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MARMEE DEAREST

Broadway’s Maureen McGovern to perform at Brooklyn Center for one night only

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She’s an accomplished singer and actress. She’s recorded gold records and received numerous accolades. She’s performed in prestigious venues all over the world, so it’s only fitting that coloratura diva Maureen McGovern will make her next concert appearance at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, as part of its 50th anniversary season, on Jan. 29.

This Saturday’s engagement, part of the center’s "Celebrities Series," is a coup for the borough because McGovern is currently starring as Marmee in "Little Women: The Musical," which opened on Broadway Sunday. While normally expected to perform eight shows a week at the Virginia Theatre, she’s been allowed a night off for her Brooklyn gig.

"This show [at Brooklyn Center] had been booked a long time ago and I sing the praises of the [’Little Women’] producers to the hilt for letting me fulfill that obligation," McGovern told GO Brooklyn in a phone interview Monday. The Grammy-nominated singer’s cabaret-style show at Brooklyn Center will be a tribute to composer Richard Rodgers.

"It’s an early Valentine’s Day show," said McGovern, promising an "elegant evening."

"I’m concentrating on music he wrote with Larry Hart and Oscar Hammerstein. As a singer and an actor, I believe he’s one of the strongest voices of the musical theater. He wrote the most glorious music ever written."

Rodgers (1902-1979) is probably best known for his musical collaborations with Hammerstein - "Oklahoma!" "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music."

"I did a show for his centennial a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with his work all over again," said McGovern, who recorded the Rodgers songbook album, "With a Song in My Heart" with Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops. "I was astonished by the vast amount of things he wrote and had to whittle them down to 100 of my favorite songs. He wrote the wry, witty sophisticated things with Hart and the wide-open Americana things with Hammerstein. He’s one of the greatest melody writers that our country as ever known, and I’m just scratching the surface with this show."

McGovern will be performing at Brooklyn Center with pianist Jeff Harris, her musical director.

"He has an amazing orchestra with his 10 fingers," she said.

Her director for "Little Women" is Susan Schulman, and the new production was a reunion of sorts between the artist and the director who made her theater debut possible.

"Susan directed me in my one week of summer stock in Pittsburgh as Maria in ’The Sound of Music,’ and three weeks later I replaced Linda Ronstadt in ’Pirates of Penzance’ and there I was off and running," recalled McGovern. She made her Broadway debut in 1981 as Mabel from "Penzance," has starred in the original production of "Nine" and opposite Sting in a version of "The Threepenny Opera." McGovern has recorded more than 25 albums, but is perhaps best known for the Academy Award-winning theme song from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Morning After." (She even played the nun, Sister Angelina, in the 1980 comedy "Airplane!")

"Susan and I always talked about doing a project together on Broadway and I’m very honored and so proud to be a part of [’Little Women’]," said McGovern. "I call it a three hanky musical. But it’s also joyous and funny and ultimately hopeful and life-affirming."

In "Little Women," she plays Marmee, the wise and loving mother of the four March sisters who are struggling to get by while their father is away as a Union Army chaplain in the Civil War. McGovern’s performance of "Here Alone," when Marmee pines for her husband, and "Days of Plenty," when she sings through the loss of her daughter, are two heartbreaking moments in the musical. In "Days of Plenty," in particular, some in the audience can be heard sniffling back tears.

McGovern said she was moved when a little girl in the audience, who had lost her brother, was helped by the message of "Days of Plenty."

"I believe so strongly in the power of music to aid in the healing process - both physical and mental," said McGovern. "It’s a masterful song about going on in honor of the person you lost. I lost my father this past summer, and you can imagine me in the beginning of rehearsals - I was a waterfall. But that’s the power of this song. What do we learn from this? I go on in honor of him with everything I do and with every breath I take."

"Little Women," based on the 19th-century novel by Louisa May Alcott, centers on the daughter Jo (played by Sutton Foster, Tony Award-winner for "Thoroughly Modern Millie"), an aspiring writer who longs to break free from Victorian society’s constraints. In her research for "Little Women," McGovern said she visited Orchard House, Alcott’s Concord, Mass. home.

"I could see Sutton as Jo bounding down the stairs," recalled McGovern. "I do believe Louisa May Alcott had her in mind in 1868. She’s the embodiment of that colt-like, kinetic energy with a million ideas. She’s imaginative and stubborn and strong and caring and loving - all of these strong attributes. Wonderful characteristics that are very much Sutton."

McGovern said Alcott’s story is still relevant for contemporary audiences.

"As Marmee I’m a woman raising my four daughters on my own with my husband away at war, and now there are men and women raising their children with a parent away at war," said McGovern. "It’s a timeless story in that regard. Louisa May Alcott has written the quintessential family story. You see a bit of yourself up there on stage. I look at these kids that play my daughters and see my nieces when they were young. I miss those little girls who also used to put on shows just as Jo did."

McGovern, 55, is originally from Ohio and is now based in Los Angeles. While in "Little Women," she is temporarily based in Manhattan and grateful for the change of scenery.

"I’m a New Yorker at heart," confessed McGovern. "In L.A. they talk about who they know, and in New York they talk about ideas. L.A. is always onto the next thing, but New York has a reverence for all the things that have come before us."


Maureen McGovern will perform at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College on Jan. 29 at 8 pm. Tickets are $50. The performance takes place at the Walt Whitman Theatre on the Brooklyn College campus, one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues in Flatbush. For more information, call (718) 951-4500.

"Little Women: The Musical" is now on stage at the Virginia Theatre (245 West 52nd St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan). Tickets are $60-$100. Performances are Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200. For more information, visit www.littlewomenonbroadway.com.

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