DIVA TALK: Backstage with Bernadette, More “Idol” Ponderings

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Backstage with Bernadette, More “Idol” Ponderings
How exciting that Betty Buckley will reprise her role as "Pirate" Jenny Diver in this summer’s presentation of The Threepenny Opera at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, June 25 to July 6.
Bernadette Peters
Bernadette Peters Photo by Firooz Zahedi

Buckley, who drew raves in Williamstown’s 1992 production of the Kurt Weill musical, will be joined onstage by Rent’s Jesse L. Martin as MacHeath and Amour’s Melissa Errico as Polly Peachum. Let’s hope this one gets to Broadway! (By the way, Buckley is currently thrilling audiences at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in William Finn's Elegies through March 30.)

I had the pleasure of chatting with the multi-talented Bernadette Peters this past Tuesday for an upcoming feature for the theatre issue of Playbill. I spoke with the ever-youthful two-time Tony Award winner in her dressing room at the Shubert Theatre, and she was clearly excited about her upcoming run in one of the all-time classic musicals, Gypsy. For me, it’s the most exciting event of the Broadway season, and after our conversation, I’m more certain than ever that Peters is going to be sensational in the role of “Mama” Rose. Nearer to its opening, I’ll run the feature in this column, but here are two excerpts from this week’s interview:

Peters’ recollections of the 1961 second national tour of Gypsy, where she appeared in the chorus and later as Agnes:
“I have so many memories [of the tour]. We started in Lambertville, New Jersey. Our [current] musical director, Marvin Laird, worked on the show then. I remember the hot summers, the flies. Then we went to Las Vegas. We were there for three months. I remember the Twist was invented when we were in Chicago. The elevator operator said to me, ‘Oh you’re from New York, do you go to the Peppermint Lounge?’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ And he said, ‘The Peppermint Lounge. It’s this hot place in New York where they do the Twist.’ [Laughs.] . . . We started with Mitzi Green [as Rose] and after Las Vegas, Mary McCarty took it on the road. I remember people saying how great they both were. We got to know Mary a little bit. She was so much fun, and she was a great singer and a pretty wonderful actress. I could watch certain parts of the show, but I was pretty busy. I had my own places where I had to so show up during the show.”

Peters on Rose’s motivations:
“What’s pushing her to push her children is what she didn’t have in life: opportunity. Her mother deserted her. That’s a pretty devastating thing. I think that motivates her to give her children what she didn’t have — ‘I’m not going to let them sit away their lives like I did.’”

BP also said that Angel Records will release the CD of the Arthur Laurents-Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim revival. “We just have to figure out when is the best time to [record],” said Peters. Angel Records preserved her last Broadway outing, Annie Get Your Gun, as well as her most recent solo albums, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “Sondheim, Etc.: Live at Carnegie Hall” and “Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers and Hammerstein.” It’s hard to believe that the first preview of the musical is only ten days away. If you haven’t yet booked your tickets, what are you waiting for?! (Tickets for Gypsy are available at the Shubert Theatre box office — 225 West 44th Street — or through Telecharge at (212) 239-6200.) MORE ‘IDOL’ THOUGHTS
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written about “American Idol,” so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. It’s a bit surprising to me that my favorite singer turns out to be male, but I have to admit that Clay Aikens possesses the finest voice of the ten remaining contestants. It’s a crystal-clear voice that is beautiful throughout the entire range: smokey, rich low notes, and strong and vibrant ones in the upper register. Aikens is also the most appealing performer, amazingly relaxed onstage with a winning smile and personality that is utterly appealing. In fact, he’s the only contestant I’d be interested to hear sing an entire CD and would gladly buy one now if it existed. That said, during this week’s competition I was also impressed by Ruben Studdard’s “A Whole New World,” Trenyce’s “I Have Nothing” and Kimberley Locke’s “Home” (Locke’s rendition of “The Wiz” anthem improved as she went along, ending with a wonderfully belty final note.) I had been a fan of Julia DeMato’s from the original audition special, but her work seems to grow less exciting by the week. Hopefully, she’ll surprise me next week with a more inspired performance.

IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Tony and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone has added another venue to her ever growing concert schedule. Our Evita gal will bring her Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda concert to Boston’s Symphony Hall Oct. 25. . . . Kerry Butler, who is currently starring as Penny Pingleton in this season's runaway hit, Hairspray, has been cast in a new FOX TV pilot. Variety reports that the actress will play Molly in the yet-untitled pilot from the duo who penned “Malcolm in the Middle,” Michael Glouberman and Andrew Orenstein. The sitcom will concern a pair of fraternal twins — a brother and sister in their twenties — who become roommates after several years apart. . . . Both Helen Schneider, who played Norma Desmond in the German production of Sunset Boulevard, and Karen Mason, who played the role on Broadway, will take part in Town Hall concerts in the next few weeks. Schneider, an American singer actress who has starred in numerous German musicals, will headline “German Kabarett: Once in a Weill,” a salute to the works of Kurt Weill March 28 at New York’s Town Hall. Schneider will be joined onstage by Sharon McNight, Doug Ladnier, Lorinda Lisitza, Mark Nadler, Julie Reyburn and cabaret legend Julie Wilson. Mason, who recently completed an acclaimed run in the Broadway production of Mamma Mia!, will star in “American Cabaret: A Sentimental Journey” April 4 at the famed New York City concert hall. The evening will feature the classic tunes made famous during WWII. Others taking part in the sentimental journey include Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte as well as cabaret stars Marnie Baumer, Scott Coulter, Jonathan Frank, Martha Lorin and Karen Oberlin. Show time for both concerts is 8 PM. Town Hall is located in New York City at 123 West 43rd Street. Tickets for each of the concerts are $30 or $35. Call (212) 307-4100 for reservations.


Betty Buckley in Concert:

Through March 30 Elegies at Lincoln Center in NY, NY
May 31 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA

Liz Callaway in Concert:

May 16 Broadway Showstoppers in Philadelphia, PA

Barbara Cook in Concert:

March 21 at the Flynn Center in Flynn, MI
March 28 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY

Patti LuPone in Concert:

March 27 at the East County Performing Arts Center in El 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 Ham Auditorium at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV ("Matters of the Heart")
April 5 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Aug. 5 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")

Maureen McGovern in Concert

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

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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