DIVA TALK: It’s Diva Time! | Playbill

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Hope you caught the Betty Buckley documentary that aired on BRAVO this past Monday night. It was a real treat to see Buckley in action at the Bottom Line and to hear excerpts from her first demo tape, including a gloriously sung version of Bye, Bye Birdie’s “One Boy.” In last week’s column, I included several reviews of Buckley’s performance in the recent Hartford Stage production of Camino Real. I received one more glowing notice -- from Alvin Klein’s New York Times review - that I thought you would enjoy reading:

“. . .If Ms. Buckley’s courtesan represents faded glamour, be advised, in fashion and in sensuality, go for faded. A risk-taking actress who thrives on depth, mystery and adventure, Ms. Buckley gives a defining performance of a poignant ‘lady of the camellias’ whose classiness is too dangerous for a mundane world.

"Don’t think that every Marguerite speaks stylish English with a flawless French accent throughout. And yes, she sings too, in recitative, in disillusioned moments of reverie, with a half smile that can break hearts, for it manifests yet conceals distrust, the defense against betrayal. ‘I have outlived the tenderness of my heart,’ she says.

Even if Ms. Buckley didn’t sing, you wouldn’t be shortchanged. Since she does, however sparingly but aptly, it is unthinkable to miss the new performance in the ever-expanding repertory of a major actress who bestows truth upon such otherwise overused appellations as diva and, yes, legend.” And, of course, Buckley will perform in concert tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 6, at 8 PM at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Tickets range in price from $22 to $45 and may be purchased by calling (732) 246 7469 or by visiting the State Theatre box office at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick.


An early holiday treat awaits diva fans in the form of a new Christmas CD from that cabaret (and Broadway) darling Karen Mason. Recorded live at The Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Cafe in Dec. 1998, Mason’s latest recording is an eclectic mix of show tunes, holiday favorites and even pop tunes from Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Joni Mitchell and others. In a cabaret performance, Mason reminds you of that slightly zany neighbor, who instead of bringing over some baked goods and good cheer, offers songs that reflect her life and musical tastes. And, thankfully, this live recording (from Zevely Records) captures her endearing qualities. Highlights include the upbeat, opening medley of Jerry Herman’s “We Need a Little Christmas” and “It’s Today” with a sprinkling of Bacharach and David’s “What the World Needs Now”; a wistful reflection of lost love in Joni Mitchell’s “River”; plus a generous dose of Christmas tunes, familiar (“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”) and obscure (a hilarious list of presents to avoid in Brian Lasser and Barry Kleinbort’s “Not This Christmas”), that Mason brings to life with her inimitable style. A sweet pairing of “My Favorite Things” with Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” is another standout track. The disc concludes with a heartfelt take on the Hugh Martin/Ralph Blaine standard, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” A merry Christmas, indeed.

The disc also includes several photos of Mason as well as a heartfelt note from the performer, who discusses her late musical director, Brian Lasser. In the liner notes, Mason writes, “Christmas has always been a time of heightened emotion for me: the joy of being with family; the sadness over lost loved ones; the excitement about giving (and getting!) presents. What better time to do a show? So Brian Lasser and I started doing a Christmas show in Chicago almost 20 years ago. When we moved to New York, the tradition continued: our Annual Christmas show, performed at various cabarets around town (usually owned by Erv Rabile!). For all those years, people anticipated listening to the same “Lasserized” Christmas songs. After Brian died in 1992, I put the Christmas show to rest. I knew that if I wanted to do the Christmas show again, there would have to be changes. Six years passed. I was now ready to face the challenge, so I asked my friends Barry Kleinbort and Christopher Denny to help me make this a new ‘tradition.’ I am blessed to know such gifted and fine artists. We worked everyday for two weeks (and may I say, two very joyful, funny, and cookie-enhanced weeks!); Barry and Chris had some amazing ideas for new arrangements; Chris did his magic on the old arrangements; and Barry helped me be unafraid of the new direction for the show. Whew!! On the suggestion of my agent and friend, Jim Wilhelm, we performed the show at the new Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Cafe for three Sundays in December, 1998. . .”

“Karen Mason: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” is available at major music outlets, by visiting www.karenmason.com or by sending a check or money order for $21 (which includes shipping and handling) to Zevely Records, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 382, New York, NY 10011.


