DIVA TALK: Peters on Stage, Screen and Radio, Stritch on Bway, Remembering LaMott

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Peters on Stage, Screen and Radio, Stritch on Bway, Remembering LaMott
It certainly seems that everything's coming up roses for our Song & Dance gal. It was recently announced that the two-time, Tony Award-winning actress will star in a revival of Gypsy to be directed by acclaimed Cabaret director Sam Mendes for a Broadway production beginning in January 2003. Peters' new solo recording, "Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein," has already garnered rave reviews and hits stores on March 12. And, earlier this week it was revealed that the former Into the Woods star has landed a role in a new Michael Douglas movie, "Smack in the Kisser," which will be directed by Fred ("A Cry in the Dark") Schepisi.

It certainly seems that everything's coming up roses for our Song & Dance gal. It was recently announced that the two-time, Tony Award-winning actress will star in a revival of Gypsy to be directed by acclaimed Cabaret director Sam Mendes for a Broadway production beginning in January 2003. Peters' new solo recording, "Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein," has already garnered rave reviews and hits stores on March 12. And, earlier this week it was revealed that the former Into the Woods star has landed a role in a new Michael Douglas movie, "Smack in the Kisser," which will be directed by Fred ("A Cry in the Dark") Schepisi.

Peters will star as Douglas' wife, a psychologist and mother of their two sons. I had a chance to chat with the multi-talented actress-singer by phone from her new home in Florida, and she's very excited about her upcoming work opposite three generations of Douglases (Michael's dad, Kirk Douglas, also appears in the film, as does Michael's son Cameron). "I'm going to come right home on Friday and start it," the ever-youthful Peters explained. "Fred Schepisi is the director. I had lunch with him, and he said, 'Michael and I thought it would be wonderful for you to do this role in this movie.'"

Peters will be a guest on "Live with Regis & Kelly" on March 13, where she'll sing a song from her new R&H disc. The syndicated talk show airs in the New York area 9-10 AM. Check local listings for the time and channel in your area. Peters will also make an in-store appearance 6 PM March 15 at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, where she will autograph copies of her newest Angel Records release. And, that morning at 11:30 AM, she will guest on Joan Hamburg's radio program on WOR-AM.

Peters' newest recording celebrates the work of the legendary songwriting duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Peters wraps her creamy, emotion-filled tones around such classic tunes as "Something Wonderful," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Some Enchanted Evening" and the Carousel anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone."

Coming next week: Playbill On-Line's Brief Encounter Q&A is with Bernadette Peters. Look for it on the front page of PBOL beginning March 12. She discusses her new recording, her upcoming film and the much-anticipated production of Gypsy! ELAINE STRITCH
If Elaine Stritch doesn't win a Tony Award this year, there is no justice! The only question may be, "Which Tony?" Best Actress in a Musical? Best Actress in a Play? Best Musical? Best Play? You could reasonably argue for any of them. Perhaps Best of the Season will have to do. . .

As everyone knows by now, the 76-year-old actress is currently giving the performance of her career as Elaine Stritch in Elaine Stritch At Liberty, the two-and-a-half-hour journey that recently transferred to Broadway after an acclaimed run at the Public Theater Off-Broadway. And, it's a show for all adults — hardcore fans, those who may only be mildly acquainted with the actress' work and even those unfortunate souls who have no knowledge of Stritch's eclectic career. By the end of the evening, however, you will be completely under the spell of one of the theatre's most unique performers.

It's hard to choose highlights from the show, which encompasses stories and songs from Stritch's varied career, but my favorite moment was her recollection of the time she was understudying Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam while appearing in an out-of-town tryout of Pal Joey. Stritch relives the frenzied experience onstage, and by the time she jokingly asks, "And you wonder why I drank?," you will be completely seduced by her charms.

If you've been debating about catching Stritch's tour de force, don't miss out. This is a show everyone will be talking about years after it ends. And, it's a rare chance to see a true Broadway legend in action.

A friend and loyal diva fan recently passed on to me a lengthy interview that Rusty Kransky conducted with the late, great Nancy LaMott just a few weeks before the golden-voiced singer succumbed to cancer in 1995. For those of you who have never heard LaMott sing, I urge you to do anything you can to try get some of her recordings. At this point, they are unfortunately out of print, but I do see them pop up on eBay from time to time. LaMott possessed one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard, and her interpretations of songs both new and old were usually flawless and always completely heartfelt. I thought you would enjoy reading a few quotes from Kransky's interview with LaMott:

About her favorite performance:
"Definitely a benefit at the L.A. Music Center, for the Bergmans. Oh, there was a big orchestra. And the songs I sang — by the Bergmans, and by Michel LeGrand. It was just so exciting, knowing them — the Bergmans— and being up there on that stage with so many incredible people. Melissa Manchester, James Ingram, Rosemary Clooney . . . And they cheered after I sang!"

