DIVA TALK: Diva Tidbits

News   DIVA TALK: Diva Tidbits
For all of you who are eagerly waiting to hear whether Betty Buckley will portray Mama Rose in the upcoming production of Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, there is still no word either way. Ms. B has been offered the part and is seriously considering the role in the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents classic. Deborah Gibson, however, has definitely signed on for the title role, and the production will begin performances on September 9 for seven weeks. Stay tuned for more information on what could be the musical event of the fall.

For all of you who are eagerly waiting to hear whether Betty Buckley will portray Mama Rose in the upcoming production of Gypsy at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, there is still no word either way. Ms. B has been offered the part and is seriously considering the role in the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents classic. Deborah Gibson, however, has definitely signed on for the title role, and the production will begin performances on September 9 for seven weeks. Stay tuned for more information on what could be the musical event of the fall.

VCR alert: Be sure to tune in to the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" this Tuesday, July 14 when LuPone and Peter Gallagher perform their show stopping duet -- "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" -- from the recent benefit performance of Annie Get Your Gun. This duet was, perhaps, the high point of the thrilling concert version of the Irving Berlin classic that starred LuPone as the gun-toting Annie Oakley.

The curly-locked wonder brought down the house this past Fourth of July weekend with a sold-out concert in St. Louis. Peters spoke with John Burnes, a writer for the "St. Louis Post Dispatch " a few days before the concert, and what follows are some of her thoughts about her life and career:

-- about the importance of discovery and growth
"I find the most interesting thing about people is how they grow, where they go from where they are. You think you know somebody, but then you find out something else about them that's even more intriguing and interesting and mind-blowing."

-- about her upcoming role in the Irving Berlin classic, Annie Get Your Gun:
"Growth is important to me. That's why I was always in new roles and I wouldn't do revivals. But now I'm thinking that revivals might be nice, too, in a way. They're new to me. . .The great thing is that you can't get a theatre. They're all booked. The economy is good, and people are going to the theatre. Disney's The Lion King [which just won a Tony Award for best musical] gets kids into the theatre. They fall in love with it, and we have a whole new generation of theatregoers. It's all very wonderful." --about singing Sondheim's sophisticated songs around the country:
"You can do it. Maybe not every song. But his songs are so arresting. If the audience is interested, then the more the merrier. Whether the crowd is small or large, you connect to the people in the front row. And somehow, everybody feels connected. You don't really do anything different. Unless you want them to do the wave, or something!"

Burns also reviewed Peters' concert, and here is some of what he has to say about the Tony-winning performer: "...Peters delivered an hour of emotion, brass, seductiveness, warmth and laughs that spread through at least some of the immense fairgrounds... Then Peters ventured into her Stephen Sondheim material with `No One Is Alone' (with its gorgeous cello lines in accompaniment), 'Sooner or Later' (for which she slinked around a piano) and, later, the busy 'You Could Drive a Person Crazy.'
'Broadway Baby' . . . is her signature; it's easy to see why. On it she brought her strong dichotomies into one scintillating whole -- focused but warm, contained but emotional, in charge but playful, and innocent but voluptuous in a way reserved for those in tight red dresses. She proved her strong ballad sense with Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Unexpected Song,' Jerry Herman's 'Time Heals Everything' and J.D. Souther's 'Faithless Love,' calming down the busy venue in the process. With her conductor, Marvin Laird, on piano and leading the Pops orchestra, Peters launched a medley of Arlen classics, including 'Accentuate the Positive,' 'Blues in the Night,' 'The Man That Got Away,' a powerful 'Stormy Weather' and, idiosyncratic for Arlen in its disposition, 'Over the Rainbow.'

Peters also recently hosted the seventh annual "Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra" at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago on July 3. The Festival will be aired on the Disney Channel on August 1 and will feature 85 young musicians, aged 9 to 12, from the United States and England.

