DIVA TALK: A Summer Diva Preview

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: A Summer Diva Preview
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters
Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Now that the Tony Awards are over, I thought it would be a great time to focus on the many diva offerings of the summer.

First and foremost, could there be any more exciting star-replacement casting than the news that was officially announced last week about A Little Night Music? Not since the parade of phenomenally talented women stepped into the lead role of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard — I still can't quite believe I had the good fortune to see Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige all don Norma Desmond's turban — have I been as thrilled by casting news. Anyone who reads this column surely knows that Tony winners Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch will succeed fellow Tony winners Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, respectively, in the roles of the captivating actress Desirée Armfeldt and her worldly-wise mother Madame Armfeldt in the acclaimed revival at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Zeta-Jones and Lansbury conclude performances June 20, and the production will resume July 13 with its new stars. I can hardly wait to see what each actress does with her role, and the thought of Peters bringing new life to "Send in the Clowns" is more than tantalizing. The arrival of Peters and Stritch promises to be the diva event of the summer.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal will also welcome new leads July 19 when real-life couple Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley succeed Tony winner Alice Ripley and Brian d'Arcy James, respectively, as Diana and Dan Goodman at the Booth Theatre. Ripley is so associated with the role, it's hard to imagine another actress inhabiting the part of the bi-polar mom, but Mazzie's pedigree — she is, after all, a three-time Tony nominee for her work in Kiss Me, Kate; Ragtime; and Passion — assures she will offer her own interesting take on the character. July 19 will also mark the day understudy Meghann Fahy assumes the role of troubled teen Natalie Goodman, the part created by Tony nominee Jennifer Damiano.

Mary Testa
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Off-Broadway will see the new musical I'll Be Damned, presented by the Jaradoa Theater company, beginning July 1 at the Dimson Theatre at The Vineyard. The cast is headed by Broadway belter Mary Testa — a Tony nominee for her performances in the revivals of On the Town and 42nd Street — and her Xanadu co-star Kenita Miller. Penned by Rob Broadhurst and Brent Black, the musical is described as "the story of a friendless, comic book-loving homeschooler named Louis who receives a seemingly irresistible offer from Satan."

Also Off-Broadway, Transport Group will present the New York City premiere of See Rock City & Other Destinations, the award-winning collection of musical vignettes about people traveling — in both the tourist sense and the emotional sense — July 17-Aug. 8 at The Duke on 42nd Street. The cast of the Brad Alexander (music) and Adam Mathias (book and lyrics) musical includes Stanley Bahorek (Broadway's Big River, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee); Donna Lynne Champlin (Broadway's Billy Elliot, Sweeney Todd, OBIE Award winner for TG's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs); Jonathan Hammond (Broadway's Ragtime, OBIE Award winner and Drama League Award nominee for TG's The Boys in the Band); Ryan Hilliard (Off-Broadway's Grey Gardens, Godspell); Bryce Ryness (Drama Desk Award nominee for Broadway's Hair, TG's Crossing Brooklyn); and Sally Wilfert (Make Me a Song, Broadway's Assassins). Falling for Eve, a new musical from Bret Simmons, David Howard and the Tony-winning lyricist and librettist of Memphis, Joe DiPietro, will begin performances at Off-Broadway's York Theatre Company July 6. The cast, under the direction of Larry Raben, will feature Krystal Joy Brown, Jennifer Blood, Nehal Joshi, Adam Kantor, Jose Llana and Sasha Sloan.

On the concert stage, Scott Siegel's fourth annual Summer Broadway Festival at Town Hall will feature a host of leading ladies (and gents). The series will kick off July 12 with Broadway Winners: The Award-Winning Music of Broadway, an evening that will boast the "thrilling Tony, Grammy, and Academy Award-winning music created on the Great White Way." Alexander Gemignani will direct a cast that comprises Michele Lee, Farah Alvin, Christine Andreas, Kate Baldwin, Bill Daughtery, Marc Kudisch, William Michals and Terri White; Gemignani will also perform. Broadway's Rising Stars is the title of the July 19 concert, also at 8 PM. Scott Coulter will direct this evening featuring students selected from such theatrical institutions as AMDA, CAP 21, Juilliard, CCM, Carnegie Mellon and The New School. The series will conclude July 26 at 8 PM with All Singin' All Dancin'. The evening of song and dance will feature Ron Raines, Julia Murney, Erin Denman, Kendrick Jones and Noah Racey and will be directed and choreographed by recent Yank! star Jeffry Denman.

Sutton Foster
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

On more intimate stages . . . The Cafe Carlyle is currently presenting Tony Award winner Sutton Foster through June 26. The Thoroughly Modern Millie star's program features songs from her Broadway outings and her solo recording as well as tunes by The Beatles, Jerry Herman and Jule Styne…. Ute Lemper, who starred in both the London and Broadway productions of Chicago, will return to Joe's Pub — the intimate cabaret located within the Public Theater — in August. Lemper will offer The Bukowski Project Aug. 19-22. The concerts are billed as "a journey through the poetry of Charles Bukowski from the books 'The Last Night of the Earth Poems,' 'What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk through the Fire' and 'You Get so Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense.'" The Bukowski Project, with artistic idea and conception and music by Lemper, features additional composition and arrangements by Todd Turkisher and Vana Gierig. . . .Tony winner Barbara Cook, who concludes her run in Broadway's Sondheim on Sondheim June 27, will join forces with cabaret veteran Michael Feinstein for an engagement at his namesake club in September. Feinstein, who had previously teamed with Cheyenne Jackson for an acclaimed cabaret gig, will sing with Cook at Feinstein's at Loews Regency Sept. 7-Oct. 2 (the two singers had previously joined forces for a New Year's concert at Feinstein's). Prior to Cook's arrival, the Manhattan nightspot will welcome Rent's Tracie Thoms (June 28-29), Julie Reyburn (July 16-17), Orfeh (Aug. 30) and Meredith Patterson (Aug. 31).

Barbara Cook
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A host of gals will play regional theatres around the country — lucky theatregoers can catch Kate Baldwin in I Do! I Do! at Connecticut's Westport; Stephanie J. Block as Grizabella in Cats at the St. Louis Muny; and Rachel York in Into the Woods at the Reagle in Massachusetts — but the pairing that intrigues this diva lover the most is Betty Buckley and Tovah Feldshuh in Joseph Kesselring's classic comedy about murder and elderberry wine, Arsenic and Old Lace at The Dallas Theater Center. Okay, that production is actually not until the winter, but those interested in getting up close and personal with Buckley might want to check out her acting master class this summer in Manhattan; visit her website, bettybuckley.com, for details.

And, of course, that Olivier and two-time Tony winner Patti LuPone will be busy this summer touring her various concerts — Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda; The Gypsy in My Soul — and will also belt out the wonderful Irving Berlin score to Annie Get Your Gun Aug. 13-15 at the Ravinia Festival. Her co-stars at the Illinois venue will include Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and George Hearn. LuPone will also release her eagerly awaited autobiography, "Patti LuPone: A Memoir," Sept. 14. The thought of reading that tome is certainly enough to get diva lovers through the summer!

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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