DIVA TALK: News, Reviews & More | Playbill

Diva Talk DIVA TALK: News, Reviews & More
On April 5, friends and colleagues of Laurie Beechman will gather at the West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street to honor the late star of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats. The evening's proceeds will benefit the Laurie Beechman Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music. The scholarship award is given annually to a graduating senior.

On April 5, friends and colleagues of Laurie Beechman will gather at the West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street to honor the late star of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats. The evening's proceeds will benefit the Laurie Beechman Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music. The scholarship award is given annually to a graduating senior.

The event, which is being produced by Beechman's longtime friend and agent, Jim Wilhelm, will be staged by Richard Jay-Alexander, another friend who also coordinated her memorial service. As of press time, those performers scheduled to entertain include Faith Prince, Donna Murphy, Sam Harris, Karen Mason, Loni Ackerman, Mary Testa, Ron Raines, Catherine Hickland and Andrea McArdle. Comedian Lewis Black will host the evening, which will feature musical direction by Larry Yurman. Tax-deductible tickets are priced at $250, and the evening includes cocktails (at 6:30 PM), the performance and dinner after the show. Reservations may be made by calling the West Bank Cafe at (212) 695-6909.

After Liz Callaway leaves the Broadway production of Cats on March 21 (Linda Balgord will be the new Grizabella, a role she played on Bway this past summer), you can find her performing at a host of different venues. On March 20 she is slated to join the plethora of performers who will salute Frank Loesser at Symphony Space (see the Reminders section below). On May 2, Liz will join her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, for a reprise of their critically-acclaimed cabaret act, "Sibling Revelry" in Norwalk, Connecticut, a fundraiser for the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra. The original Broadway cast recording of Baby, for which Liz Callaway received a Tony nomination, will be re-released on JAY Records in the fall, and a Boston Pops special that she recorded a few months ago will air next Christmas.

Hope you caught Patti LuPone on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" this past week, where our Evita gal chatted about her new movie, "The 24 Hour Woman," and sang "I Will," a tune from her latest one-woman show, Matters of the Heart. La LuPone revealed that she will be part of this summer's Divas at the Donmar series at London's Donmar Warehouse. The theatre, which will feature LuPone in August, has been the home of critically-acclaimed productions of Cabaret, Company and, most recently, Into the Woods, as well as cabaret acts from Barbara Cook and other leading ladies of the theatre. LuPone, who is part of the new Anne Klein promotional campaign "Significant Women," will also record her new act soon.

It looks like the eagerly-awaited recording of Annie Get Your Gun will be released on the Broadway Angel label on April 20. It should be a wonderful recording, featuring Bernadette Peters' glorious renditions of "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," "I Got Lost in His Arms," "Anything You Can Do," "Old-Fashioned Wedding" and more. I had the pleasure of seeing the show for the first time in New York on Tuesday night, and Peters was even more wonderful than she was in Washington. Peters really oozes comedy, finding exactly the right way to phrase every line, and her facial expressions are priceless. Watch the way her eyes contort as she sings, "I can hold any note longer than you. Yes IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII caaaaan!" It's also interesting to note that on certain nights the encore of "Old-Fashioned Wedding" is included, depending on the audience's response. When I saw the show on Tuesday, the encore wasn't included, but on two separate nights that were attended by friends, they were treated to the song's encore. . . A few more reviews that I thought you would enjoy have come in for BP's performance as Annie Oakley. Some excerpts from these reviews follow:

Richard Zoglin in Time Magazine:
". . .the production that opened on Broadway last week -- with Peters returning to the stage for the first time since The Goodbye Girl in 1993--takes a new bead on the familiar old target and hits the bull's-eye with ease. . . the most revivifying part of the show is Peters, who gives the brassy Merman role an adorable new twist. At the start she lays on the backwoods accent so thick you have to laugh, yet when she pines and pouts for Frank, she gives the character a funny, foot-stamping girlishness. . ."

Jess Cagle in Entertainment Weekly:
". . .The most vibrant musical talent on display is that of Bernadette Peters, starring as this pistol-packin' Annie Oakley in director Graciela Daniele's immensely enjoyable update of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, the show with an indestructible score . . . Peters softens the edges of Annie, a hillbilly heroine who's plucked from obscurity, becomes the toast of Europe as the star of a Wild West show, and (natur'lly) learns to love. Without tarnishing Annie's brass, Peters humanizes her, which is a purt-near miraculous feat; even as she belts out 'You Can't Get a Man With a Gun,' you can hear the creak of growing pains. (It's one of the most fully realized musical-comedy performances you're likely to see.)"

Clive Barnes in the "Sunday Theatre View" of New York Post:
". . .the score is still something beyond wonderful, and, as expected, Bernadette Peters, after some initial hesitancy -- what accent is that? -- pulls off the leading role with a panache they could patent, and perhaps will. . . But what is left -- and believe me it's enough -- remains Berlin's greatest achievement in the theater, and this score, together with the jet-propelled boosts the show gets from Peters and Wopat, should carry it happily into the next century and a bit beyond. It will always be a musical for the ages, one of the Broadway theatre's enduring triumphs."

