Hello, diva lovers! This week, I’m happy to present the second half of an interview I had on Friday, June 16 with my favorite Brit, The First Lady of the British Musical Theatre, Elaine Paige. For the first half of our conversation, see last week’s column (Friday, June 23):
PBOL I know you say you always enjoy the rehearsal process very much. I was wondering what it was like to work with director Christopher Renshaw.
EP I enjoyed working with him very much. He’s a director who, one has to remember, has directed this show two or three times before, so he knows the piece backwards. He really knew the text in both the play and the lyric, and so he knew what he wanted and was quite clear and concise in his direction. Obviously, he would allow us to discover things for ourselves, and obviously every person who plays the King and Anna are always going to be different from one another. He seemed to be very good in allowing us to discover the roles ourselves as well as being specific about certain things that he knew he wanted. So, it was all very pleasurable and very relaxed. He’s also a Piscean like myself. I don’t know if that makes any difference except that we’re just such marvelous people! [Laughs.] No, I’m teasing. It was all very relaxed and very good humored. We have an absolutely delightful company. And I think it’s been said before about this piece that there’s something magical that happens when people are in this show. And I certainly think that kind of happened to us in the rehearsal period. Everyone got on terribly well and enjoyed the rehearsal process and worked terribly hard and were terribly committed and devoted to it. It’s a lovely company, and Jason [Scott Lee] is proving to be very good as the King.
PBOL This is his first musical, right?
EP I think it’s his first major theatre role at all. I believe that to be the case . . . You have to get up on a huge stage, which the London Palladium is, over 2,000 people. That’s quite daunting, I would imagine, if you are inexperienced in that area . . . [and he’s] mainly about movies, and it’s a very different medium. And, in many respects, I think it’s easier for someone to come from the theatre into films than the other way around, [but] he is being quite brilliant and the audiences love him. He’s doing wonderfully well.
PBOL Since it is such a large theatre, is there any adjustment you have to make in your own performance?
EP Well, it has to be big, you know, biggish, because it is a big theatre, and you’ve got to try to hit those people at the back of the auditorium. So there’s a great deal of energy, physical energy that is required, particularly on [Jason’s] part because the character of the King is dominant throughout. It’s really his show I would say, so for him, he has to be extremely [energetic]. I think in anything in the theatre you have to come on with a certain amount of energy. You can’t just stroll on or walk through it. It would never work. But for him, particularly, he probably has to use even more physical energy and more voice because of the character he’s playing.
PBOL How’s it been working with all the little kids?
EP [Laughs.] We’ve had some funny moments. We’ve had puddles on the stage and things. This week, apparently, well not apparently, I was very much there. [Laughs.] In the “Getting to Know You” scene, there’s a map that’s pulled down, and the child says, ‘This is Siam. This is England.’ And he went to pull the map down and he lost it, let go of it before it got to be pinned on the thing at the bottom. And it went ‘ping’ up; it rolled back up very fast, and the string that he was trying to pull down rolled up around it. We couldn’t get the map down. So, I had to kind of improvise something or other. Oh, it was ghastly! [Laughs.] [But] the audience thought it was all very funny. Anyway, we managed to get ourselves out of that hole. PBOL But that’s what’s great about theatre.
EP Well, exactly. They loved it, the audience absolutely adored it. It was only a matter of a few seconds, I suppose, but it felt forever for me [laughs], but the children very sweetly at the end of the performance . . . At the end of the show they presented me with a little paper basket that they’d made and a paper flower and a scroll that they had all signed saying how good they thought I had been in getting out of the trouble that we got into with the map, which I thought was terribly sweet, really sweet. Overall, they’re marvelous. We have two teams, and we’re about to have some new ones come in ‘cause they’re only allowed to work for a certain amount of time in this country, a couple of months. So we have alternate teams all the time . . . But they’re all, I would say, considering some of them are only three-and-a-half years old, they’re amazing, quite amazing. But they are funny. One little boy -- I have him sit on my lap in the “Getting to Know You” scene, and at one point through the song, I point to one of the children to get up and sing a solo line. And this little boy, one night, pointed and got to him before I did the gesture. I thought ‘Hello, you’ve got a bright one here!’ So, the next night I thought, ‘Well I’ll hang onto his arm so he doesn’t do it,’ and he lifted up his other arm and did it instead. He’s rather bright and rather very naughty. [Laughs.] His name’s Nicholas. I was recounting this story on some television program quite recently. The next night I go into the theatre and he says, ‘You were talking about me on the television today.’ [Laughs.] Overall, they’re doing pretty well.