When City Center's Encores! series presented its staged concert version of Chicago a few seasons ago, no one could have predicted the huge success that this musical would enjoy on Broadway and around the world. The latest recording -- the London cast recording -- of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has just been released in the U.K. by RCA Victor and will soon be available in the U.S. Starring the international chanteuse Ute Lemper as Velma Kelly and London's Ruthie Henshall as Roxie Hart, this new recording is a must for fans of the musical that was first seen on Broadway in 1975.

Henshall and Lemper are arguably the best singers to take on the roles of the merry murderesses to date, with Henshall possessing a voice that can belt (she portrayed Fantine in the London company of Les Miz and also in the concert production aired on TV) and soar into a high soprano (she was awarded an Olivier for her work in London's She Loves Me), and Lemper owning an equally distinguished instrument. The two multi talented stars bring the score to wonderful, exciting life, and are especially dazzling on their two duets ("My Own Best Friend" and "Nowadays") as well as on their solo work (Henshall on "Roxie" and Ute Lemper on "I Can't Do It Alone"). "Cell Block Tango" and "Nowadays" remain two of the biggest joys of the score, and the CD also includes fine work from Meg Johnson as Mama Morton, Henry Goodman as Billy Flynn and Nigel Planer as Amos Hart.

Meanwhile, the Australian production of the Kander and Ebb musical opened last Saturday evening to rave reviews. Our loyal diva watcher Down Under sent in some of the many glowing reviews, and I thought you would be interested to read what the Australian critics think about the stars of this hit musical, which seems to be knocking 'em dead all around the globe:

Hilary Crampton in The Age:
"Chelsea Gibb, making her professional debut in the lead role of Roxie is certainly a talent to watch. While the overall performance was top notch, one cannot help commenting on Caroline O'Connor. This woman is extraordinary. Her sense of timing, her precision, her tongue-in-cheek nonchalance could knock you dead."

Fiona Scott-Norman in The Age:
"The performances are little short of superb. Caroline O'Connor is magnificent as the world-weary Velma; she is sexy but hard, vulnerable yet tawdry, and the show zings when ever she is on stage. Gibb is excellent as the brassy, grasping, amoral Roxie, especially considering this is her first professional gig. Both these women effortlessly exude star quality."

Xenia Hanusiak in Herald Sun:
"With an Australian cast to die for, this show is an absolute triumph. As Roxy Hart, newcomer Chelsea Gibb's voice is sugar 'n spice and all things nice with a lot, lot more. For 2 1/2 hours she seduces and sizzles with her songs. Any hotter and she'd melt. As fellow jail-bird Velma, Caroline O'Connor has the triple threat of singer-dancer-actor all wrapped up. She is a demon of terrifying quality. The 'other' Caroline -- Caroline Gillmer playing Matron 'Mama' Morton, the jail's matriarch -- threatens to steal the show with her intimidating advice in the song 'When You're Good To Mamma'."

The many fans of Judy Kaye will be happy to learn that the star of Ragtime will perform several songs from her latest album, "Songs from the Silver Screen, " at the HMV Records store at 72nd Street and Broadway in New York City. Kaye's performance is scheduled for noon on Sunday, July 19, and she will also be on hand to sign copies of her CD, which is her second solo recording on the Varese Sarabande label.

I enjoyed reading Paul Wontorek's interview with Judy Kuhn in this week's issue of In Theatre Magazine. Kuhn is currently delighting audiences in the Drama Dept.'s revival of the Irving Berlin/Moss Hart revue As Thousands Cheer at the Greenwich House Theatre, and following are some quotes from the star of Chess, She Loves Me, Sunset Boulevard, Les Miserables and Rags:

about her next Broadway role:
"I would very much like to not do a musical next. . . My least favorite question when I'm working is when people say, 'Are you singing or are you acting?' I hate the perception that I can only do one or the other. . .You never know what's next. There really isn't enough variety in the opportunity of roles. You have to fight to get certain things and just hope that the right thing comes along."

about her current roles in As Thousands Cheer:
"This is like doing a little play, then a little musical. . .I don't know that anyone would have thought of me for a show with sketch comedy, so this has been a great opportunity to play around a bit."

about her attitude towards work:
"I have a different attitude about work now. There are things that I just won't do if it's not worth it. Besides, these days, I'm just totally into being a mom."

