Before she even opened her mouth, a full house at Hamer Hall were upstanding, a standing ovation simply from being in the presence of Patti LuPone, Grammy and Tony Award winner, America Theatre Hall of Fame Inductee, film and TV star and all round Broadway legend. Is it possible to give this show more like 100/5 stars?
LuPone’s unmistakable voice and powerful mezzo-soprano range quickly fills the 2000 strong room with her big belt and familiar trill, racing through her first musical love, Elvis, her first roles in high school in The Mikado, South Pacific and Bye Bye Birdie, and her first professional audition. Naïve, eager and unaware, she transforms into 17-year-old Patti awkwardly fumbling through ‘Hey Big Spender’ from Sweet Charity – “How could I have not known she was a hooker!” she proclaimed dryly (and with a little glee).
Reflecting on her history with Broadway and her relationship with the industry and New York City, with her city becoming a Disney walk of shame, theatres becoming a church to airlines and Times Square becoming a pedestrian mall. She draws on the emotions and experiences of her life until she finally broke into Broadway in musicals (after plays and out of town previews closing),
She soars in numbers like ‘Meadowlark’ (from The Baker’s Wife, Stein and Schwartz), ‘I Cain’t Say No’ from Oklahoma, and the monologue and song ‘Millwork’ from Working. Closing the first part of her show with ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ from Evita was a personal highlight for me and a massive, spectacular number that you could have heard a pin drop through. I can die happy now.
The show is a borderline spiritual experience, and we have made the pilgrimage the house of LuPone. Age, gender or creed never mattered to her- all she wanted to do was sing all the songs and sing all the roles. She races through a duet , with herself, from West Side Story – ‘A Boy Like That’ will never be the same when you’ve seen LuPone as a manic Anita and Maria, nor will Tony’s ‘Something’s Coming’.
Melbourne Choir Poloyphonic Voices joined LuPone on stage for four numbers, including a number of Cole Porter classics before performing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ solo, and moved audience and LuPone to tears. They seem a little bewildered and delighted to be on stage with such a magnificent performer (and who wouldn’t be) but they dazzle with their harmonies.
You would never guess how old she is, because she is an unbridled ball of energy, razor sharp wit and sass. She is genuinely chuffed and overwhelmed with the reception she has received in Australia and is amused when the audience continues to thunder with applause. LuPone didn’t always perceive herself as playing all of the brassiest and fiercest female roles in Broadway, but her legacy has become that of strong, independent, passionate fighting females.
Closing the show with Sondheim’s classics ‘Not While I’m Around’ (Sweeney Todd), ‘Being Alive’, ‘Another Hundred People’ and ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ from Company, and ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’, she returns to the stage for multiple encores, all acapella, bringing Polyphonic Voices back out for ‘We’ll Catch Up Some Other Time’, before delighting with one last number: unmicced, unaccompanied and unmatched – it’s pure undiluted, unadulterated Patti LuPone and her voices still soars and enchants.
The show was pure musical theatre delight, and similar future concerts are a must attend for fans of her work and the shows she has been in. Her next magnetic role will be once again in Company on the West End in September, with Rosalie Craig.
For more information about LuPone’s roles, upcoming tour dates and work, visit: http://www.pattilupone.net