PBOL How long are you staying with the show?
EP I signed for a year, just because that seemed the thing they wanted. I have a nine-month get out. It takes me to January if I leave after nine months, but we’ll see what happens.
PBOL So, you’ve recorded the CD for the show? How did the sessions go?
EP Yes, we’ve done that . . . I hope it’s great. The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate wrote to the producer of the album here about how thrilled they were with it. They thought this was the definitive recording . . .which is a great compliment to have been paid to the work of everyone on the album. I haven’t actually heard the completed thing yet, but I hope it will be alright . . . It will probably come out toward the end of the summer, the beginning of September I think.
PBOL Any plans to come back to Broadway?
EP Well, you know, yes we’re in discussion at the moment about some ideas that I’ve got that I’d like to do on the Broadway stage. I loved my time so much there when I was doing Sunset. I miss it. I miss that kind of drive and energy, but you know, this came up, not necessarily something I would have ever considered or thought that I would want to do. But since it came up and it was put to me, and it’s such a brilliant piece, wonderful story, wonderful role and something so different from that that I’m used to playing, I just thought it would be a bit of a challenge. I didn’t really want to miss the opportunity of playing it, so it’s kept me here, but I’m hoping that I can try and organize something that I can come to Broadway next year, next season.
PBOL Is there any chance of you still doing Piaf here?
EP Yes, we’re still talking about that as well. We’ll see what transpires. I mean, as I say, I’m in discussions with people about it at the moment. But, you know what it’s like when you’re first into a show, you’ve got to get this one up and running first.
PBOL You’re also working on a new solo recording?
EP Well, it’s been put on ice for the moment while I’ve been doing the show because I just haven’t had time with recording the cast album and performing eight shows a week . . . although I am now beginning to come up for air, and my life is becoming more routine, and I know what I can and can’t do. So I shall be looking, getting my head back into that probably next month.
PBOL Had you started recording any of the songs?
EP Yes, I had.
PBOL What type of works?
EP Well, it’s sort of modern really. Modern stuff, but with some of the big ballads and things, it’s a bit of a mixture. And that’s why I think I have to go back to it and look at it again and see where I’m at with it, because it’s quite a while since I recorded these tracks, and I want to revisit it and make sure it’s the right road and what I want to be doing. And at the same time I’m also recording a duets album with Barbara Dickson. We’re involved with some tracks with ABBA at the moment, and that’s also another fun project, taking precedence really. . .
And, now, more diva news!
Betty Buckley has just announced two concerts at the Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 9 and 10. The concerts, featuring Kenny Werner on piano, will include songs from Buckley’s vast repertoire as well as tunes from American Stories. Stories is a brand-new work that the Tony-winning actress is currently developing with Hartford Stage’s artistic director, Michael Wilson, which boasts songs from the new generation of composers that includes Ricky Ian Gordon and Jason Robert Brown. Call (860) 527-5151 for tickets.
