DIVA TALK: Peters, Lansbury and Channing Salute Herman; "Idol" Thoughts

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Peters, Lansbury and Channing Salute Herman; "Idol" Thoughts
Hello, diva lovers! How exciting to walk down W. 44th Street Thursday morning and see the marquee for the upcoming revival of Gypsy, which begins previews March 31 prior to an official opening May 1.

I remember having a similar experience a few years ago when I passed the Minskoff Theatre just after the Sunset Boulevard marquee was changed from "with Glenn Close" to "with Betty Buckley." It's always a bit of a thrill to see these talented women's names in lights! . . . By the way, the official Gypsy website is now up and running; go to www.gypsythemusical.com.


Well, I'm not sure why I didn't watch any of Fox's "American Idol" last season, but I have to admit I'm now completely addicted to the reality series. If not the best series on television, it may be the most enjoyable show now on non cable TV, a mix of comedy, drama and some great and not-so-great singing. I'm not a big fan of the style of singing — this trend of constant riffs has got to go — but it's quite exciting to watch some of these young contestants strut their stuff before the mix of equally interesting judges. I find myself laughing at one performance, then being completely thrilled by another. Not only are the performances often captivating, but the reactions of the contestants — the winners and the losers — are also quite moving. And, what fun to root for your favorites! Of the women, there are two that I've been impressed by so far — the big gal with the bigger voice, Frenchie Davis, who belted out a fierce "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"; and the hairdresser from Connecticut, Julia DeMato, whose beautiful tones were a perfect fit for "Unbreak My Heart." One question lingers: How much respect will I lose for myself if I actually partake in the voting process?! ... The Feb. 4 broadcast will be a showdown among eight of the finalists: Bettis Richardson, Charles Grigsby, J.D. Adams, Julia DeMato, Kimberly Caldwell, Meosha Denton, Patrick Fortson and Trenyce. Only the top two vote getters will advance to the next round.

FOR THE RECORD "The Words & Music of Jerry Herman: Tap Your Troubles Away!"
Recorded live at the Harriet and Charles Luckman Theatre at California State University on Nov. 10, 2001, the all-star tribute to legendary composer Jerry Herman was recently released on two CDs on the LML Music label. Entitled "The Words & Music of Jerry Herman: Tap Your Troubles Away!," the all-star benefit for the Actors' Fund of America features more than 30 songs from such Herman musicals as Mame; Hello, Dolly!; Mack & Mabel, La Cage aux Folles and Milk and Honey.

After an overture conducted by Ron Abel, the first CD (13 tracks) begins with a belty if somewhat throaty "It's Today" by Herman favorite Karen Morrow. Other highlights of the evening's first half include Brian Lane Green's passionate "Kiss Her Now" from one of Herman's less successful musicals, Dear World; theatre veteran Nancy Dussault's comical "Where in the World Is My Prince" from Miss Spectacular; Davis Gaines' rich vocals on La Cage's "Song on the Sand"; Leslie Uggams' usual big notes on "If He Walked Into My Life"; and, despite a somewhat out-of-control vibrato, a powerful "I Am What I Am" from Ken Page. I have a feeling many of the concert's comical numbers — Jo Ann Worley's "Just Leave Everything to Me"/"I Want to Make the World Laugh," Charlotte Rae's "Chin Up, Ladies" and Mary Jo Catlett's "Take It All Off" — worked better live than they do on disc.

It's the second portion of the evening that will be of most interest to diva fans. Jane A. Johnston begins the second (16-track) disc with a very appealing version of A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine's "Just Go to the Movies." Other notable tracks include "I Won't Send Roses," sung by Rita Moreno, whose voice seems in better shape than during her brief London Sunset run; "Love Look in My Window" — a tune added to the New York production of Hello, Dolly! when Ethel Merman joined the cast — that displays Dale Kristien's rangy soprano; a medley of two little-heard songs from Dear World — "Tomorrow Morning" and "And I Was Beautiful" — performed by Tyne Daly; and Hugh Panaro's soaring vocals on one of my favorite Herman tunes, "It Only Takes a Moment." For me, tracks 13 and 14 are the most exciting: On the 13th track, Bernadette Peters revisits her Mack & Mabel signature tune, "Time Heals Everything," and she explores the song for all its dramatic worth, building to a sensational belty climax, "Time heals everything, but loving yooooooooooou!" (I also received a copy of a new compilation CD this week — Decca Broadway's "Love Song" — which features Peters' original recording of the tune, and it was interesting to compare both brilliant renditions.) The 14th track offers two theatre legends, Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing, who switch classic roles to comic effect: Lansbury, whose voice sounds in grand shape, offers a bit of "Hello, Dolly!" while Channing counters with part of "Mame." Jerry Herman concludes the evening with two of his anthems, "The Best of Times" and "I'll Be Here Tomorrow."

