DIVA TALK: The Best of 2012

By Andrew Gans
21 Dec 2012

Carolee Carmello in Scandalous.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello, the vocal powerhouse who was Tony-nominated for her performances in Parade and Lestat, was back on Broadway earlier this season in Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, the new musical by bookwriter and librettist Kathie Lee Gifford and composers David Friedman and David Pomeranz. This tale of sex, drugs, religion, celebrity, music and romance cast the stellar singing actress — who boasts one of the great belts in the American musical theatre, a rich, soaring tone with a seemingly endless range — as evangelist McPherson, who was internationally known in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Carmello, whose Broadway resume also includes performances in Falsettos, Urinetown, 1776, City of Angels, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mamma Mia! and Sister Act, among others, played Aimee from her youth to her premature death from drugs in 1944 at age 53, and she did so without one false move.

Patti LuPone
photo by Ethan Hill

For years, I've bemoaned the fact that I missed Patti LuPone's record-breaking run at the long-closed Manhattan cabaret Les Mouches. Yet, that feeling disappeared after I saw her spellbinding performance at the city's newest nightspot, 54 Below, for the two-time Tony winner couldn't have been any more thrilling 30 years ago than she was this past June. That someone I've admired since I was 11 can still manage to surprise and impress is quite exceptional. LuPone's act, entitled Far Away Places, was brilliantly structured, and the actress, also in top form in the short-lived The Anarchist, was in total command in every facet: vocally, comedically and dramatically. She's returning to the new room New Year's Eve—don't miss her! (LuPone will also be part of Playbill's third Broadway on the High Seas cruise, which sets sail Aug. 4, 2013, from Stockholm, Sweden.)