Buckley fans will also be interested to learn that the 15th anniversary re release of her live concert -- originally distributed on the Rizzoli label -- will hit stores on July 11 on the KO Productions label. Advance copies will be available at the Hartford concerts on July 9 and 10. . . And, finally, several new concert dates have been added to BB’s always-growing schedule. Be sure to check out the inimitable Buckley if this powerhouse performer is in your neck of the words. Ms. B’s concert schedule as of this week follows:
June 30 & July 1: John Drew Theatre (Guild Hall) in East Hampton, NY
July 9 & 10 Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT
July 24 & 27: Martin Theatre (Ravinia Festival) in Highland Park, IL
Aug. 5: Edgewood Country Club in Rivervale, NJ
Aug. 21-Sept. 3: Donmar Warehouse in London, UK
Sept. 9 & 10: Robert Park Auditorium in Taunton, MA
Sept. 15: Southern Theater in Columbus, OH
Sept. 16: Stranahan Theatre in Toledo, OH
Oct. 6 & 7: Scottsdale Center for the Arts Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ
Oct. 28: Univ. of Texas Cowan Fine & Perf. Arts Center in Tyler, TX
Nov. 10 & 11: University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT
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. 19-28: Florida Condo Tour in Florida
March 3: at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
May 12: at the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
June 17: at the Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA
IN OTHER NEWS: Linda Eder will perform on this year’s “Pops Goes the Fourth!” program, which will be broadcast on the A&E Network from 7:30-10:30 PM on July 4. Featuring conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, the Independence Day Celebration will also include performances from Don McLean, Latin trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and a special surprise guest. Be sure to set those VCRS! . . . Speaking of Eder, the former Jekyll & Hyde star has also recently added three more dates to her concert schedule: July 22 at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, July 23 at Colorado’s Boettcher Concert Hall and Nov. 19 at the Strand-Capitol Theatre in York, Penn. (go to www.strandcapitol.org) . . . The Broadway Theatre Archive recently donated 300 taped stage productions to The Museum of Television & Radio (25 W. 52nd Street) at a ceremony hosted by playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Of special interest to diva fans are these four titles: The Last Mile starring Bernadette Peters, Paul Sorvino, Bill Irwin and Nathan Lane; Paradise Lost with Bernadette Peters and Eli Wallach; The Time of Your Life starring Patti LuPone and Kevin Kline; and Rita Moreno, Charles Durning, Barbara Hershey and Patti LaBelle in Working. Assembled from the libraries of WNET/13, KCET(Los Angeles) and Time-Life/HBO, these tapes will remain at the Museum and will be available for scholarly research and public viewing . . .
REMINDERS: BARBARA COOK
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
July 28 and 29: at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 14: at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
Sept. 21 & 22: at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
Sept. 28-Oct. 1: at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787
Eder in concert:
July 8: with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14: with Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15: with Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274-6564
July 16: with Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
Aug. 6: with Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
Aug. 8: with Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
Aug. 9: with Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
Aug. 19: at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050
Aug. 25: with Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org
Aug. 26: Boys & Girls Club Fundraiser at The River Center w/ Michael Feinstein in Minneapolis, MN
Sept. 26: at the Jones Hall w/Houston Symphony in Houston, TX; call (713) 224-7575
Nov. 4: at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
Nov. 17: at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ; call (732) 246-SHOW
Nov. 18: at the State Theatre in Easton, PA; call (610) 252-3132
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:
July 8: at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA (with Audra McDonald and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra); (323) 850-2000
July 29: ("Matters of the Heart") at the Long Island Summer Festival at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, NY; (516) 922-0061
Sept. 9: ("Matters of the Heart") at the Valentine Theatre in Toledo, Ohio; (419) 242-2787
Sept. 23: at the University of Maine in Orono; (800) 622-8499
Oct. 7: ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda") with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in Birmingham, Alabama; (205) 458-8401
Nov. 3: ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda") with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky (502) 583-4555
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
July 18-23: World Premiere of White Christmas at the St. Louis MUNY Opera
Sept. 5-14: at Arci’s Place in New York, NY (212) 532-4370
July 4: in Washington, DC with the National Symphony/Independence Day broadcast
July 8: in Hollywood, CA at the Hollywood Bowl (with Patti LuPone); (323) 850-2000
July 15: in Cleveland, OH at the Blossom Festival/Cleveland Orchestra; (800) 686-1141
July 21: in San Francisco, CA with the San Francisco Symphony; (415) 864-6000
Aug. 6: in Detroit, MI at the Meadowbrook Festival/Detroit Symphony; (313) 576-5111
Aug. 16: in Chicago, IL at the Ravinia Festival; (847) 266-5100
Sept. 28-30: with the National Symphony Orchestra
The two-time Tony winner will conclude her run in Annie Get Your Gun on September 2, when she will begin a U.S. concert tour:
Sept. 15: at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City (with symphony)
Sept. 22: at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia
Oct. 6: at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre in West Point, NY
Oct. 7: at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Oct. 13: at the OnCenter War Memorial in Syracuse, NY
Jan. 5, 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!
-- By Andrew Gans