DIVA TALK: Peters on Stage, Paige on CD and a Loesser Tribute

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Peters on Stage, Paige on CD and a Loesser Tribute


Another rave review for Bernadette Peters. This one appeared in the October 10, 2000, issue of Daily Variety. What follows are a few excerpts from Robert L. Daniels’ glowing review of Peters’ performance at New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre. “Putting a fresh spin on her acclaimed 1996 Carnegie Hall debut, Bernadette Peters continues to display a canny knack for fusing irresistible charm and whimsy with deep poignancy . . . New additions to her concert repertoire include a trio of Irving Berlin tunes taken from her Tony Award-winning performance in Annie Get Your Gun, which she played for 18 months at the Marquis Theatre. Donning a scruffy hat and brandishing a rifle, the bare-footed diva hit the bull’s-eye with ‘You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.’ A third of the singer’s repertoire was culled from the Stephen Sondheim songbook. As the original star of Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods, she holds a firm claim on the material, even though she took the occasion to moonlight generously with a haunting ‘Johanna’ from Sweeney Todd, a fervent ‘Being Alive’ and the playful ‘You Could Drive a Person Crazy,’ both from Company. . . . After reprising her own Broadway landmarks ‘Time Heals Everything,’ from Mack and Mabel, and ‘Letter Home,’ from Lloyd Webber’s ‘Song and Dance,’ Peters reached into the book of American standards to bid a nostalgic farewell with ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’”


Elaine Paige has one of the most versatile voices in the musical theatre today. She’s always been sensational singing the big emotional ballads — “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “With One Look,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and “Memory” — and she’s one of the few theatre stars completely at home with light pop (“From a Distance”) and rock tunes (“Love Hurts,” “Bohemian Rhapsody”). With The King and I Paige now proves that she is equally adept at singing more classic theatre tunes that demand a lighter, less belty approach. Newly available from Warner Music is the 2000 London Cast Recording of The King and I, starring Paige as Anna Leonowens, a part she continues to play to packed houses at London’s Palladium Theatre, and film actor Jason Scott Lee as the King of Siam (Lee has since departed the show due to a family emergency). Because it’s Paige’s work that will sell this new recording, let’s get right to her performance: The award-winning actress is first heard on “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” which includes a portion of the dialogue between Anna and her son Louis (played by Benjamin Ibbott). Paige sings delightfully, her enunciation flawless and her vocal tones as winning as ever. It’s on “Hello Young Lovers,” however, where she gets the chance to let her voice soar. The version on disc is a little more subdued than it was in the theatre, but it is still exciting, especially on the song’s final lines, “I’ve had a love of my own like yours. I’ve had a love of my oooowwwwwn!” Paige makes “Getting To Know You” her own, almost banishing memories of any other version you’ve heard — just listen to the shading she adds to the line “getting to feel free and easy.” And, she is both fiery and touching on “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” Paige has a few lines of dialogue with Jason Scott Lee on “Song of the King” and then duets with him on a lilting version of “Shall We Dance?” The recording also includes her heartfelt reading of the King’s “Letter,” making this disc a must for Paige fans as well as King and I admirers. By the way, there is also fine vocal work from the rest of the cast on such Rodgers and Hammerstein gems as “We Kiss in a Show,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful.”

TRIBUTE TO FRANK LOESSER I spent an enjoyable evening at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall this past Saturday night watching a tribute to the late composer and lyricist Frank Loesser. Selections from four of Loesser’s works were offered, including tunes from Where’s Charley?, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. A few other numbers were also included, and two of those — both performed by Tony winner Lillias White — were among the highlights of the evening. There’s something about White that just puts you in a good mood; perhaps it’s her incandescent smile or her joy in being onstage. Whatever it is, it’s infectious. And, when she opens her mouth to sing, out comes that extraordinary voice. White delivered three songs thrillingly: “Murder, He Says,” from the 1943 film "Happy Go Lucky"; the 1948 standard, “On a Slow Boat to China”; and her show-stopping number from How To Succeed, “The Brotherhood of Man.” Other high points of the two-hour show included Christiane Noll’s beautiful soprano tones on Guys and Dolls’ “I’ll Know”; Tom Wopat’s rich baritone on “Joey, Joey, Joey”; and Shuler Hensley and Christine Andreas’s duet of Fella’s “My Heart Is So Full of You.” The complete song list from Heart and Soul: The Songs of Frank Loesser follows:

Act I
Overture to How To Succeed
“Heart and Soul” (Billy Stritch)
“I Hear Music (Billy Stritch)
“The New Ashmolean Marching Society and Student Conservatory Band” (Christine Andreas, David Garrison, Liz Larsen and Jim Walton)
“Make a Miracle” (David Garrison and Liz Larsen)
“My Darling, My Darling” (Jim Walton and Christine Andreas)
“Once in Love with Amy” (David Garrison & Company)
“Murder, He Says” (Lillias White)
“The Lady’s in Love with You” (Margaret Whiting)
“Fugue for Tinhorns” (David Garrison, Ken Page and Jim Walton)
“I’ll Know” (Christiane Noll and Tom Wopat)
“Guys and Dolls” (Ken Page and Jim Walton)
“If I Were a Bell” (Christiane Noll)
“Luck Be a Lady” (Tom Wopat)
“Marry the Man Today” (Liz Larsen and Christiane Noll)
“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” (Ken Page and Company)

Act II
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Billy Stritch and Margaret Whiting)
“Ooh! My Feet” (Liz Larsen)
“Somebody, Somewhere” (Christine Andreas)
“The Most Happy Fella” (Shuler Hensley and Company)
“Standing on the Corner” (David Garrison, Ken Page, Jim Walton and Tom Wopat)
“Joey, Joey, Joey” (Tom Wopat)
“Rosabella” (Shuler Hensley)
“Big D” (Liz Larsen and Ken Page)
“My Heart Is So Full of You” (Shuler Hensley and Christine Andreas)
“On a Slow Boat to China” (Lillias White)
“How To Succeed” (Jim Walton)
“The Company Way” (David Garrison and Jim Walton)
“Been a Long Day” (Liz Larsen, Christiane Noll and Jim Walton)
“I Believe in You” (Jim Walton and the Men)
“The Brotherhood of Man” (Jim Walton, Lillias White and Company)


Chita Rivera remembers her friend Gwen Verdon in Liz Smith’s New York Post column (Oct. 20):
“‘The Greatest’ has left us . . . My partner and inspiration. There was one and only one, and there’ll never be another. The heavens will shine beyond our imagination from her light.”

Former Fosse star Valerie Pettiford also remembers Verdon in this week’s Theatrical Index:
“I am so blessed to have worked with Gwen. Her talent and spirit embodied everything I wanted to achieve in my own career. She always believed in me, and I am grateful that I got a chance to star in Fosse and, once again, witness her greatness in reconstructing Bob’s work. My heart goes out to her beautiful daughter, Nicole, and her grandchildren in this time of sorrow.”

A review of Barbara Cook’s recent concert with Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center (from Pamela Sommers’ review in The Washington Post):
“Forever enshrined in musical theater buffs' minds as the original Marian the Librarian in The Music Man and Cunegonde in Candide, Cook possesses one of the warmest, most effervescent and drama-infused voices in the business. Her enunciation is flawless and her arrangements, by her longtime musical director, Wally Harper, are rhythmically innovative. Her Porgy and Bess medley was both soaring and swinging, and ballads by Sondheim, Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Hamlisch, and Jerry Herman created distinct characters through Cook's vocal swoops, suspensions and silences.”


Marti Webb (Song & Dance, Evita), one of London’s leading musical theatre performers, will star as the Fairy Godmother in an upcoming production of Cinderella at the Theatre Royal Bath from Dec. 14, 2000 through Jan. 21, 2001. Also starring Dominic Wood and Tom Owen, tickets are available by calling 01225 448844 . . . Maureen McGovern, Barbara Cook and John Pizzarelli will take part in Something to Remember Him By: The Music of Arthur Schwartz on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12 and 13, 2001 at 8 PM at Alice Tully Hall. The evening will feature musical direction by Paul Schwartz, and tickets (priced at $55) are available by calling (212) 721 6500 . . . Speaking of Ms. Cook, her new show, currently at Feinstein’s at The Regency, consists of 17 songs either written by Stephen Sondheim or those songs he calls favorites. Ten of them are new to Cook’s repertoire, and the entire list includes “Everybody Says Don't,” “Buds Won't Bud,” “I Wonder What Became of Me?,” “The Eagle And Me,” “I Had Myself a True Love,” “I Got Lost In His Arms,” “Hard-Hearted Hannah,” “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee,” “San Francisco,” “Ice Cream,” “Happiness,” “Loving You,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Not a Day Goes By,” “Losing My Mind,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Anyone Can Whistle.” . . . The legendary Kaye Ballard, who was originally booked for one performance Oct. 29 at London's Jermyn Street Theatre, has added an additional 11 PM performance tonight, Oct. 27. Kaye Ballard in Concert marks the actress' return to London after many years; call the box office at 011-44-141-287-2875 for more info . . . Priscilla Lopez, the original Morales of A Chorus Line and the Tony winning star of A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, kicks off her first-ever cabaret act this weekend at Odette's Cabaret on South River Road in New Hope, Penn. Featuring direction by Thommie Walsh and musical direction by Seth Rudetsky, you can expect the actress to sing many of the tunes she has performed on Broadway. Call (215) 862 3000 for reservations (there is a $20 cover and an $8 minimum) . . . And, finally, let’s hope Liza Minnelli, who was recently hospitalized for viral encephalitis, makes a speedy recovery and is back onstage soon.


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