About what music she listened to:
"This is an odd thing to say. I don't sit around and listen to that much music, and when I do, it's instrumental. But I listen to Tony Bennett, I listen to Rosemary Clooney, I listen to Michael Feinstein. I listen to Weslia Whitfield a lot! I listen to . . . Oh, golly! Yo-Yo Ma (or Yo' Mama!). The Bach Cello Suites are really wonderful, you know — great music. Mostly I listen to the radio...I listen to WQEW."

About songs that she wanted to record that she hadn’t:
"Actually I'm starting to work on Rodgers and Hart's 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was.' [Nancy dedicated this song to her then-fiancé Pete Zapp, in her last show at Tavern on the Green, in November, as well as on WQEW's third anniversary broadcast in December.] I really love that song. There's just a bunch of things I think about. I've been thinking about singing 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.' It’s so interesting to me because it's about this person who had total faith in her lover and he turned out to be a real schmuck. And she's trying to save face, and at the same time trying to admit that he was, you know, he was fooling around on her. So, I mean, the idea of the line 'Smoke gets in your eyes' is very interesting to me, because it's about making an excuse for tears. Also a smokescreen, and being loved. And it's a beautiful melody."

About her coaching cabaret performers and what makes a cabaret show work:
"Everybody underestimates what it is. There are a lot of Broadway people who think that doing cabaret is a snap, and it's not. This is why we have so many bad cabaret performers, because they think that it's just easy to do it. It's not easy to just do it. It really requires a strong personality and a very strong point of view about everything that you're doing. About every lyric, about everything that you're saying. It's a very delicate genre that only takes place in small rooms. Once you get into a room that has more than a couple hundred people in it, then you’re talking about concerts, and you're not talking about cabaret anymore. It's almost like it's a different kind of theatre that takes place in a very small space. Because of the intimacy of it, the give and take in a good cabaret act is not like little tin soldiers coming out of their box and doing their thing and going back in. A really good cabaret depends on that particular audience being there at that particular time. And connecting with them, and looking them in the face, which is very difficult for a lot of people to do. It’s about having the fourth wall there — putting it in actors' terms — of the respect of the fact that I am the show, you are the audience. That whole fourth wall, but also breaking down the wall and being able to look at somebody. It requires a great deal of courage, I think, and you play to the back of the room. You don't play like it's to 2,000 seats. But mostly it's about a strong point of view about whatever it is you do. And I don't care what it is you’re singing, but people have to know who you are by the time they leave. At least have a sense of who the artist is. If you go see a cabaret act and somebody leaves the stage and you don't know who they are by the time they get off, then guess what? They didn't do their job. So, that's how I feel about it."

About where she wanted to be in 10 years:
"Oh...I don't care, as long as I'm happy. As long as I can still do whatever work I want to do. I don't know where anything is going to take me...this is just a ride. I don’t have projected, you know, 'By this date I should be doing this.' I want to be able to do what I want to do. With good people. I want to be happy in my personal life. I could just be some old married lady who is nice to all the kids on the block, I don't know."

Nancy LaMott's six solo CDs from Midder Music are "Beautiful Baby," "Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer," "My Foolish Heart," "Just in Time for Christmas," "Listen to My Heart" and the posthumously-released "What's Good About Goodbye?" She also appeared on "I'll Be Here With You: The Songs of David Friedman," Bill Wright's "Always Love," the "Jeffrey" soundtrack, the original cast recording of The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and Portia Nelson's "This Life."

