It will be a busy weekend for Betty Buckley, who just returned from a week of concerts in California. Buckley will be the subject of an interview on this Sunday’s CBS morning show, “CBS Sunday Morning News with Charles Osgood” (9-10:30 AM). Interviewed during her run at the Cafe Carlyle, the feature will also include footage from Buckley’s run at the famed boite. Then, on Sunday night, Buckley will be a presenter at this year’s Drama Desk Awards, which will be broadcast on NY1 beginning at 9 PM. Buckley will present an award with fellow Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth.
Buckley a also received raves during her recent West Coast concert outings. One of my favorite reviews appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Writer Daryl H. Miller raved, “. . .In her current concert tour, [Buckley] turns tender and introspective, her voice rushing lightly over jazz arrangements by her musical director, Kenny Werner. Reducing the buzz in her ultra focused vibrato-heavy soprano to a near purr, she infuses song after song with a mixture of melancholy and unquenchable hope. The effect was quiet but irresistibly moving as she began a mini tour through Southern California . . . In ‘Sorry-Grateful,’ a ballad about love’s dualities, her voice filled with haunting yearning, while in ‘Anyone Can Whistle,’ a tune about trying to relax into life, she turned quietly beseeching. The real heartbreaker, though, was ‘Send in the Clowns,’ accompanied only by Werner on piano. To capture the mood of this song about a woman who opens herself to love only after it’s too late, Werner played jagged, shattered shards of harmony that kept trying to fit themselves back together. For her part, Buckley kept her voice focused deep at the back of her throat, creating a hollow sound like an empty place in her heart.”
I was thrilled that one of my very favorite gals received such rave reviews for her performance last weekend in the concert version of Sweeney Todd. I was lucky enough to attend the show’s final dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon, and La LuPone was in peak form, her voice easily scaling the heights of Stephen Sondheim’s demanding score. Her first number onstage, “The Worst Pies of London,” was a tour de force for the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress, and she scored vocally and dramatically in every moment onstage. She wrang out the humor in “The Worst Pies of London” and had nice moments with her co-stars, a fiery George Hearn (replacing an ailing Bryn Terfel) as Sweeney Todd and a surprisingly moving turn from former “Doogie Howser” and Rent star, Neil Patrick Harris, as Tobias. Davis Gaines (as Anthony) delivered a vocally beautiful and rich version of “Johanna,” and Audra McDonald, who once again demonstrated her stage prowess, also shone as The Beggar Woman, her voice soaring throughout the cavernous theatre.
I thought you’d enjoy reading a few more reviews of La LuPone: Theatre critic and writer Ken Mandelbaum enthused: “Not since she played Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes across Lincoln Center Plaza 13 years ago has Patti LuPone found such an ideal role. [Director Lonny] Price previously directed her in good concert mountings of Pal Joey (Encores!) and Annie Get Your Gun (Lincoln Center Theatre), but she surpassed her work in those. Effortlessly integrating the vulgar, comic, warm, and sinister sides of Lovett, LuPone sang almost all of the fiercely wide-ranging role in daring, easy chest belt. She looked sensational, and the role proved a perfect fit.” And, San Francisco theatre critic Octavio Roca had this to say: “Patti LuPone, in rambunctiously splendid form, sang the role of Mrs. Lovett for the first time in her career and not so much banished memories of Angela Lansbury as made one see myriad new possibilities in this music. Sexy, saucy and young, LuPone was insolently at ease in Sondheim's rhythmic surprises as well as in the moral ambivalence of this tale of murder, madness and meat pies. She was musically assured, resplendent, riveting.” Brava, Ms. LuPone. ELAINE PAIGE
Elaine Paige opened last Wednesday night in the West End revival of The King and I. It was a star-studded evening that saw the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Sam Mendes, Barbara Dickson and members of the Royal Family. While the show was greeted with a somewhat lukewarm reception, the critics had only positive things to say about my favorite Brit. Said Alastair Macaulay in the Financial Times, “she's a true star and a true professional; you can't take your eyes off her, the bloom still lies fresh on her voice, and the firm glow of her singing is all too rare in musicals today . . . her reprise of ‘Hello, Young Lovers’ and her introduction to ‘Shall We Dance’ may well be the most completely charming moments of her career.” And, Mark Shenton in What’s On Stage wrote, “As Mrs. Anna, Elaine Paige -- Britain's self-styled First Lady of British Musical Theatre -- proves once again why she deserves that billing.” Paige was also the subject of a recent Q&A in the London Times Magazine. What follows are a few excerpts from this tongue-in-cheek interview by Alan Jackson (By the way, Paige and cast will head into the recording studio this Sunday to recording their show’s cast album.):
Q I have to confess that, on hearing of your starring role in this new production, my first thought was How brave! Or will she just slip on a pink swimming cap and not actually shave her head?’