How exciting to receive the official press release in the mail this past Wednesday for Liza Minnelli’s eagerly-awaited Broadway return! As you may already know, Minnelli will perform at Broadway’s Palace Theatre from Dec. 1 through Jan. 2 in Minnelli on Minnelli at the Palace. The 24-performance run will pay tribute to Liza’s late father, Vincente Minnelli, one of the American cinema’s most-honored directors.

The evening will feature direction by Fred Ebb, choreography by John DeLuca, musical arrangements by Marvin Hamlisch, musical and vocal arrangements by Billy Stritch and dance arrangements by David Krane and Peter Howard. Bob Mackie will supply costumes with scenic design by John Arnone and lighting by Howard Binkley. This limited engagement also boasts a male ensemble that includes Jeff Broadhurst, Stephen Campanella, Billy Hartung, Sebastian LaCause, Jim Newman and Alec Timerman.

Tickets are priced between $35 and $125 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 as well as in person at the Palace Theatre box office (Broadway at 47th Street, beginning Nov. 15). Minnelli on Minnelli promises to be an exceptional evening of song and dance.


Some of Broadway’s finest, including Betty Buckley, Kristen Chenoweth, Malcolm Gets, Adam Guettel, Alix Korey, Audra McDonald, Donna McKechnie, Billy Porter and Emily Skinner, will be on hand this Monday, Nov. 8, to raise money for The Mark Yarbrough M.D. Performing Arts Fund at The Door. Those stellar Broadway actors will perform at the Union Square Theatre (100 East 17th Street) at 8 PM to benefit this “non-profit support center for New York City youth in need of counseling, education and other vital social services.” As of today, Chenoweth is scheduled to perform “Glitter and Be Gay,” while Skinner will sing “I Don’t Know How to Love,” and Alix Korey will perform her showstopper from the upcoming production of Wild Party. Malcolm Gets will sing William Finn’s Heart and Music, and Donna McKechnie will offer a medley of songs she has sung on Broadway, including “Turkey Lurkey Time.” Tickets are priced at $25 and $50 and may be purchased by calling TicketMaster at (212) 307-4100.


If you’re looking for a gift for that diva lover on your holiday list, you might want to check out Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ 1999-2000 catalog. CDs from several of this column’s favorite gals are available, either unsigned ($20) or signed ($35). The titles in the catalog include “Audra McDonald: Way Back to Paradise,” “Barbara Cook: Oscar Winners/ The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II,” “Andrea McArdle on Broadway,” “Linda Eder: It’s Time,” “Weslia Whitfield: Teach Me Tonight,” “Marcia Lewis: Nowadays,” “Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley: Duets,” “Maureen McGovern: The Pleasure of His Company,” “Karen Mason: Better Days” and my personal favorite Christmas CD, “Nancy LaMott: Just in Time for Christmas.” Bernadette Peters’ “Live at Carnegie Hall” disc is also available: $25 unsigned and $40 signed. And, four discs from Betty Buckley are also included in this year’s catalog: “Betty Buckley: 15 Year Anniversary Release” of her live concert at St. Bart’s Cathedral ($20 unsigned; $35 signed); “Heart to Heart,” Buckley’s upcoming new release on KO Records ($20 unsigned, $35 signed); “An Evening at Carnegie Hall” ($25 unsigned, $40 signed); and “Much More” ($20 unsigned, $35 signed). Call (212) 840-0770 ext. 250 for more information.


Kathie Lee Gifford, who will play (the Carol Burnett role) most Tuesday evening performances of Putting It Together [quote from upcoming December Playbill article by Harry Haun]:
“There’s only one Carol Burnett in the world, sadly. I wish there were many more, but there aren’t. She’s an American treasure, and nobody can do the kind of comedy she can. She has a more slapstick approach to this character than I do, and she’s just brilliant with it.”

A review of Amanda McBroom’s recent concert in Australia [quote from Jim Murphy in The Age]:
“Combining the talents of acting, singing and songwriting, Amanda McBroom's Melbourne Festival show is well constructed and carefully balanced. She has an elegant, even regal, presence on stage and a marvelous command of stillness, which she puts to great effect when singing about dreams or heartaches. But the paramount impression is of a funny, outgoing performer who loves being on stage, relishes contact with her audience and is not above slinking atop the grand piano or bouncing around when the occasion demands . . .[her voice] has lovely warmth and sensuousness in the lower register and she sure knows how to put across a lyric.”

