DIVA TALK: Betty on Video; More Cook, Plus, Noll on Disc | Playbill

Diva Talk DIVA TALK: Betty on Video; More Cook, Plus, Noll on Disc

I was out of town two weekends ago, so I was unable to catch Betty Buckley’s latest stint at the Bottom Line, but I hear it was another triumphant engagement for the Tony Award-winning performer. For those of you who were also unable to attend Buckley’s Bottom Line gig, you will be happy to learn that another great BB performance -- at London’s Donmar Warehouse -- will be available on DVD and VHS next month from Image Entertainment (www.image-entertainment.com). The video was recorded live during Buckley’s acclaimed run at London’s intimate theatre, part of the “Divas at the Donmar” series. The 96-minute video/dvd features more than 20 tunes, including works by Stephen Sondheim, Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hart, James Taylor, Andrew Lloyd Webber and many others. Some of the track titles are “Not a Day Goes By,” “Just the Way You Look Tonight,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Meadowlark,” “Answer Me My Love,” “Stars and the Moon,” “Finding Home,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” “Fire and Rain,” “Old Friend,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Memory” and many others. The DVD is priced at $24.99 and the VHS at $19.98. Any fan of the Broadway musical theatre will want to add this sparkling concert to their video collection. “Betty Buckley: Stars and the Moon: Live at the Donmar” will be released on Sept. 11.

The grand dame of the cabaret/concert world, Barbara Cook, has received rave after rave for her concerts at London’s Lyric Theatre. Originally scheduled for a four-week run, Cook’s engagement has been extended twice, and it now looks like the former star of The Music Man and Candide will perform at the theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue until September 1. What follows are excerpts of reviews from husband-and-wife writers/critics Sheridan Morley and Ruth Leon. I’ve also included Cook’s latest concert schedule, so those of you around the country can catch this dynamic performer live.

Ruth Leon in The Wall St. Journal:
“What can you say about a real music-theatre diva who dignifies every song she tackles? Barbara Cook, unrepentantly large, sails into the Lyric this week with a curious collection of songs she gleaned from a 70th birthday interview with Stephen Sondheim where he listed the 50 songs he wished he'd written . . . She starts with four virtually unknown Harold Arlen songs, returns regularly to season the mix with Sondheim, then moves on to Berlin, Bock and Harnick, and Cy Coleman, even producing a crystalline and wholly unexpected ‘Trolley Song’ from Meet Me In St. Louis. But the real miracle of Barbara Cook is not her intonation which, at 72, can be forgiven for wavering occasionally in the middle register, nor her enunciation which is enduringly perfect, no, it is her architectural qualities. Her singing is like nothing so much as an ideal piece of construction, embodying perfection of line, purity of intention, security of execution, a sense of proportion, and a peerless beauty. And all that makes you glad just to be in the theatre with her.”

Sheridan Morley in International Herald Tribune:
“. . . Luckily for us, she decided that she wanted to return as a solo concert and cabaret star, and for the last twenty-five years or so, though far too seldom over here, she has been singing the great American songbook with an emotional power and intelligence unrivalled by any other singer. Technically she is the last in the line of great Broadway divas going back to Carol Channing, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman, the golden foghorn herself, and like any of them when she wants to, Cook is her own brass band. But unlike any of the others she understands intimacy: even in a space as large as that of the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue she can make you believe she is singing only for you, and because she has known you all her life. . . I have been lucky enough to have been hanging around the New York and London cabaret world for about as long as Cook has, but I have only ever in my life heard two singers who could match her lyric for lyric: one was Mabel Mercer and the other was Judy Garland. What they had in common was the ability to tell a song instead of just singing it: not for them the appalling way that Sinatra and Streisand and so many others to this day will mess around with a lyric and its phrasing to try and make it personal or singable or whatever. Cook sings every comma, every semi-colon, every parenthesis of a song and she treats every one like a short story with a beginning, a middle and an end. She is that rarest of the rare, a literate singer for whom the words are as important, sometimes more important, than the music. And when at the end of an all too brief eighty minutes she sings a capella Sondheim's ‘Anyone Can Whistle,’ it is one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced in any theatre anywhere in the world . . .”
What follows is Cook’s upcoming concert schedule:
Now through Sept. 1 at London’s Lyric Theatre
Sept. 25 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ
Oct. 9-14 at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT
April 12 and 13 with Marilyn Horne at Michigan State University’s Warton Center in MI
April 26 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
June 5-9 and June 12-16 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC

Although I was not a big fan of the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde, the show did offer some thrilling vocal displays, most notably from co-stars Linda Eder and Christiane Noll. I was already familiar with the vocal wizardry of Eder when I caught the show early in its run, but had not been introduced to the lush sounds of Christiane Noll, whose flexible voice is equally at home belting or soaring to a high soprano. Noll has been a busy gal the past few years, and her latest solo CD, “The Ira Gershwin Album,” is now available from Fynsworth Alley directly from that ever growing label’s website at www.fynsworthalley.com. As the title suggests, the 17-track CD is a tribute to the late lyricist, whose genius was often overshadowed by his brother George’s gifts as, perhaps, the leading composer of his day. Noll does well with these songs, delivering a lovely version of the classic Cover Girl tune, “Long Ago & Far Away,” which features music by Jerome Kern. Other highlights include an upbeat melding of “I Got Rhythm” and “Fasincatin’ Rhythm”; a terrific version of “The Saga of Jenny”; and an appropriately wistful take on Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.” Noll also includes a host of little-performed songs that should be heard more often: the torchy “There Is No Music,” which was written for The Barkleys of Broadway and features the music of Harry Warren; “That Moment of Moments,” with its gorgeous melody from Vernon Duke that boasts some of Noll’s most luscious singing; and the tongue-in-cheek “By Strauss,” which pokes fun at the music of Broadway and enables Noll to display the wide range of her upper register. If the singer/actress can be a bit cloying at times (I could have done without her comments during “S’Wonderful”) and lacks the edge needed to fully envelop the Judy Garland standard “The Man That Got Away,” she scores on most of the selections. The complete track listing for “Christiane Noll: The Gershwin Album” follows:
I Can’t Be Bothered Now/Kickin’ the Clouds Away
I Was Doing All Right
How Long Has This Been Going On?
Oh Me, Oh My, Oh You/I Came Here
Long Ago & Far Away
I Got Rhythm/Fascinatin’ Rhythm
I’ve Got a Crush On You
In Our United State
There Is No Music
That Moment of Moments
By Strauss (on the advanced CD I received, “That Moment of Moments” and “By Strauss” are in the reverse order of that listed on the CD track list)
The Man That Got Away
The Saga of Jenny
My Ship
Bonus Track: Someone To Watch Over Me/The Man I Love

IN OTHER NEWS Annie Golden will perform “Annie Golden’s Velvet Prison” this Monday, Aug. 13 at 8 PM at Joe’s Pub. Golden, who is currently starring on Broadway in The Full Monty will return to her rock roots at the Public Theater’s cabaret space with this story-telling song cycle developed by Golden and her accompanist Peter Calandra . . . The next diva up at Joe’s Pub is the unique song stylist Ute Lemper, who was last on Broadway in the hit revival of Chicago, where she repeated her success from the London company of that Kander and Ebb musical . . . Barbra Streisand fans will be delighted to learn that her award winning performance in 1968’s Funny Girl will be released on DVD on Oct. 23. The DVD will include the original, fully restored 155-minute road show version, including overture, intermission and digitally remastered new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio. The DVD will also most likely include audio commentaries, documentaries and trailers. . . On this Sunday’s broadcast of “Everything Old Is New Again” (9-11 PM on WBAI 99.5 FM or on the internet at www.2600.com/offthehook/hot2.ram), you can expect to hear songs from Nancy LaMott, Margaret Whiting, Judy Garland, Barbara Cook, Liza Minnelli, Edith Piaf, Peggy Lee and Patti LuPone. . . It was officially announced this week that the Tony-nominated star of Baby, Liz Callaway, will co-star in the Playwrights Horizons production of The Spitfire Grill, a new musical by James Valcq and Fred Alley, which is based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff. Spitfire Grill will also feature Mary Gordon Murray, Garrett Long, Steven Pasquale, and performances begin on Friday, Sept. 7 . . . A few more concert dates have recently been added to Linda Eder’s schedule: Sept. 27 at the Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, IA (712-388 7140); Oct. 14 at the University of Texas at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall in Austin, TX; Dec. 1 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA (610-252-3132). . . Cabaret singer Barbara Fasano returns to the FireBird Cafe with her show, In the Still of the Night, on Fridays, Aug. 24 and 31 at 9 PM. Featuring Rick Jensen on piano, reservations can be made by calling the FireBird (365 W. 46th St.) at (212) 586-0244.


That Tony-winning dynamo, Betty Buckley, has just released a new slate of concert performances, which follows:

August 25 at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH
September 19 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall (American Songwriters Series) in New York, NY
September 29 at Centre East in Skokie, IL
October 6 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
November 10 at the Naperville North Central College Performing Arts Center in Naperville, IL (with Michael Feinstein)
November 14-18 at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret in Uncasville, CT
November 24 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
December 6 at Abravenal Hall with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, UT (Xmas program)
December 7 at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan, UT
December 27 at the Verizon Regional Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (with Michael Feinstein)
January 4 & 5, 2002 at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, CT
March 15 & 16, 2002 with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC
March 30 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA

Eder in concert:
Sept. 14 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA, (215) 893-1999
Sept. 29 at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre at West Point, (845) 938-4159
Oct. 19 and 20 at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, go to www.atlantasymphony.org
Nov. 3 at the Youngstown Symphony Center in Youngstown, OH, (330) 744 4269
Nov. 16 and 17 at Jacobs Symphony Hall in Jacksonville, FL, (877) 662 6731
Dec. 5 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, (973) 376-4343
Dec. 11 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA, (617) 266-1492
Dec. 14 and 15 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, (800) 444-1324 PATTI LuPONE
The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:

August 24 in Sweeney Todd at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
August 27 in “Matters of the Heart at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
September 15 at the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia (“Matters of the Heart”)
September 20-23 at Bass Hall with the Ft. Worth Symphony in Ft. Worth, Texas (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
October 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Matters of the Heart”)
November 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts (“Matters of the Heart”)
February 9, 2002 at the Tilles Center with the Long Island Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 22-23, 2002 at the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 28 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY (“Coulda Woulda Shoulda”)

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

By Andrew Gans

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