DIVA TALK: Welcome Them — These Beautiful Girls!

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Welcome Them — These Beautiful Girls!
Arci’s Place and r/j productions will present an extraordinary event for diva lovers at Arci’s Place (450 Park Avenue South) in N.Y.C. to celebrate the 2001 Tony Awards. Beginning May 29, 15 Tony nominees and/or Tony winners will perform at Arci’s, one of New York’s newest cabaret rooms. First up is the Tony-winning star of A Chorus Line, Donna McKechnie, who will take to the intimate stage of Arci’s on May 29 at 8:30 PM. The complete list of divas follows:
Jenny Powers stars in Everything's Ducky.
Jenny Powers stars in Everything's Ducky. Photo by Photo by Michael Brosilow

Arci’s Place and r/j productions will present an extraordinary event for diva lovers at Arci’s Place (450 Park Avenue South) in N.Y.C. to celebrate the 2001 Tony Awards. Beginning May 29, 15 Tony nominees and/or Tony winners will perform at Arci’s, one of New York’s newest cabaret rooms. First up is the Tony-winning star of A Chorus Line, Donna McKechnie, who will take to the intimate stage of Arci’s on May 29 at 8:30 PM. The complete list of divas follows:

Tuesday, May 29 Donna McKechnie (8:30 PM)
Wednesday, May 30 Priscilla Lopez (8:30 PM)
Thursday, May 31 Tovah Feldshuh (8:30 PM)
Friday, June 1 & Saturday, June 2 “Sibling Revelry” with Ann Hampton Callaway & Liz Callaway (8:30 & 11:30 PM)
Tuesday, June 5 Pamela Myers (8:30 PM)
Wednesday, June 6 Alison Fraser & Keith Hermann (8:30 PM)
Thursday, June 7 Lillias White (8:30 PM)
Thursday, June 7 Sally Mayes (11 PM)
Friday, June 8 Sharon McNight (8:30 PM)
Friday, June 8 Tsidii Le Loka (11 PM)
Saturday, June 9 Debbie Gravitte (8:30 PM)
Saturday, June 9 Tsidii Le Loka (11 PM)

The two-week diva extravaganza will conclude with a Tony party on Sunday, June 3 where theatre fans can celebrate and watch the Tony Awards with host Jim Caruso. Featuring musical director Barry Levitt and surprise guests and entertainers, the $100 cover includes a prix fixe dinner and large TV screens everywhere! . . . As a reader of Playbill On-line and “Diva Talk,” the producers of this two-week event are offering an exclusive priority reservation hotline. The exclusive reservation period begins today and continues through May 1, prior to a general announcement. Reservations for the cabaret shows ($30 cover; $15 minimum, which may be applied to dinner) can be made by calling Arci’s Place at (212) 532-4370 (use the code RJPBOL).

It’s true that neither Blythe Danner nor Judith Ivey will win opera scholarships in the near future, but there is a lot to like, and even parts to love, in this 30th anniversary production of Follies. Both Danner and Ivey act their roles beautifully. Danner is glamorous, sophisticated, regal, a block of ice, but one ready to melt at any moment. And, Ivey is neurotic, naive, a mass of insecurities ready to implode. If their singing isn’t of the exciting Broadway-belt variety, it is less problematic than I had expected. Parts of Ivey’s voice are quite pretty, especially when she sings in her head voice, and Danner’s voice has an indescribable fluidity that I found appealing. In fact, Danner handles both her solos with flair: Her “Could I Leave You?” is filled with just the right combination of irony and bite, and she adds a great deal of comedy to her tongue-twisting Loveland song, “The Story of Lucy and Jessie.” Ivey, too, manages to pull off “Losing My Mind,” even if she doesn’t banish the sounds of star singers like Barbara Cook or Julia McKenzie. I was more bothered by the performances of Treat Williams and Gregory Harrison, who not only sang at a mediocre level but acted at that same level, too. But this show, for me, is more about the two women and how they face returning to the site of their former glory, addressing lives that have not turned out as they once had hoped. And, in this regard, the show succeeds splendidly.
Of the other performances, the standouts are clearly Carol Woods, whose pipes are as powerful as ever, and Polly Bergen, whose “I’m Still Here” is perhaps the highlight of the evening. It’s a thrillingly sung and acted performance, one that is so riveting that you don’t notice the stage empty of its inhabitants during the song. Bergen begins the Sondheim anthem singing “Good times and bum times . . .” to the other Follies guests, but by the end of the song, she’s standing alone, centerstage, belting out “Lord knows at least I was there, and I’m heeeeere, look who’s heeeeere, I’m still heeeere.” It’s one of those rare, exciting spine-chilling moments.

