DIVA TALK: A Little Love And A Whole Lot More

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: A Little Love And A Whole Lot More
Hello diva lovers. I thought I would devote this week's column to a few multi-talented women I don't have the chance to cover as frequently as I'd wish. Enjoy. . .

Hello diva lovers. I thought I would devote this week's column to a few multi-talented women I don't have the chance to cover as frequently as I'd wish. Enjoy. . .

One of the Evas in the original Broadway and Los Angeles productions of Evita, Loni Ackerman has also portrayed Grizabella at the Winter Garden, and she was one of the original cast members of the Richard Maltby, Jr./David Shire revue, Starting Here, Starting Now. It seems logical, then, that Ackerman should star in The Story Goes On, a new revue of the work of Maltby and Shire, which will also feature Mr. Shire at the keyboard. It is a welcome return to the stage for the belty singer, who has been noticeably absent from the New York stage the past few years. The last time I heard her perform was at the memorial service for Laurie Beechman a few months back. Ackerman spoke movingly about her late friend and how Beechman implored her to return to the stage.

This new production is part of Peter Ligeti's "In Performance at the Kaufman" series, and the three-week engagement will begin Nov. 24 and continue through Dec. 13. Maltby and Shire are perhaps best known for their score to the charming musical Baby, and they have also written the songs for Big, Closer Than Ever, and the aforementioned Starting Here, Starting Now. Directed by Ray Roderick, tickets are available by calling (212) 239-6200. The Kaufman Theatre is located on 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.

Once a year, New Yorkers are treated to the cabaret performances of Karen Akers, the chanteuse The New York Times has called "the most regal of cabaret singers." Long a fixture at Manhattan's now-defunct Ballroom, the statuesque diva has made Rainbow & Stars -- the cabaret room high atop Rockefeller Center -- her home in recent years. So, it is only fitting that Akers will be the last performer booked for a multi-week engagement to play this posh boite (Darlene Love [see below] and Lou Rawls will each play one-week engagements following Ms. Akers.). From Tuesday, Nov. 17 through Saturday, Dec. 5 Akers will perform her newest act, which includes both classic and contemporary material. The singing actress will perform songs in English and in French by such composers as Kurt Weill, Maxwell Anderson and Sigmund Romberg. Some of the songs you can expect Akers to wrap her lush, chocolatey tones around include "Lost in the Stars," "Storybook," If I Rule the World," "I Don't Want To Know," "Twentieth Century Blues," a medley of "Crazy He Calls Me" and "Crazy" and many others.

Show times are 8:30 and 11:00 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays; there is a $40 music charge, and dinner is required at early shows. Call (212) 632 5000 for reservations. For those of you unable to make Akers' Rainbow & Stars gig, you might want to check out one of her many terrific solo recordings: "Presenting Karen Akers," "In a Very Unusual Way," "Unchained Melodies," "Just Imagine," "Under Paris Skies" and "Karen Akers Live," which was recorded at R & S last year; Akers can also be heard on the cast albums of Nine and Grand Hotel.

A revamped, reworked and recast version of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together recently opened in Los Angeles to rave reviews. When the show played a limited run a few years back at the Manhattan Theatre Club, it starred Julie Andrews, Rachel York, Christopher Durang, Michael Rupert and Stephen Collins. A no-less starry cast heads the current version -- Carol Burnett, Susan Egan, John Barrowman, Bronson Pinchot and John McCook -- and I thought you would enjoy reading some of the wonderful reviews of its leading players:

Reed Johnson in L.A. Life:
"While the entire cast sparkles, Burnett is deservedly its brightest star, with the supple, resourceful Pinchot a close second. Burnett's comic timing is so perfect here, you suspect she must've been an Olympic stopwatch in a previous life. Mastering Sondheim's tricky internal rhymes and breakneck tempo shifts, she pulls off such impossible numbers as the breathless 'Not Getting Married Today' with aplomb. She brings equally impressive emotional control to the wrenching 'Could I Leave You?' 'Like It Was' and 'Every Day a Little Death,' her devastating duet with Egan. In the ingenue role, Egan more than holds her own against her feminine rival, brandishing her vocal claws in 'There's Always a Woman,' and innocently exulting in the consumer excesses of 'More.'"

Debbie Arrington in the Press Telegram:
"Carol Burnett has never starred in a Sondheim musical. But to hear her sing some of his ballads, you'd think he'd written them for her. Burnett put her own wonderful comic spin on several Sondheim standards during a delightful revue, Putting it Together, now playing at the Music Center's Mark Taper Form . . . Burnett, as the older wife, launches into such soul-baring songs as 'The Ladies Who Lunch,' 'My Husband the Pig,' 'Could I Leave You?' and 'Not Getting Married Today' with a palatable vengeance. At the same time, she never loses her trademark sense of humor. Her delivery is delicious. Burnett can put a dozen intonations into the simple word 'please.'

Susan, a Seal Beach native who found Broadway fame as Belle in Disney's stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, proves a knock-out as Burnett's rival. Egan goes from empty-headed coquette in 'Lovely' to heavily armed bombshell in 'Sooner or Later' and 'More.' Egan gives much more stylish oomph to the latter two songs than Madonna ever did in Sondheim's Oscar-winning score for 'Dick Tracy.'"