A (laughing) Ha! Well, whatever conclusions you or the rest of the population might jump to, I want to make it clear that I am NOT going to be appearing in drag.
Q Quite, for you're not the King, you're I -- Anna Leonowens, the character played by Deborah Kerr in the 1956 film version. How do you see her?
A As feisty, fiery and determined -- quite unusual for a woman of the 1860s. She was a proto-femininst, having severed all links with her homeland and struck out into the world with a young son. She found herself in Siam, where she had to integrate herself into a culture she had no knowledge of, and adapt to life in what was, basically, a harem.
Q Playing opposite you is Jason Scott Lee. Early days, I know, but is there to be a chemistry between you?
A Have I found chemistry in Kennington? Because that's where we're rehearsing. Maybe so. He's a charming man, with a great sense of humor. But then there's proving to be a lovely atmosphere altogether, right throughout the cast.
Q Physically, each role has its particular challenges. In Sunset Boulevard you had more stairs to climb than a postman in a tower block. What's the downside this time?
A Thanks to Sunset, I've got Norma's knee. So having constantly to bob and curtsy in high hells, corsets and crinolines is no joke. Not to mention having to dance in them -- and I speak as someone who's spent the entire day practicing the polka!
Q I can only imagine the ordeal that is an opening night. Were I or some far more solvent admirer to send a gift to smooth your passage through it, what would be most welcome? A magnum of champagne? Or could we get away with sending a Good Luck card showing a Scottie dog with a horseshoe in its mouth?
A Oh, I can't be doing with Scottie dogs -- I prefer Westies myself. Champagne is always welcome. But I'll tell you what i've got a real weakness for -- those Ferrero Rocher chocolates! Send round a 6 ft 4 in 24-year-old with a box of those and, ambassador, you really would be spoiling me!
Q While waiting for his arrival -- there's just enough time for you to scribble down the perfect newspaper review. What would it say about you?
A Gosh, I don't know! What about, "She polkas like a demon"?
Q Naturally, your triumphant, polka-perfect performance leads a movie producer in the audience to approach you about a re-make of that other Deborah Kerr movie classic, From Here To Eternity. Who do you insist upon as your latter-day Burt Lancaster?
A Well, Jude Law would be extremely nice. And if her turned up armed with the chocolates, so very much the better!
Decked out in her Annie Get Your Gun duds, the ever-youthful Bernadette Peters graces the Summer 2000 issue of Cowgirls & Indians Magazine. Peters is interviewed in what is the “fashion & style issue” of this magazine, which is available on newsstands or by calling 1 800-982-5370. The two-time Tony winner, who will remain in her award-winning role in Annie throughout the summer, spoke to writer Eric O’Keefe and is also featured in several full-page color photos by Andrew Eccles. Peters discussed her journey to becoming an actress, her role in the Irving Berlin musical and her comical introduction to her husband. There are also quotes from two of Peters’ good friends, actors Joel Grey and Mary Tyler Moore. Grey speaks with great love and admiration about his talented friend: “Bernadette never tries to fit herself into a mold that has to do with what’s in vogue or what other people are thinking. She’s original, and somehow she always had the ability to respect that inner self and it has added to her uniqueness.” And, Mary Tyler Moore described Peters’ wedding to Michael Wittenberg, which was held at Moore’s Duchess County farm: “They came down this beautiful hill from the house to the big old elm where all the guests were waiting. There were baskets of flowers hanging from the tree, and it was just great. Bernadette and Michael love each other dearly, and they’re very supportive of each other.”