If this isn’t the perfect Follies -- and there may not be such a thing -- it is certainly one worth your visit. The magnificent score is a joy to hear even without first-rate singers (how can you resist “In Buddy’s Eyes,” “Too Many Mornings,” “Who’s That Woman,” “Broadway Baby,” “Losing My Mind,” et al?) And, every time the ghosts of Ben, Buddy, Sally and Phyllis appear, it’s lump-in-the-throat time. You’d have to have a heart of Ben Stone not to be moved, even just slightly, by this classic musical.

Last week, I received the latest copy of the Elaine Paige fan newsletter, “Elaine’s Paige’s,” which includes a brief Q&A with the former star of Evita, Cats and Sunset Boulevard. Paige, who is currently in a hit revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, will depart that show tomorrow, Saturday, April 21, and Josie Lawrence will take over the role of Anna. What follows are a few excerpts from the “EP Interview.”

about her time in The King and I and her “special moment” in the show:
“It’s been a very different experience to be able to sing Rodgers & Hammerstein as opposed to the more modern music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, ABBA, etc. Mrs. Anna is a rather proper woman of principle, somewhat prim yet feisty and a woman who ‘can teach us a lot.’ We’ve had a great cast, with several Kings, and we’ve had a lot of fun backstage. The one thing I’m going to remember for a long time is those crinolines. My special moment in the show is the 15 minutes during the ballet when I get a chance to have a cup of tea backstage!”

about heading back to the studio:
“I have recorded part of my next album already and am constantly doing research. I am planning to do some more recording once I have finished my contract in The King and I and I can’t wait to get back into the studio, because it’s a less pressured experience than the theatre. It takes time, it’s measured detailed work, like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. It will be a nice change. Variety is the spice of life, don’t they say!”

about performing in the U.S.:
“I have been invited to perform with the Utah Symphony again at the celebrations for the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It’s going to be an exciting occasion and I shall be performing two concerts in Salt Lake. I shall also perform in California though the dates are to be confirmed with further concerts in the States next year, so I’ll keep you posted.”

the first thing EP will do when leaving the show:
“Shout ‘Hallelujah’ and have a stiff vodka & tonic or two that evening, take a holiday and begin to get my life back!!”

Bells Are Ringing’s Faith Prince discusses comparisons to other performers in a Daily News article by Joe Dziemianowicz:
“I've never felt that I'm competing with anyone. I'm not Judy Holliday [the original star of Bells Are Ringing]. I'm not Barbara Harris. I'm not Lucille Ball. I'm not Carol Burnett. But somehow I understand those women and do what they do in my way. I've made this analogy before: I'm just in my own lane. I'm aware that there are other cars in the lane, but I'm just worried about getting to the finish line.”

Mamma Mia!’s Louise Pitre discusses her hit show in Hugh Hart’s L.A. Times interview:
“Let's face it: You do a lot of shows over the years, some are great, some are not so great, some are pretty well awful. Oftentimes you're doing a show you think is really good and they're not coming to see it, or they don't seem to get it, or, just because it's a depressing story doesn't mean you can't be thrilled about it. But this show? I've been in this business for 20 years and I have never had a reaction like this so consistently. This is not a life-changing experience, folks, it ain't Shakespeare, and nobody's saying it is. It's a dumb-grin kind of show. It goes like a train, this thing. It just builds and builds and builds and then gives them that sort of extra bang for your buck, I guess, and that shoots it through the ceiling, and they all have those grins on their faces and they're all clapping and yelling at us. I just can't get over that. The old ones in the cast keep telling the young ones in the cast, 'Enjoy this, enjoy this, you have no idea -- you should be reveling in this because you know [laughs] it's all downhill from here!’”