Don Shirley in the L.A. Times:
"Lucky Los Angeles. New York was an unwitting tryout town for the Stephen Sondheim revue, Putting It Together. Now, more than five years later, the new and improved version landed with a bang Sunday at the Mark Taper Forum. . .the Taper production has so much fizz and cohesion that it'll be the model and the standard for future renditions. This latest Putting It Together offers sensational performances by not only Carol Burnett but also by the rising Susan Egan . . . Burnett's unerring comic instinct and belting voice are in great shape, and she makes the breathtaking 'Not Getting Married Today' a crystal-clear tour de force. But she also tones down her presence when necessary."

Jim Farber in the Daily Breeze:
". . .Burnett's performance, with its keen comic timing, signature shtick, song and acid wit, is worth the price of admission alone. The woman does two-faced better than anyone and can spin off a tongue-twister like 'Not Getting Married Today' from Company with consummate ease. She provides the emotional/comic core the other performances revolve around. Each member of the cast, however, has a chance to shine. Egan and Barrowman each deliver strong solo numbers, but together they light up the stage in the erotic tango, 'Bang,' from A Little Night Music."

Frances Baum Nicholson in the Pasadena Star News:
". . . Burnett gets handed most of the truly great Sondheim songs, and does them surprising justice. From 'Could I Leave You' to 'The Ladies Who Lunch,' to the delightfully comic 'Not Getting Married Today,' she gives each piece a spin of her own, displaying the versatility, sincerity and style, which made her a household name. Barrowman becomes the balladeer, soaring on such tuneful creations as 'Pretty Women' and 'Marry Me a Little.' Egan proves the most versatile, dancing with energy and skill, and managing the most silly and the most poignant songs with equal style."

From all accounts, it seems that Barbara Cook's Carnegie Hall concert this past Monday (Nov. 9) was sensational. Backed by a full orchestra led by long-time piano accompanist Wally Harper, Cook thrilled the sold-out audience with songs culled from her 50-year career. In his review in the New York Post, Chip Deffaa writes, ". . .Barbara Cook, 71, re-affirmed her status as the greatest theatrical cabaret artist of our time. . .Her singing is actually even richer today than in her youth; there is simply more warmth, heart, understanding of life. . .And while I've heard countless cabaret and theatre artists try Stephen Sondheim's dramatic 'Losing My Mind' (from Follies), her interpretation remains definitive." Following is the complete listing of songs from Cook's Carnegie performance:
Act I
"On a Clear Day"
"It Might As Well Be Spring"
"I'm Beginning To See the Light"
"Wait Till You See Him"
"You're a Builder-Upper"
"Errol Flynn"
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
"Them There Eyes"
"This Nearly Was Mine"
"Carolina in the Morning"

Act II
"Sing a Song With Me"/ "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy"
"The Shape of Things"
"The Very Next Man"
"A Wonderful Guy"
"He Was Too Good To Me"/ "Losing My Mind"
"Better With a Band"
"In Buddy's Eyes"
"He Loves Me"/ "Dear Friend"/ "Will He Like Me?"
"Tonight at Eight"
"Ice Cream"
"A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"
"We'll Be Together Again"

Darlene Love is familiar to Broadway audiences for her critically-hailed performance in the Tony-nominated musical Leader of the Pack, as well as her run in the cult classic musical Carrie opposite Betty Buckley and Linzi Hateley. Possessing a booming, thrilling voice, Love first shot to fame with her number one recording, "He's a Rebel," and she followed that with a string of hits for the legendary producer Phil Spector: "Da Doo Ron Ron," "He's Sure the Boy I Love" and "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry." Well, today, Love is busier than ever. In fact, her autobiography, My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story, was recently released, and it offers a moving and candid account of her struggles in and out of show business. Love co-wrote the fascinating tome with The New York Times's Rob Hoerburger, and it is available from William Morrow.

Love also has two new recordings available: "Unconditional Love," her first gospel recording, was released last month on Harmony Records, and "Age of Miracles," which was recorded live during her record-breaking 1997 stint at Rainbow & Stars, is available by mail order through LINK Entertainment (Send check or money order for $18.75 to LINK Entertainment, 1776 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10019). "Age of Miracles" features a handful of Darlene Love classics, including the holiday song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which she has performed on the "David Letterman" show for the past 13 years, and she will make her 14th appearance on that talk show on Dec. 23. And, if all that isn't enough, Love was recently nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For those of you eager to see this dynamic performer in action, she will return to Rainbow & Stars for a one-week engagement beginning Dec. 8, which will mark her third appearance at this starry club. There is a $50 music charge, and dinner is required at the early shows; for reservations, call (212) 632-5000. As Stephen Holden recently wrote in his New York Times review, "[Love] may be a 56-year-old grandmother, but her soaring delivery sounds as youthfully optimistic as it did 30 years ago." Well said!

