The Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with Bill Kenwright are presenting a new stage production of The Exorcist, adapted by John Pielmeier from the novel by William Peter Blatty. The prod...
Broadway Babes - The Women of Broadway
As I've previously argued, this past Broadway season has in my eyes been extremely exciting. Not only has it thrown up a number of original and progressive new musicals, but it has also given us a handful of stunning revivals and iconic productions that have made the West End season look shameful in comparison.
With my next Broadway trip on the horizon, I decided to look at the Broadway Babes that I'm most excited to see across a whole number of shows both on and off-Broadway, and I think you'll agree - it's quite the collection.
Warning: The post includes gushing.
1. Chita Rivera - The Visit.
The Grand Dame of Broadway, and a true icon of musical theatre, Ms Rivera has returned to familiar territory in an original Kander and Ebb musical in what has to be her most fierce role to date. I first became obsessed with Chita from the original cast recording of 'Chicago', and of course classic musicals such as 'West Side Story' and 'Bye Bye Birdie'. Since then "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer" has been my go-to karaoke song in the karaoke bar in my mind that features tracks from slightly obscure musicals. Despite an extensive career, her most iconic moment has to be when she FINALLY won her first Tony Award for 'The Rink' back in 1984, after four years of being nominated (which she has now been an incredible 10 times). 1984 saw her beat off comeptition from Bernadette Peters and her on-stage daughter Liza, who as you can see from the clip couldn't be happier for her. By all accounts her portrayal of Claire Zachanassian is one of the highlights of the season, and whilst Donna is waiting patiently in the wings, I can only hope I get the chance to see Chita live once and for all.
I first fell in love with Ms Kuhn's voice at the tender age of seven, when I realised the only thing that I had liked about Disney's 'Pocahontas' was the music, and more specifically her incredible rendition of "Colours of The Wind". I came across her in a musical theatre environment through the Broadway cast album of 'Chess', where her rendition of "Someone Else's Story" became a saving grace of an otherwise messy show. Her career highlights read like a dream, and her Betty Schafer on the Glenn Close version of 'Sunset Boulevard' (I'm sorry saint Patti for I have sinned) held its own. I'm literally quivering with excitement to see her in 'Fun Home', for which I hope she brings home the Tony, but until then I can treat myself to her gorgeous new album, 'Rodgers, Rodgers and Guettel' which is available from all good retailers and I recommend you do yourselves a favour and listen to immediately.
Dame Carolee can literally do NO wrong in my book. I confess - I listen to the 'Scandalous' album at least once a week just to get my fill of this vocal powerhouse. Whilst 'Finding Neverland' isn't such a star vehicle for this hugely talented performer, I'm already excited for her to take Broadway by storm once again in 'Tuck Everlasting' next season (TBC). Her version of "The Road Ends Here" from 'John & Jen' is one of the greatest gifts to musical theatre ever, and you haven't lived until you've heard her moving portrayal of Lucille Frank in Jason Robert Brown's 'Parade'. Elton John's ill fated musical 'Lestat' showed once again how she can belt anything and sound amazing and don't get me started on her performance in 'Urinetown'...Carolee - it's a "Priv-i-ledge" to listen to you.
There isn't a show queen on earth who hasn't kvelled over Ms Chenoweth at some time or another. From the dizziying heights of Galinda in 'Wicked' to the small scale humour of Sally Brown in 'You're a Good Man Charlie Brown' (the role for which she won the Tony), my new philosophy has always been to catch her in whatever show she happens to be livening up. I last saw her on Broadway in the fairly flat revival of 'Promises, Promises' in a role that did little to show off her imitable comedic skills. Thankfully the role of Lilly Garland in 'On The Twentieth Century' is one that Cheno was born to play, and the role is the perfect match for this incredible performer. Her famous coloratura is in finest form in this iconic rendition of Bernstein's 'Glitter and Be Gay', which may be my favourite role she has previously nailed:
Personally I don't think you've experienced Patti LuPone properly until you've attempted to eat a steak whilst she's singing a foot away from you, and you're too scared to move your fork up to your mouth. Since catching her Mamma Rose back in 2008, I have since enjoyed her live in concerts ever since, but I've never seen her in a straight play...until now! First and foremost a Julliard trained actress, Ms LuPone is nothing short of an inspiration - mostly when I've had a drink and attempt to match her by singing along to "He supports you, for he loves you..." from the OBCR of 'Evita'. My all time favourite diva? I'll drink to that. Here she is stopping the show mid Rose's Turn - a clip that has become more iconic than the role itself. Imagine the feeling of being yelled at my Ms Lupone and forced to leave the theatre. That would be awesome.
I have loved Ms Pace since seeing her in the original cast of 'The Woman in White' at the Palace Theatre which she played opposite Maria Friedman. As one of the only people who managed to stay awake, and actually enjoy the floptastic 2008 marathon which was 'Gone With The Wind' at the New London Theatre, I have since had her haunting rendition of the title song stuck in my head (someone get me a bootleg, STAT!). My favourite role of hers hands down is her performance as Grazia in Maury Yeston's 'Death Takes a Holiday' which she did at the Roundabout - and needs to transfer to London, like, yesterday. I can't wait to see her in Christopher Wheeldon's 'An American in Paris' in a slightly different role, and I'm also giving her bonus points for having been apart of the hot mess that is 'Rebecca the Musical'. If you can live through that - you deserve a Tony for endurance.
The first time I saw the beautiful Ms Boggess was when she was gliding around the stage in roller skates with a shell bra and fish tale. Since being one of the only redeeming features in Disney's atrocious effort to bring 'The Little Mermaid' to the stage (the other being a shirtless Norm Lewis...), she came to London to originate the role of Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to 'Phantom of the Opera', 'Paint Never Dries', or as it's more commonly known, 'Love Never Dies'. Her crystal clear bell tone and stunning stage presence make her a popular choice with audiences, and I can't wait to watch her career build. I just hope 'It Shoulda Been You' holds on for another few weeks...Here she is ringing in 'The Lusty Month of May' at the BBC Proms, managing to out Julie-Andrews Julie Andrews!
Is there a more beautiful voice on Broadway than that of Ms O'Hara? She is utterly radiant in every show she appears and has the ability to make each dud of a leading man she's lumbered with (and she's had many) come up smelling of roses. She's graduated from the ingénue roles and has matured like a fine wine into pure Broadway royalty. She handles accents well, whether she's from Italy, Wales or Little Rock ARK, she is always spot on. I could literally listen to her sing a takeout menu, and I pray to the gods of musical theatre that she takes home the Tony this year for 'The King and I'. To convince you further, I call to evidence exhibit a) her performance in last year's flop 'The Bridges of Madison County'. I dare you to tell me you don't get major feels:
Speaking of stunning vocals, remember when there was a show that combined Kelli O'Hara AND Victoria Clark? Yup - the true 'golden age' of Broadway. Ms Clark is by all reports holding 'Gigi' together over at the Neil Simon with her stunning soprano and charm of a veteran Broadway performer. She was last seen on Broadway performing actual stage magic as the Fairy Godmother in R&H's 'Cinderella', and recently starred as Carrie Mathison's mother in 'Homeland' - you couldn't get more diverse. Here she is on her Tony Award winning evening, sporting an overly large microphone where you wonder for a second if 'The Light in the Piazza' is going in a 'Spring Awakening' direction:
Who is your favourite Broadway Babe? Let us know!