McGovern's real theme is far from a disaster

October 19, 1990|By Peter Krask | Peter Krask,Special to The Evening Sun

For Maureen McGovern, there was a morning after. The self-described disaster movie theme queen, whose biggest hit was 1970's "There's Got To Be A Morning After" from "The Poseidon Adventure", is steadily forging a new career as a jazz vocalist, at home in a cabaret or on the Broadway stage.

She appears tonight and tomorrow with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a program showcasing her diverse talents. "I'm not sure yet what I will be singing," she said in a phone interview, "but it will include the movie hits, some Cole Porter, some jazz, light classical, and, of course, some Gershwin."

It is with the music of Gershwin that she is carving out the career she wanted. "I'm really grateful for the movie songs I did, but they had nothing to do with what was at the heart of me. They were trying to fit me in with what was current when I was actually a singing actress."

Getting out of the Top 40 lists and onto the stage proved that her instincts were correct. McGovern replaced Linda Ronstadt as Mabel in the Broadway production of "The Pirates of Penzance" and won enthusiastic reviews from the New York critics. Frank Rich wrote in the New York Times, "McGovern is a real find for the musical theatre. She has a knockout voice. She's a winning comedian too." She went on to appear in "Nine," "South Pacific," "Guys and Dolls" and, most recently, "The Three Penny Opera" opposite the rock star Sting.

"Moving to New York and exploring theater opened up many doors for me," she says. Part of her "Pirates" contract provided weekly vocal coaching with Marge Livingston, voice teacher to RTC

actresses such as Meryl Streep and Bette Middler. McGovern says that she initially resisted the lessons. "I had taught myself how to sing, thank you very much, and I didn't want anyone tampering with my style. Marge helped me discover that I was a coloratura soprano with this flexible high range."

This discovery furthered the scope of her musical activities. Not only has McGovern recorded two Gershwin musicals, "Of Thee I Sing" and "Let 'Em Eat Cake," she has also recorded Faure's "Pavane" and Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" with the Philharmonia Virtuosi. Plans include an album of art songs by American composers Copland, Bernstein and Rorem.

Whatever material she chooses to sing, McGovern's approach remains the same. She describes singing as an autobiographical adventure. "Each song really matters to me. I look at it as a one-act play. There has to be some change in the character or a transformation for it to work."

"I'm having a great time. It's so much fun to be able to do a one- woman show, or work with a jazz trio, or a 70-piece orchestra. Through the past decade I've concentrated on building a legacy that I can be proud of."

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