Audra McDonald discusses her role in this Sunday’s presentation of “Annie” on ABC-TV [quote from Michael Logan’s In Theater article]:
: “I had to fight, fight, fight within myself to keep from slipping into the typical way of playing [Grace Farrell], which is just bland and sweet and efficient. So I played that I’m-head-over-heels-in-love-with-Warbucks undercurrent very heavily. Grace is not exactly manipulative, but she does get Annie out of the orphanage to improve Warbucks’ image. When she sees that Annie is really starting to soften him up, she think, ‘Hey, maybe he’ll notice me.’ And she gets what she wants.”

IN OTHER NEWS Due to scheduling conflicts Patti LuPone must cancel her Nov. 8 performance at the Tower Records near Lincoln Center. Our Evita gal, however, will reschedule her appearance shortly. Stay tuned . . . At the upcoming Actors’ Fund tribute to Cameron Mackintosh on Monday, Nov. 15, Annie Get Your Gun’s Bernadette Peters will also be honored. The two-time Tony winner will be presented with The Fund’s Artistic Achievement Medal. The evening will be held at the New York Hilton (1335 Avenue of the Americas) and will feature performances from Peters, Michael Crawford, Carol Burnett, George Hearn, John Barrowman, Ruthie Henshall, Bronson Pinchot, Lea Salonga, Hugh Panaro, Stephen Buntrock and the entire cast of Les Miz. Call The Actors’ Fund for details at (212) 221-7300 . . . One of the best voices around belongs to Broadway’s Judy Kuhn, and fans can see the star of Les Miz and Chess in action at Joe’s Pub on Mondays, Nov. 8, 15 and 22. Kuhn will join Elizabeth Ward, Kerry O’Malley, Mike Eldred and Gilles Chiasson for an evening devoted to the work of Mike Reid, the former football player turned country and, now, show music composer. Reid’s musical, The Ballad of Little Jo, which he co-wrote with Sarah Schlesinger will premiere at Steppenwolf next season. For now, though, you can hear his work at The Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub. Call (212) 539-8777 for more information and the box office at (212) 260-2400 for tickets . . . A reunion of cast members from Your Arms too Short to Box with God and Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope -- including Micki Grant, Charlayne Woodard and Brenda Braxton -- is just one of the highlights from the upcoming “Twenty-one for the 21st” benefit co-chaired by Gwen Verdon (the evening’s hostess), Joy Abbott and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Nov. 8 event, which will benefit the educational programs of the SDC Foundation, a non-profit service organization, will honor 21 directors and choreographers who have greatly impacted the American theatre. All 15 prior “Mr. Abbott” Award honorees will be feted as well as the six recipients of the special Millennium “Mr. Abbott” Award: Vinnette Carroll, Zelda Fichandler, Peter Gennaro, Gillian Lynne, Marshall W. Mason and Andrei Serban. The evening (at the Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th Street) will also include a musical performance of one of Peter Gennaro's numbers re-created by Liza Gennaro; a scene from Book of Days, Lanford Wilson's new play with Dee Hoty; and some of Gillian Lynne's choreography from her Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical. Other stars scheduled to appear include Bryan Batt, Judith Ivey, Marcia Lewis, Andrea McArdle, Lee Roy Reams, Cicely Tyson and more. Tickets are available at $75, $250 and $500 (the latter two include a post-show reception with honorees and performers); call (212) 302-5359 for details and reservations . . . From all accounts, Liz Callaway gave a stellar performance with the Nashville Symphony on Oct. 29 and 30. Callaway sang the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber, including such favorites as “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” “Memory,” “Whistle Down the Wind,” “You Must Love Me” and that Sunset Boulevard classic, “With One Look.” How about a Lloyd Webber CD for Callaway’s next venture? . . . And, finally, Betty Buckley fans can share their love for this multi-talented lady in the new Betty Chat Group on Playbill On Line Chat. The chat begins at 8 PM central on Sunday nights in the user created rooms.


BETTY BUCKLEY Betty Buckley and Ben Vereen will be the guest singers for an upcoming NBC ice-skating program on Nov. 28 (from 4-6 PM). The two Tony winners will take part in the “StarSkates on Broadway” program, which will be a broadcast of an event taped on Nov. 20.