Charles Isherwood in Variety:
". . .when she is singing, hold on to your ten-gallon hats. The accent is wisely abandoned, the constraints of an unconvincingly written character melt away, and an artist with a deep understanding of the homespun beauties of Berlin's music stands before us, pouring into each song more honest emotion and theatrical intelligence than there is to be found in the entirety of the flat-footed book. Although Berlin tailored his tunes to Merman's own style, you'd never guess it from Peters' intensely felt, personalized interpretations, lushly arranged to suit her singular voice by John McDaniel. When Peters is ardently vocalizing at center stage -- serving up Berlin classics including 'Moonshine Lullaby,' 'They Say It's Wonderful' and 'Lost in His Arms' --the show moves magically into the sublime realm of musical theatre at its most entrancing. . ."

Kristin Chenoweth in Jesse McKinley's article in The New York Times:
"You know what I really like to read? Books about disaster. I love shows like 'Rescue 911.' My dream in life is to be in a 7-Eleven and to see someone I saw the night before on 'America's Most Wanted.' I want to find a fugitive. . ."

Liz Smith in New York Post:
"Spellbinding! That's what Elaine Paige, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, among many others, are in the PBS broadcast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 50th birthday bash . . .I have to admit, when [Lloyd Webber's] good, he's very, very good, and here, he is also charming. You might just mist up a little when you hear Miss Paige sing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Memory." Elaine's powerful voice gets better and better. . ."

IN OTHER NEWS The Tony-winning Lea Salonga will remain in the Broadway company of Miss Saigon at least through the month of May and possibly through the Tonys as well . . . A Tony nominee for Company, Pamela Myers was the original "Another Hundred People" gal, and Myers can be seen live this month at Eighty-Eight's in the West Village. Myers, who will perform her Company number ("in the original key," says the actress/singer) as well as a host of other Broadway tunes, was recently seen in New York at the 1998 Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Convention. Myers will be singing at Eighty-Eight's on March 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14, and there is a $20 music charge and a two-drink minimum. Call Eighty-Eights (228 W. 10th Street) at (212) 924-0088 for reservations.

BB will begin her first major stand at the Cafe Carlyle, the cabaret room in the Carlyle Hotel, this Tuesday evening, March 16. The two-week engagement concludes on Saturday, March 27; call (212) 570-7189 for reservations.
BB concert line-up:
April 17 at the Lehman Center for the Perf. Arts in Bronx, NY
April 23 at the College of New Jersey in Erwing, NJ
May 3 at the Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, Ill.

Linda Eder's eagerly awaited debut TV concert will begin airing on PBS this month. To help promote the program, which is simply titled Linda Eder in Concert, the statuesque diva with the superior vocals will host the program live at PBS stations throughout the country (see listing below). Check local PBS listings for time.
Boston: March 14
Philadelphia: March 15
Maryland: March 16
North Carolina: March 17
New York: March 18
Los Angeles: March 19
Miami: March 20

LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.

March 12 brings a concert performance at Tilles Hall at Long Island University; for reservations to that evening call (516) 299-3100. From March 20 until March 23 the songstress will perform on a Broadway cruise to the Caribbean, and March 24 brings Mason back to Davenports Cabaret in Chicago, where she will reside through April 11; call Davenports at (773) 278-1830. One final date: Mason will perform at the Bradstan Inn in White Lake New York on June 20.

Peters, who is currently starring on Broadway in the revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, will appear on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" on Tuesday, March 23 on ABC. She will join the ladies of "The View" (ABC) sometime in April. Stay tuned for that air date.

A host of Broadway and cabaret's finest will be on hand on Saturday, March 20 to salute the work of the late composer Frank Loesser. Loesser, who created such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The Most Happy Fella, Where's Charley? and Greenwillow, also contributed songs to such films as "Hans Christian Andersen," "Destry Rides Again," "Thank Your Lucky Stars" and "Neptune's Daughter." Highlights of the event promise to be the cast of Broadway's Titanic singing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" plus performances from Loesser's wife and daughter, Jo Sullivan Loesser and Emily Loesser.

Others scheduled to perform at the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street), include Liz Callaway, Betty Comden, Debbie Gravitte, Josie de Guzman, Mary Cleere Haran, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Melba Joyce, Linda Lavin, Rebecca Luker, Michele Lee, Rita Moreno, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marilyn Sokol, KT Sullivan and Margaret Whiting, as well as Matthew Broderick, Adolph Green, Joe Grifasi, Jonathan Hadary, Richard Muenz, James Naughton, Lee Roy Reams, Steve Ross, John Rubinstein, Don Stephenson, Billy Stritch and more. Admission is free to the event, and Loesser fans are invited to stay as long as they wish or for the entire 12-hour extravaganza. For those of you unable to make it to the hall, the concert will be broadcast live on WNYC-AM 820 from 6 PM to 11 PM. For more information, call (212) 864 1414 ext. 403 or visit the Symphony Space website at http://www.symphonyspace.org.

The 13th annual MAC Awards, the Oscars of the New York cabaret scene, will honor Barbara Cook and her musical director, Wally Harper, with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, April 5 at 7:30 PM at Town Hall. Betty Buckley, another MAC Award winner, will perform as well. And, Liza Minnelli, who will receive the MAC Board of Directors Award, is expected to perform with Billy Stritch. Tickets range from $20-$100 and are available at the Town Hall box office and through TicketMaster. For more information about MAC, call (212) 465-2662.

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

by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com

Diva Talk is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard, 1976- 1998.

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