One of cabaret's leading ladies, Andrea Marcovicci, will make an appearance at Star Classics in San Francisco (425 Hayes Street) on Friday, July 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. for a CD signing of her new recording, "Live from London: Love Songs from the Theatre. " Marcovicci will perform in concert at San Francisco's Louis Davies Hall the next evening (July 18) at 8 p.m. Call 415-864-6000 for tickets. REMINDERS:

BB will perform at 7:30 and 10 pm on October 30 and 31, and on November 1 show times are 4 pm (the "songs by request" concert) and 8:30 pm. The Bottom Line is located at 15 West 4th Street, and tickets will be on sale at the Bottom Line box office in the near future.

Before Petula Clark begins touring as Norma Desmond in the second national company of Sunset Boulevard, she has a few concerts lined up in the U.S. and in the U.K. First up, is a performance at the Resorts International Hotel (1-800-322-SHOW) in Atlantic City from September 2-7. Then, Clark will perform in the U.K. in the following areas:
Sept. 15 Cheltenham Town Hall (01242 227979)
Sept. 16 Rhyl Pavilion (01745 330000)
Sept. 18 Leamington Spa Royal Spa Centre (01926 334418)
Sept. 19 Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall (01892 530613)
Sept. 20 Worthing Pavilion (01903 820500)
Sept. 21 Reading Hexagon (0118 9606060)
Sept. 23 Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (01424 787900)

Epcot Center in Walt Disney World will host an array of divas beginning next month in a concert series that includes three of Broadway's favorite ladies: Jodi (Crazy for You) Benson, Judy (Chess) Kuhn and Susan (Triumph of Love) Egan. Backed by the Disney Grammy College Orchestra, the concerts are free to anyone who happens to be in the Disney park at that time (entrance to Disney World is approximately $44). Benson is scheduled to perform on July 11 and 12, Judy Kuhn on July 25 and 26 and Susan Egan on August 1 and 2. The mini-concerts will take place four times a day: 4pm, 5:30pm, 6:45pm and 8pm. Call 407-824-2222 or 407 824-4321 for more information; times and singers are subject to change.

There will be a four-week season of "Divas at the Donmar "-- London's Donmar Warehouse, the theatre that first premiered the current incarnation of Cabaret. As previously mentioned, Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway will kick off the season from August 10-22. Following the sister act will be Barbara Cook from August 24 29, and Imelda Staunton and Her Big Band will finish the diva season from September 1-5.

The revival of As Thousands Cheer stars Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin, Paula Newsome, Mary Beth Peil, B. D. Wong and Kevin Chamberlin. Now in performance at the Greenwich House Theatre (27 Barrow Street, near 7th Avenue South), the musical revue is directed by Christopher (Jeffrey) Ashley. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling (212) 239-6200. FLORENCE LACEY
Florence Lacey will be returning to Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman, which will also star Lee Roy Reams and the Tony Award winning composer himself. The musical revue, which traces Herman's Broadway career, will begin performances at the Booth Theatre on July 15 with an official opening on July 28. Call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 for tickets.

LuPone will also perform in concert Aug. 28 and 29 at The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; call (562) 916-8500.

Karen Mason currently stars (through August 29) in the Sundance Institute's production of Gypsy on their outdoor Eccles Stage in Sundance, Utah. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Sundance Box Office at (801) 225-4100.

Tickets are available to The Misanthrope by calling 011-44-171 287-0464.

July 17 in San Francisco, CA at the Louise Davie Hall
Aug. 11 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Music Center
Sept. 11-12 in Nashville, TN at the Andrew Jackson Hall
Oct. 10 in Spring, TX at the Centrum
Oct. 16-17 in Atlanta, GA at the Rialto Theatre
Feb. 13, 1999 in Birmingham, AL (venue to come)
Feb. 20 in Toledo, OH (venue to come)
Apr. 9-10 in Kansas City, Kansas (venue to come)
Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs, CO (venue to come)

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

-- By Andrew Gans

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