Maryann Lopinto will offer the latest installment of her successful Cabaret on the Record series (which presents both cabaret and Broadway performers who have their own recordings) this Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8 PM at the Triad. Cabaret on the Record, Volume 5 Part 2 will include performances by David Campbell, Claiborne Cary, Charles Cermele, Lorna Dallas, Baby Jane Dexter, Eric Hansen, Jeff Harnar, Rick Jensen and Martha Lorin. There is a $20 music charge (all of which will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS) and a $15 food/drink minimum. The Triad is located at 158 West 72nd Street, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 799-4599.

The seventh annual In Celebration of Life performance will be held on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 8pm at The Church of St. Paul The Apostle (Columbus Avenue at 60th Street). The evening, which will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, matches performers with composers and lyricists, who have created new songs focusing on life. All songs are written expressly for the evening, and this year's program boasts such Broadway and cabaret performers as Tom Andersen, Liz Callaway, David Campbell, David Garrison, Randy Graff, Judy Kaye, Alix Korey, Norm Lewis, Karen Mason, Marin Mazzie, Cass Morgan, Phillip Officer, Evan Pappas, Alice Ripley, Julie Wilson and many others. Composers and lyricists whose work will be performed during the evening include Ricky Ian Gordon, Carol Hall, Nan Knighton, Henry Krieger, Stephen Schwartz and more.
Tickets for In Celebration of Life 7 are $60 (includes a post performance reception) and $30 and may be purchased by calling (212) 265-3495 x309.

IN OTHER NEWS RCA Records will record the Bernadette Peters revival of Annie Get Your Gun once it gets to Broadway . . . According to an item in the New York Post, front-runners for an upcoming revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music include Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Ann-Margret and Irene Worth. Guess who would be my choice! . . . And, be sure to set those VCRs on Nov. 24 when Cathy Rigby performs a number from Peter Pan on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show."


The list continues to grow: More names are being added on a daily basis to the list of performers who will salute the late Laurie (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Les Miserables) Beechman this Nov. 30 at a concert held at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Titled Let the Memory Live Again: A Musical Celebration for Laurie Beechman, the evening will benefit Gilda's Club, where Beechman found support during her struggles with ovarian cancer. The most recent performer who has signed on is Phantom of the Opera star Davis Gaines, who will join two other masked Phantoms, Kevin Gray and Brad Little, onstage to perform "The Music of the Night."
Others scheduled to perform include Betty Buckley, Sam Harris, Christiane Noll, Douglas Sills, Andrea McArdle, Melissa Hart, Robert Evan, Raymond Jarimillo McLeod, Kevin Gray, Dodie Pettit, Grant Prickett, Karen Mason, Ken Page, Dan Schiff, Brad Little, Lisa Kain Marcelli, Christine Andreas, Terrence Mann, Linda Eder, Mary Testa, Amy Jo Arrington and more ( Patti LaBelle was forced to withdraw due to booking commitments). Call (202) 226-1780 for more information or visit Congressman Fox's web site (http://www.house.gov/fox).

BB concert line-up: Dec. 28 at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, FL
Dec. 29 at the Kravis Center for the Perf Arts in West Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec. 31 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL
Jan. 14, 1999 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA
Jan. 16 at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
February 6 at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, CA
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, IL.

Nov. 13 at the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
Nov. 14 at the Colden Center at Queens College in New York
Nov. 20 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, PA
Nov. 21 at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, OH
Dec. 8-9 at the FAU Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL

LuPone will bring her acclaimed, new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," to the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia on Jan. 11 and 13, 1999. The new act, which premiered this past August in California, was conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, the same man responsible for her Broadway concert, Patti LuPone on Broadway. The new act is an evening of original and contemporary music and boasts an eclectic mix of songwriters, including works by Lennon and McCartney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Randy Newman. For ticket info and orders, go to www.tickettek.com.au/Sydney Festival Home Page or www.sydneyfestival.org.au. Trivia buffs will recall that Patti has performed in Australia on one other occasion when she received critical acclaim in the Australian production of Evita in the early eighties.

After her Sydney engagement, LuPone will bring the new act to the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, California on Jan. 29 and 30, 1999. Call the McCallum's box office at (760) 340-2787 for tickets. And, on March 5, 6, and 7 she will appear with the Baltimore Symphony in Baltimore. Tickets go on sale Jan. 4, 1999 but may be purchased during the Symphony's early sale from Dec. 1 to 23; call (410) 783-8000.

From Nov. 11-21, Mason will open Davenports, a new cabaret space in her home town of Chicago.

Below are a few concert bookings for the star of stage and screen: Nov. 11-22 in a production of "Of Thee I Sing" at the UCLA Freud Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 10-13 with the Phoenix Symphony in Phoenix, Arizona

Peters will return to The Great White Way in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. Previews begin at the Marriott Marquis Theatre on Feb. 2, 1999. Call (212) 307-4100 for tickets.

You can get an evening-long dose of Alice Ripley this Sunday, Nov. 15 when she performs at the China Club. Half of that evening will be devoted to her original compositions, and she will be joined by Emily Skinner for some "Duets" for the second portion. Call (212) 398-3800 for reservations.

Ann Hampton Callaway Nov. 3 - 14
Karen Akers Nov. 17 - Dec. 5

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

-- by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at andrew_gans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976-1998.

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