IN OTHER NEWS On Tuesday, May 16 the New Dramatists will honor stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Lansbury, who has won four Tony Awards for her work in Mame, Dear World, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd, will be celebrated at this annual ceremony at the Marriott Marquis. Those expected to attend include Ms. Lansbury plus Bernadette Peters, Kathie Lee Gifford, Stephen Sondheim, Eartha Kitt, Walter Cronkite, Susan Lucci, Hal Prince, Bea Arthur, Dionne Warwick, Lauren Bacall, Olympia Dukakis, Lily Tomlin, Terrence McNally, Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Davis Gaines. There will be performances by Arthur, Mazzie and Mitchell, and tickets are priced at $175; call the New Dramatists at (212) 757 6960. . . . The multi-talented Alison Fraser is currently taking part in a Manhattan Theatre Club workshop production of a new revue by Glenn Slater and Stephen Weiner entitled Newyorkers. In the revue, Fraser has a “roach love duet” with the velvet-voiced Norm Lewis . . . Among the artists who will be part of the upcoming Bravo series, “Bravo Profiles: Inside the Creative Mind,” are such Broadway personalities as Liza Minnelli, Bebe Neuwirth and Julie Taymor . . . Sibling Revelry, the cabaret show by Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway, will be performed on Sunday, May 21 at 7 PM as a benefit for the Hudson Stage Company at the Irvington Town Hall Theater in Irvington, NY. Tickets are $50-$75 and may be purchased by calling (914) 591-6602. The box office is only open on Thursday (noon-2 PM) and Saturday (10 AM-noon) . . . VCR Alert: Audra McDonald stars in next Friday’s (May 19) episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” McDonald portrays a police psychologist in this gritty TV drama . . . Congratulations to all of this year’s Tony nominees. Next week, some thoughts and career highlights of all the Leading Actress in a Musical nominees -- Toni Collette, Heather Headley, Rebecca Luker, Marin Mazzie and Audra McDonald -- plus those in the Featured Actress in a Musical category: Laura Benanti, Ann Hampton Callaway, Eartha Kitt, Deborah Yates and Karen Ziemba.
May 13 Benefit for the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre in Boston, MA (617) 266-0800
June 30 & July 1 John Drew Theatre (Guild Hall) in East Hampton, NY
July 24 Martin Theatre (Ravinia Festival) in Highland Park, IL
August 21-September 3 Donmar Warehouse in London, UK
September 16 Stranahan Theatre in Toledo, OH
October 6-7 Scottsdale Center for the Arts Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ
October 28 Univ. of Texas Cowan Fine & Perf. Arts Center in Tyler, TX
I recently received a few new concert dates for theatre/cabaret legend Barbara Cook, which follow:
June 13 at the Playhouse Theatre, Hotel Dupont in Wilmington, Del. (302) 656-4401
September 14 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (619) 748-0505
September 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House (in concert with David Campbell) in Sydney, Australia 011-61-2-9250-7777
September 28-October 1 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA (714) 556-2787 LINDA EDER
Eder in concert:
May 20 at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, IL (312) 977-1700
July 8 with Michael Feinstein & The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA; (404) 733-4801
July 14 with Feinstein at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA; (206) 628-0888
July 15 with Feinstein at Schnitzer Hall in Portland, OR; (503) 274 6564
July 16 with Feinstein at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA; (415) 551-2000
August 5 at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA
August 6 with Feinstein at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ; (732) 335-0400
August 8 with Feinstein at the Mann Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (215) 336-2000
August 9 with Feinstein at the Wolf Trap Filene Center in Vienna, VA; (703) 218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566
August 19 at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY (631) 324-4050
August 25 with Feinstein at The Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL; go to www.ravinia.org
August 26 Boys & Girls Club Fundraiser at The River Center w/ Michael Feinstein in Minneapolis, MN
September 26 at the Jones Hall w/Houston Symphony in Houston, TX; call (713) 224-7575
November 4 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334-0800
November 17 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ; call (732) 246-SHOW
November 18 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA; call (610) 252-3132
Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
May 12 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ; (732) 499-0441
May 13 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stonybrook, NY; (516) 632 ARTS
June 8-11 at Theatrefest/Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, NJ; (973) 655-5112
Now through May 14 Davenport’s Cabaret in Chicago; call 773-278 1830
May 26-27 Mason opens the Cabaret series at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
June 1-4 Theatre concert at the new Metropolis Theatre in Arlington Heights, IL; call (847) 577-2121
June 5 Opening night of the San Francisco Cabaret Convention
June 7 The Plush Room in San Francisco; call 415-885-2800
Sept. 5 - Oct. 14 Arci’s Place, 450 Park Avenue, New York, NY; call (212) 532-4370.
Scheduled concert dates for McDonald follow:
May 12 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Boston, MA
May 14 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!
-- By Andrew Gans