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: The "dames" are lining up for the eighth annual Nothing Like a Dame concert to benefit The Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative of the Actors' Fund of America. Presented by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the 8 PM concert at the St. James Theatre will feature the talents of Lauren Bacall, Mario Cantone, Patty Duke, Melissa Errico, Harvey Fierstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Amanda Green, Joan Hamburg, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Judy Kaye, Rita Moreno, Bebe Neuwirth, Phyllis Newman, Cynthia Nixon, Rosie Perez, Ann Richards and Liz Smith. Additionally, attendees can expect to see highlights from such Broadway productions as La Bohème, The Producers and Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam. The star-studded event will also include a special version of Hairspray's "Welcome to the 60's" sung by the show's Dynamites and written by Marc Shaiman as well as a tribute to Newman's late husband, the award-winning lyricist Adolph Green. Tickets for Nothing Like a Dame 2003 range from $50 to $1,000 and may be purchased by calling (212) 840-0770, ext. 268, or by going on-line to www.broadwaycares.org. A pre-performance cocktail party will be held in the St. James Theatre lobby (246 West 44th Street), and the post-performance party will take place at John's Pizzeria Times Square (260 W. 44th Street). . . . Last month, Leslie Kritzer was Alice Ripley's standby for the role of English hat designer Emma in the Kennedy Center's production of Tell Me On a Sunday. Although she never had the chance to perform the role, the young singer-actress will get to perform a few of the Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes in the latest Broadway Spotlight concert Feb. 3. In fact, Kritzer is just one of the many understudies who will get to shine in the spotlight at the 8 PM concert at the Ars Nova Theater. Hosted by Seth Rudetsky, who will also serve as the evening's musical director, the concert will feature understudies singing the signature songs of their respective productions. As of press time, the line-up includes Hairspray's Katy Grenfell, who understudies the role of Tracy Turnblad; Man of La Mancha's Aldonza and Sancho understudies, Natascia Diaz and Jimmy Smagula; Thoroughly Modern Millie's alternate Millie, Catherine Brunell; Oklahoma!'s Curly understudy, Aaron Lazar; and the Amneris understudy, Darcie Roberts, and the Aida understudy, Schele Williams, for Disney's Aida. The Ars Nova Theater is located at 511 W. 54th Street in New York City. Tickets are priced at $12 and may be purchased through SmartTix (www.smarttix.com) and by phone at (212) 206-1515. . . . Tony Award winner Heather Headley will make an appearance on "The Isaac Mizrahi Show" Feb. 5. The former Aida star, who is currently promoting her debut solo CD — "This Is Who I Am" — will sit down for a chat with designer Mizrahi on his new talk show for the Oxygen Network, which airs at 10:30 PM ET. . . . Anna Bergman, who is currently enjoying a return engagement at Danny's Skylight Room (346 West 46th Street), will join Richard Skipper, Jerry Scott, Marcus Simeone and Trudi Mann for Carol's Cabaret Cavalcade Feb. 4 at 7 PM at The Triad. Reservations for the evening can be made by calling The Triad (158 West 72nd Street) at (212) 787-7921. . . . This summer's Company star, Alice Ripley, will return to the Kennedy Center for a free concert at the Center's Millennium Stage on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The 6 PM concert marks the third time the singer-actress has performed at the Millennium; her latest visit will feature her own compositions backed by husband/guitarist Shannon Ford. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located in Washington, D.C., at 2700 F. Street. Ripley will also return to Joe's Pub for a concert with Angie Aparo on Sunday, March 2. The 9 PM concert will feature tunes from Ripley's solo CD, "Everything's Fine," as well as other tunes that she has composed. Angie Aparo's debut album, "The American" (Arista), features the single "Cry," which was recently recorded by country star Faith Hill. Tickets for the March 2 concert are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. Reservations may also be made by calling Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) at (212) 539-8778. . . . And, finally, congratulations to Lillias White who was one of this year's recipients of the First Annual Nightlife Awards. That belter-of-belters was named Outstanding Cabaret Female Vocalist in a Major Engagement for her stint at Feinstein's at The Regency.


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

Barbara Cook in Concert:

Jan. 31, 2003 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Long Island, NY
Feb. 14-16 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA

Linda Eder in Concert:

Feb. 1 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO
Feb. 14 at the Proctor's Theatre in Albany, NY
Feb. 19 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
March 7 in Minneapolis, MN

Patti LuPone in Concert

March 27 at the East County Performing Arts Center in 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 University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV ("Matters of the Heart")
April 5 at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")

Maureen McGovern in Concert

Now through Feb. 2 at Orchestra Hall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Detroit , MI
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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