A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer:
Nov. 6: State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
Nov. 12: Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
Nov. 14: Music Hall in Cincinnati, OH
Dec. 13-14: St. Barth’s Church in New York, NY
Dec. 17: City Center in Coral Springs, FL
Dec. 18: Atlantic University Aud. in Boca Raton, FL
Dec. 31: Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
Feb. 5, 2000: Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
Feb. 6: Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
Feb. 8-9: Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
Feb. 11: Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
Feb. 12 : Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
March 18: Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19: Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24: Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26: Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4: Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6: Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7: Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8: Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

And, “Bravo Profiles: Betty Buckley,” an insightful documentary that includes an interview with the Tony Award-winning actress as well as footage from Buckley’s recent sold-out Bottom Line concert will air on Bravo Nov. 1 at 10 PM.


Here is Cook’s upcoming concert schedule:
Nov. 19: Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; call (617) 482-2595 or (617) 482 3208
Nov. 22: The Plaza Hotel in New York, NY (gala dinner honoring Cook, Paul Taylor and Will Barnet with the 1999 Kitty Carlisle-Hart Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement)
Dec. 1: Carnegie Hall in New York, NY (All-Star cast for The Noel Coward Centennial Gala); call (212) 980-3026 or (212) 247-7800
Dec. 31: The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA; call (215) 893-1956 or (215) 893-1999
Jan. 27-30: Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA (with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony); call (412) 392-4900


The multi-talented actress will make her solo Carnegie Hall debut on Nov. 19. The GMHC benefit will feature an all-new act created for this special evening by LuPone and director Scott Wittman. Call the Carnegie Hall box office at (212) 247-7800. Tickets for the concert only range from $35 $75. Higher-priced tickets, some of which include a post-party reception with the star, can be obtained by calling (212) 367-1514. Be sure to book your seats early for what promises to be a thrilling evening! . . .Tickets are also now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim’s 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500 . . .


One of cabaret’s leading ladies, Andrea Marcovicci, will return to the Algonquin’s Oak Room on Nov. 16 for her twelfth straight season, playing there through Friday, Dec. 24. Performances of “Our Songs. . .1965-1985” are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 9 PM, with dinner arrival at 7 PM (dinner is required at the 9 PM show). There is a $15 minimum and $45 cover charge. For her late show -- 11 PM Friday and Saturday evenings -- Marcovicci will perform songs of the 40’s, a return to the world of music that this popular cabaret artist loves, including such nostalgic tunes as “We’ll Meet Again,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “As Times Goes By.” Musical director Shelly Markham will join Marcovicci for both shows. For reservations, call the Algonquin (59 West 44th Street) at (212) 840 6800.


Mason recently opened a new cabaret, ARCI’s Place, at 450 Park Avenue South. Mason, where she will perform throughout the month. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 9 PM, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8:30 and 11 PM. There is a $25 cover charge and a $15 minimum; for reservations, call (212) 532-4370.


A host of Maureen McGovern appearances were recently announced for the multi-octave singer. The list follows:
Nov. 8: Coffee Club Orchestra 10th Anniversary Bash at City Center in New York, NY
Nov. 19: "Great American Songbook " at the Marsee Auditorium in El Camino, CA
Nov. 26, 27, 28: with the Baltimore Symphony at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD
Dec. 1: "Tree of Life & Festival of Lights" in Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 17 - 18: "Holiday Pops” at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, OH
Dec. 30 - 31: "New Year's Eve Millennium Gala" with the Detroit Symphony at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI


What follows are some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
Nov. 5: at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa
Jan. 21 and 22, 2000: with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah


The two-time Tony winner currently stars as the gun-toting Annie Oakley in the acclaimed revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre.


“Always: Celebrating 100 Years of American Song” is up next in this series and features such theatrical luminaries as Patti LuPone, Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin, Alton White, cabaret’s Mary Cleere Haran and Susanah McCorkle and more. This program is set for Dec. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m., also at Alice Tully Hall. Other titles in the series include “Who Wrote That Song,” on March 23, 24 and 25 (cast to be announced) at the Kaplan Penthouse and “Round About: Dawn Upshaw,” which features the gifted soprano singing the songs of Vernon Duke, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gershwin, Sondheim and more. Upshaw will perform on May 17, 19 and 20 at 8:30 PM. at the John Jay College Auditorium . . . Call (212) 721-6500 for tickets.

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

-- by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at [email protected]

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