IN OTHER NEWS Great news for the legions of Betty Buckley fans! The inimitable singing actress will return to New York’s Bottom Line on July 27 and 28. Be sure to get your tickets early, as they always sell out quickly. Also, Ms. B starts shooting her guest appearances on HBO’s “Oz” this Monday. The former Cats and Sunset Boulevard star will appear in seven of the eight new episodes of this gritty prison drama. . . . And, speaking of Tony-winning talents, Bernadette Peters will take part in “Broadway Barks III” on July 14 in Shubert Alley. Peters will be joined by her long-time friend and animal advocate Mary Tyler Moore . . . This Life: The Songs of Portia Nelson, the 2001 Bistro Award-winning Outstanding Musical Revue, will return Thursdays, May 3, 10, 17 and 24 at 9 PM to the FireBird Cafe, 365 W. 46th St., in New York. It will star the original cast of former Evita Terri Klausner and cabaret’s Deborah Tranelli and Tom Andersen. This Life is a tribute to Nelson, who passed away at age 80 on March 6, only one day after this show was honored at the Bistros. Among those who sang Portia's songs were Marilyn Horne, Nancy LaMott, Ann Hampton Callaway and Michael Feinstein. Nelson's last public appearance in a cabaret was Oct. 11, when she caught This Life at Don't Tell Mama. Andersen says, ''Portia was so many things: a great singer, writer, actress and human being. I'm so honored I got to perform her incredible songs before her.'' There is a $30 cover charge; reservations may be made by calling (212) 586-0244 . . . Congratulations to this year’s Outer Critics Circle Award nominees in the Outstanding Actress in a Musical category: Christine Ebersole in 42nd Street, Randy Graff in A Class Act, Faith Prince in Bells Are Ringing and Marla Schaffel in Jane Eyre. Nominees in the Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical include Kathleen Freeman in The Full Monty, Cady Huffman in The Producers, Kate Levering in 42nd Street and Mary Testa in 42nd Street. The winners will be announced on Monday, April 30, and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 24 at Sardi’s . . . Faith Prince will be a special guest at A Conversation with Comden and Green, which will be held at The Dramatists Guild (1501 Broadway, #710) on Tuesday, May 15 at 5:30 PM. There is a $5 admission charge for members and a $10 admission charge for non-members; call (212) 398-9366, ext. 11 for reservations. . . A slew of new Linda Eder concert dates have just come in: July 7 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion at the Woodlands in Houston, TX, (713) 629-3700; Sept. 15 at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre at West Point, (845) 938-4159; Oct. 19 and 20 at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, go to www.atlantasymphony.org; Nov. 3 at the Youngstown Symphony Center in Youngstown, OH, (330) 744-4269; and Nov. 16 and 17 at Jacobs Symphony Hall in Jacksonville, FL, (877) 662-6731 . . . Barbara Cook’s recent, sold out Carnegie Hall concert will be released on DRG Records on May 8. Entitled “Barbara Cook Sings Mostly Sondheim,” the two-CD set includes such tunes as “Everybody Says Don’t,” “Happiness,” “Loving You,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Not a Day Goes By,” “Losing My Mind,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Anyone Can Whistle” plus duets with Malcolm Gets on “Not While I’m Around” and “Move On.” . . . On this Sunday's "Everything Old Is New Again" (9-11 PM on 99.5 FM or www.2600.com/wbai), the radio program will present, in its entirety and without interruption, the legendary recording of "Judy [Garland] at Carnegie Hall."

Following is Buckley’s most recent, ever-growing concert schedule:
May 12 College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
May 24 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, MA
June 17 at the Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA
August 25 at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH
October 6 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
November 24 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ (with Michael Feinstein)
December 6 at Abravenal Hall with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, UT (Xmas program)

April 21 in Palm Desert, CA
July 9 at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL

Eder in concert:
April 29 at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA (978-232 7200)

May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392 4900

The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:

May 11 at the Fox Theatre in Stockton, CA (“Matters of the Heart”)
May 26 with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra at Brown University (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
May 31 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. With the National Symphony (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
July 7 at the Performing Arts Center in Westhampton Beach, NY (“Matters of the Heart”)
August 3-4 at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Los Angeles, CA (Gershwin salute)
September 15 at the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia (“Matters of the Heart”)
September 20-23 at Bass Hall with the Ft. Worth Symphony in Ft. Worth, Texas (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
November 10 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts (“Matters of the Heart”)
February 9, 2002 at the Tilles Center with the Long Island Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 22-23, 2002 at the Kleinhaus Hall in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)

What follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
May 9-20 at Davenports cabaret in Chicago, IL

The two-time Tony winner, who recently concluded her run in Annie Get Your Gun, is now on a U.S. concert tour:
June 8-9 in Minneapolis, MN
June 23 in Johnston, PA

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

By Andrew Gans

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