this past Monday night, I realized it has largely to do with the voice itself: Just when you are convinced the singer cannot possibly belt any higher, the jaw suddenly opens wider, her head flings back and out comes some of the most exciting, vibrato-filled notes you’ll hear anywhere. And this gift was ably demonstrated many times during Eder’s Carnegie Hall holiday program, a nearly three-hour evening that also featured the talents of the Broadway Gospel Choir.
The two-act show had many high points, and though it consisted mostly of Christmas tunes, there were enough Broadway items to satisfy the theatre-going crowd in attendance. In fact, during the first half of the night, Eder delivered lovely versions of Jesus Christ Superstar’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live.” She offered only one verse of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and it left you wanting more. Eder also included songs from two upcoming Frank Wildhorn musicals, the title tune from Havana as well as a passionate version of “Gold,” an anthem from a new musical about the life of sculptor Camille Claudel. Another winning moment was Eder’s soaring rendition of a new holiday tune by Wildhorn and Titanic’s Maury Yeston entitled “The Bells of St. Paul.”
As good as the first half of the evening was, I thought the second half of the evening outshone it. Not only was the sound in the famed hall much clearer, but Eder seemed more emotionally connected to her material, and the Gospel Choir’s presence also added to the goose-bump factor of the recital. Highlights of this half included a majestic arrangement of “Silent Night”; a dynamic performance of the Streisand classic “Don’t Rain On My Parade” that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet; a solo version of “Hallelujah” from the Broadway Gospel Choir that was sensational; a rousing version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”; a passionate, raise-the roof take of “O Holy Night” (listening to Eder belt “Oh hear the angel voices! Oh night diviiiiine” was thrilling); and one of Wildhorn’s most beautiful melodies, “Vienna,” which featured the background vocals of the Gospel Choir. The only misstep of an otherwise splendid evening was a very underrehearsed duet of tunes from Rudolph, the Red-Noised Reindeer with Broadway maven Rosie O’Donnell. By the way, if you’re in an Eder holiday mood, her newest recording, “Christmas Stays the Same,” is now available from Atlantic Records.
A review of Patti LuPone’s performance on the new Sweeney Todd cast recording (by the Globe Staff in The Boston Globe):
“The most dazzling performance of all comes from LuPone, whose recordings and concert performances don't invariably represent her at her best -- she is a theater animal, who makes her effect not in individual songs but through the accumulation of detail. As Mrs. Lovett, who bakes Sweeney Todd's victims into pies, she gives a performance the equal of any Broadway legend you care to name, including Angela Lansbury in this very part. She has it all -- voice, diction, comic timing, characterization, edgy humor, unwavering focus, and intensity.”
Elaine Paige discusses “Things I Believe In” in the recent EP newsletter, “Elaine’s Paiges”:
“I am sometimes asked about beliefs that drive you in this life and I believe in friendship above all else and the love and support we can give each other. At the end of the day it is the closest to you that count and knowing that they will be there for you when you need them in turn being able to reciprocate, is very important. Shared experiences give us memories of shared joy and sadness and through relationships with other people we learn about life. I am really very down to earth and like to know people well, to hear what makes them tick. I think that with a supportive network of friends and family you are able to get a perspective on life, to find the humor in situations and to look beyond material aspects.”
