Featuring Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host
Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 19 to 23, 2013
Part concert, part on-stage interview, part masterclass, this sassy fun-packed week of shows will enrapture theatre aficionados. Those less familiar with Ms LuPone's work won't be short changed either as she delivers a dozen or so numbers which demonstrate clearly why she is Broadway's best.
What makes this evening unique is the rather daring decision to eschew the standard concert format and get the musical director Seth Rudetsky to host her and accompany her on the piano. As a walking encyclopaedia of the Broadway musical he conjures up a delightful evening of song and anecdote about the ups and downs of her career. He also does a great warm-up where he plays clips of old Tony Awards broadcasts and star turns on TV variety shows and proceeds to deconstruct them to great comic effect. It's like an evening round Seth's watching his old VHS tapes and Patti LuPone shows up.
Twice a Tony winner (for Evita and Gypsy) she not only created the role of Fantine in the original Les Miserables (for which she won an Olivier), she also created the role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Sunset Boulevard. Now part of theatre lore, she was fired from that troubled show, then sued for breach of contract and won hefty damages. Rather scathing about the challenges of singing his more clunky recitative, it is clear, even 20 years on that his Lordship has not been forgiven. "I'm Sicilian", she snarls.
Nevertheless she honors his show Evita with barnstorming renditions of High Flying Adored and Rainbow High and is joined for the Evita-Magaldi duet by a talented young performer currently playing the part in the UK touring version. He wasn't the first guest up on stage on opening night as earlier, during the discussion about Les Mis, she asked if "there are any Valjeans in the house" and the answer was "yes" and up he pops for a duet. It was that kind of audience.
As well as great insight into the span of her career, the discussion covers musical approaches to particular songs and Rudetsky's erudition, expertise and lightning wit is a delight. He is the hugely popular host of a daily show about Broadway on the Sirius/XM radio channel in the US and his ease with his star was startling. "Trap shut just sing" he orders at one point or in a cod Juilliard teacher mode he enquires "What is your objective here?"
As for the songs, opening with Everything's Coming Up Roses might defeat a lesser mortal but not Patti and she also delivers a spirited Ladies Who Lunch displaying her crisp comic timing. A stonking Don't Rain on My Parade was, she tells us, her audition song 40 years previously when she'd sneak off from school in Long Island to attend 'cattle calls' on Broadway. The caustic I Regret Everything, her cod Piaf party piece number, lightened the mood before she topped off the Les Mis section with a heard rending I Dreamed a Dream. Here she demonstrated the difference between performing a song and merely singing the notes. A certain Miss Boyle should take note.