Tony winner Lillias White, whose wonderful Dreamgirls recording has just hit record stores, will perform an extended engagement at Feinstein's at the Regency this spring. The huge voiced star will belt her heart out April 2 20 at the cabaret space located at 540 Park Avenue. Call (212) 339-4095 for reservations . . . Another Tony-winning diva will take to the small stage of Arci's Place (450 Park Avenue South at 30th Street) beginning March 20. Following in the footsteps of Christine Ebersole and Donna McKechnie, Melba Moore will perform at the colorful boîte March 20-30. Her new show, Once More with Love, will feature standards from George Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Cole Porter as well as a medley from Hair . . . Although she offered fine work in the Richard Chamberlain revival of My Fair Lady, it wasn't until she starred in the City Center Encores! production of One Touch of Venus that audiences and critics became aware of the many talents of Melissa Errico. In June, Errico will star as Dot in the Kennedy Center presentation of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. Before that eagerly-awaited production, however, the former High Society star will delight crowds with a two-and-a-half-week gig at the Café Carlyle. The stunning singer-actress will make the plush cabaret her home March 26-April 13 where she will perform an evening of New Standards, which includes both new and old standards from composers as disparate as Cole Porter and Randy Newman. Sondheim fans will also get the chance to preview her renditions of songs from her upcoming Sunday role as well as tunes from her soon-to-be released debut album on Capitol Records. Accompanied by pianist Lee Musiker, Errico will play 8:45 PM Tuesday Saturdays, with late shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10:45 PM. There is a $75 cover charge and no minimum; call (212) 570-7189 for reservations. . . Okay, so he's not a diva, but John Barrowman has worked with two of the theatre's leading ladies, Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige. I caught Barrowman’s final cabaret performance at Arci's Place this past weekend, and the former Joe Gillis related a Sunset Boulevard story I thought you would enjoy. When Paige was asked to succeed Buckley in the London production of Sunset, it seems the diminutive diva called Barrowman for a quick chat. The exchange went something like this: "Hello, John, It's Ellie. Andrew has asked me to take over for Betty in Sunset. I told him I wouldn't do it without you. So, happy negotiating.” Barrowman then gleefully revealed that it turned out to be a very lucrative deal for him and proceeded to sing two songs from the musical, a portion of "With One Look," which segued into the musical's title tune. Barrowman also spoke about his upcoming role as Bobby in the Kennedy Center production of Company before singing powerful renditions of both "Marry Me a Little" and the show's anthem, "Being Alive." . . . Speaking of Elaine Paige, I thought Paige fans would be interested in the award winning actress' concert repertoire from her recent performance in Salt Lake City, UT. Several attendees wrote me about the thrilling evening, which included Paige's sensational versions of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," "Another Suitcase in Another Hall," "I Know Him So Well," "They Say It's Wonderful"/ "I Got Lost in His Arms," "It's Better with a Band," "As Time Goes By," "I Gaze in Your Eyes," "How Long Has This Been Going On?," "With Every Breath I Take," "From a Distance," "Memory," "Cry Me a River," "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" and "If You Love Me." . . . And, finally, Patti LuPone's recent Carnegie Hall concert was an electrifying evening according to dozens of diva worshippers. I wasn't able to attend the Coulda Woulda Shoulda evening this year, but I was at the concert's premiere last year at Carnegie Hall, which was also a wonderful night of song. Last week's concert included a few new tunes, Sondheim's "Losing My Mind," "The Miller's Son" plus a surprise duet with Audra McDonald on "Get Happy"/"Happy Days Are Here Again." Unfortunately, the evening was not recorded live, but hopefully La LuPone will get her fine self into a recording studio and preserve this remarkable act!


Betty Buckley in Concert:
March 15 & 16, 2002 with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC
March 30 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA

Barbara Cook in Concert:
April 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (Mostly Sondheim)
April 9 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY (June Lebell series: The Sound Of Broadway)
April 12-13 Marilyn Horne and Barbara Cook at the Wharton Center at Michigan State University in MI
April 18-28 at the Mohegan Sun in CT
May 14 Cook receives the New Dramatists’ Lifetime Achievement Award at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in New York, NY
May 19-20 with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
June 5-9 and June 12-16 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
June 23-Aug. 26 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, NY (Mostly Sondheim)
July 5 at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts in Long Island
August 14-18 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
Oct. 11 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Oct. 19 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA
Nov. 17 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ

Maureen McGovern in Concert:
March 21-22 at Scullers Jazz Club Boston, MA
March 23 Wall to Wall Richard Rodgers at Symphony Space, New York
March 24 Airmen of Note Guest Artist Series - DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC
April 30-May 6 & May 8-May 13 Cinegrill Grand Re-Opening, Los Angeles, CA
May 17-18 "Works of Heart" Seminar - New York, NY
June 22 "Music by the Lake," Lake Geneva, WI
June 29-Aug. 17 Dear World at Sundance Theater, Sundance, UT
July 4 at the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts at the Venetian Theater, Katonah, NY
Sept. 1-2 MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon, Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 20-22 Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI
Sept 26-29 North Carolina Symphony, Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, NC
Oct. 30-Nov. 3 American Music Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta, GA
Nov. 19-Dec. 1 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, CA
Dec. 6 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA
Dec. 8 at Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
Dec. 9 Laurie Strauss Leukemia Benefit, Carnegie Hall in New York City
Dec. 12-14 at Orange County Performing Arts Center Founders Hall in Costa Mesa, CA

Bernadette Peters in Concert:
April 5-6 at the Orange County Perf. Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
April 13 at the Providence Perf. Arts Center in Providence, RI
April 20 at Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis, MO
April 26 at the Hilbert Circle in Indianapolis, IN
May 18 at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Morton H. Meyerson Hall in Dallas, TX

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

By Andrew Gans

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