IN OTHER NEWS: Don’t forget that the inimitable Betty Buckley will perform at her downtown haunt, The Bottom Line, next Friday, Dec. 29. The Tony Award-winning star of Triumph of Love, Sunset Boulevard and Cats will perform two shows at the legendary East Village club, at 7:30 and 10:30 PM. Tickets are available at the door only; the Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street on the corner of West 4th and Mercer . . . Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone co-stars in the new David Mamet film, State and Main, which opens in select cities this weekend . . . Fresh from her run in the Broadway company of Beauty and the Beast, former Annie star Andrea McArdle will join the national touring company of Cabaret as Sally Bowles on Jan. 23 in Nashville, TN, followed by engagements across the U.S., in Canada and in the Tokyo premiere in June 2001. Meanwhile, in the Broadway company of Cabaret, Gina Gershon will assume the role of Sally Bowles on Friday, Jan. 19 . . . Karen Mason will take part in a salute to the work of Alan Jay Lerner on Jan. 6, 7 and 8 as part of the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists series. The cabaret headliner has also just booked a return engagement to Davenport’s in Chicago from May 9-20. Call (773) 278-1830 for reservations to the latter . . . Vocalist Mary Cleere Haran exudes her usual elegant sophistication on her new recording for After 9 Records, “Crazy Rhythm: Manhattan in the 20’s.” Haran, one of the most respected artists on the cabaret scene, intersperses novelty numbers among a generous selection of standards, and the 16-track disc includes such tunes as Rodgers and Hart’s lovely ode to Central Park, “Tree in the Park”; Irving Berlin’s heartbreaker, “What’ll I Do”; the classic torch song, “It Had To Be You”; plus “Moanin’ Low,” “Harlem On My Mind,” “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam” and several others . . . The legendary Barbara Cook will perform at San Francisco’s Geary Theatre from Dec. 29-31 . . . The historic Crest Theatre in Delray Beach, Florida, kicks off a new “Broadway Cabaret” series on Monday, Jan. 8 at 8 PM. Five-time MAC Award winner Tom Andersen begins the series, and he will be followed by some of the theatre's leading ladies, including Sally Mayes (Feb. 19), Marcia Lewis (March 12) and Donna McKechnie (April 12). Delray Beach is on the Atlantic Ocean, midway between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. Tickets are $28 per show; call (561) 243-7922.
Dec. 29 at the Bottom Line in New York, NY
Dec. 31 The Cuillo Center for the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Jan. 5, 2001 Koger Center for the Arts (Univ. of SC) in Columbia, SC
Jan. 6 Georgia Institute of Technology Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 19-29 Florida Condo Tour in Florida
March 3 Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
May 12 College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
June 17 Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA
Cook’s concert itinerary follows:
Jan. 12, 2001 at Alice Tully Hall in New York, NY (“The Music of Arthur Schwartz” with Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli and more)
Feb. 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Feb. 23 and 24 with Michael Feinstein at the Cerritos Center for the Perf. Arts in Cerritos, CA
Eder in concert:
Jan. 12 & 13, 2001 in Charlotte, NC at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; (704) 372-1000
Jan. 20, 2001 with the Boca Pops at Florida Atlantic Univ in Boca Raton, FL; go to: www.bocapops.org
Jan. 21 in Naples, FL at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts; (941) 597 1900
Feb. 1 & 2 in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
Feb. 3 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO; (888) 920 2787
Feb. 15-17 in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; (202) 467-4600
Feb. 23 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
Feb. 24 at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ; (973) 539-8008
March 8 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd Hall; (727) 791-7400
March 9 in Sarasota, FL at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; www.vanwezel.org
March 10 in Melbourne, FL at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts; (407) 242-2219
March 17 at the Thomasville Cultural Center in Thomasville, GA (912 226-0588)
April 29 at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA (978-232-7200)
May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392 4900
Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
April 8 ("Matters Of The Heart") at Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina; (919) 684-4444
Jan. 5-7, 2001 at the Morton J. Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX (214) 871-4000
What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
March 17 Appearance at 92nd Street Y with Craig Carnelia in New York, NY
The two-time Tony winner, who recently concluded her run in Annie Get Your Gun, is now on a U.S. concert tour:
Jan. 5 and 6, 2001 at PAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with symphony)
Jan. 11 at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee
Jan. 13 at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
March 29 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY
April 6 at the Bass Perf. Hall in Fort Worth, TX (with symphony)
April 7-8 at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX
April 19 at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (with symphony)
April 28 at the Pasquerilla PAC in Johnstown, PA
May 11-12 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN (with symphony)
May 18-20 at the Myerson Hall in Dallas, TX (with symphony)
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!