DIVA TALK: Patti LuPone -- The Diva Shines at Carnegie Hall

News   DIVA TALK: Patti LuPone -- The Diva Shines at Carnegie Hall There’s nothing quite like the sound of applause in Carnegie Hall, especially when the hall is standing-room-only and the performer is one of Broadway’s leading talents. It’s a sound that echoes throughout the room, filling the famed auditorium with a feeling of excitement that is unparalleled in any other venue. Such was the case this past Friday night when Patti LuPone made her eagerly-awaited Carnegie Hall solo concert debut. Before the evening began, two representatives from GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) welcomed the audience and announced that the concert had raised a whopping $400,000 to benefit the organization. And, then, the truly magical evening began. Even the overture induced goose-bumps, as several of La LuPone’s “greatest hits” were woven together. This prelude commenced with strains of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Meadowlark,” segueing into segments from “As Long As He Needs Me,” “Buenos Aires,” “Anything Goes” and then, just a quick, almost teasing touch of “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” before concluding with “Over the Rainbow,” a nod to another famed diva who triumphed at Carnegie Hall, the late Judy Garland. As this orchestral suite ended, the two doors on the left side of the stage opened, and out walked LuPone, dressed in a burst of purple silk. As the star of the benefit concert made her entrance, the audience jumped to its feet and serenaded the smiling diva with a rapturous, thunderclap of adoration.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of applause in Carnegie Hall, especially when the hall is standing-room-only and the performer is one of Broadway’s leading talents. It’s a sound that echoes throughout the room, filling the famed auditorium with a feeling of excitement that is unparalleled in any other venue. Such was the case this past Friday night when Patti LuPone made her eagerly-awaited Carnegie Hall solo concert debut. Before the evening began, two representatives from GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) welcomed the audience and announced that the concert had raised a whopping $400,000 to benefit the organization. And, then, the truly magical evening began. Even the overture induced goose-bumps, as several of La LuPone’s “greatest hits” were woven together. This prelude commenced with strains of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Meadowlark,” segueing into segments from “As Long As He Needs Me,” “Buenos Aires,” “Anything Goes” and then, just a quick, almost teasing touch of “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” before concluding with “Over the Rainbow,” a nod to another famed diva who triumphed at Carnegie Hall, the late Judy Garland. As this orchestral suite ended, the two doors on the left side of the stage opened, and out walked LuPone, dressed in a burst of purple silk. As the star of the benefit concert made her entrance, the audience jumped to its feet and serenaded the smiling diva with a rapturous, thunderclap of adoration.

LuPone’s first offering was titled “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight,” which set the frequently humorous tone for the evening, and then, the reminiscences -- some touching, most humorous and often tongue-in cheek -- of her award-winning career began. LuPone spoke about her very first time on a stage when she was barely four years old. “I was downstage right,” she explained, “tap-dancing furiously, and I looked out and I thought, ‘They’re all smiling at me. I can’t get into trouble up here. I can do whatever I want,’ and so tonight that’s exactly what I’m going to do [roar of approval]! I’m singing every song from every part I ever wanted to play [pause] and could’ve played [pause] or would’ve played [pause] or should’ve played [pause] or did play! Some of these parts I did play, I didn’t want to play. And some of the parts I definitely shouldn’t have played, according to The New York Times. And some of these parts I could’ve played, a couple of other people played. And it took a couple of other people to play ‘em!” It was LuPone in rare, uncensored form, and the jam packed audience ate it up all night.

She chatted about her first role at the tender age of 13 in the “Patio Players” -- so called because her group of friends performed their work on the patio of one of the member’s houses -- production of Bye, Bye Birdie, and she then delivered “An English Teacher” from that Charles Strouse-Lee Adams score. LuPone was in superb voice this evening, that powerful instrument soaring throughout the hall, and each and every lyric was given the intensity that only an actress of her stature can consistently deliver. LuPone’s next role with that infamous company was Louise in the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents classic Gypsy, and “you know, folks,” LuPone insisted, “I still got one role left in me!” LuPone went on to describe another classic role, that of Nellie Forbush in her high school musical theatre group’s staging of South Pacific. “I understand they’re doing a television version of it,” LuPone remarked with a knowing glance. “I could’ve played Nellie in that, but they cast Glenn Close [long pause]. I just want to know how old that chorus is going to be!” And, as the laughter died down, LuPone began a gorgeous rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.” She began softly, gently drifting to a powerful finale, forcefully singing, “If you’ll excuse an expression I use, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love . . . with a wonderful guy.” The way LuPone glided from a belty final note into a softer tone was beautiful and brought an ecstatic response from the packed house.

The former Evita star then described her audition for the national tour of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ Sweet Charity. She reminisced about her brother, actor Robert (Bobby) LuPone, escorting her downtown to buy an audition outfit, a turtleneck mini-dress that she would wear to several tryouts. Although she didn’t win this role, the stage manager took her aside and informed her that lyricist Dorothy Fields wanted her to know that she gave a terrific audition. When LuPone finally saw the show (Funny Girl) that her audition song was from, singer Mimi Hines was at the head of the cast. And, LuPone launched into that musical’s showstopper, “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and, simply, sent the tune skyrocketing throughout the vast room.

About this time -- the late 1960’s -- LuPone was in the audience for another Broadway musical, one that she thought was brilliant, Hair. She then proceeded to deliver a heartfelt version of the Galt MacDermot Gerome Ragni-James Radio tune, “Easy to Be Hard.” It was also at this time when LuPone’s brother informed her that the Juilliard School was launching a drama division. Patti had no desire to attend, but agreed to audition to appease her mom and her brother. She joked about her audition, which featured “the most obvious classical piece” (from Taming of the Shrew) and “the most obvious contemporary speech” (from Hello, Dolly!). Then, she was asked whether she could sing, and the rest, as we know, is history. A sensational version of The Baker’s Wife’s “Meadowlark” followed, with LuPone mining the Stephen Schwartz tune for all its worth, her voice filling the hall as she sang, “And we won’t wait to say goodbye. My beautiful young man and IIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” LuPone then discussed the effect of movie musicals on her life, especially the film of West Side Story: “Maybe I’m not a dancer,” she joked, “[but] I could’ve played one of those parts. [pause] I could’ve played two of those parts!” She then sailed through a tour de force rendition of “A Boy Like That,” comically singing the roles of Anita and Maria simultaneously. “A Boy Like That” drifted into a lovely reading of one of Leonard Bernstein’s most beautiful tunes, “I Have a Love.” The singing actress spoke about a part she has wanted to play all her life, the title role in Peter Pan. “I could’ve been Mary Martin,” LuPone said with a laugh. “I could’ve been Sandy Duncan! I could’ve been Cathy Rigby, but noooooooo, you all made me Ethel Merman.” And, perhaps, she was right, hitting just the right blend of gentle guidance and powerful vocals in a touching version of Peter Pan’s “Never Never Land.” She followed “Never Never Land” with one of her own signature tunes, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” As she struck the Evita pose, head back, arms stretched toward the sky, she explained, “I just wanted to fly.” A commanding “Argentina” brought the audience to its feet.

The first half of the evening concluded with, perhaps, my favorite offering of the concert, a new tune from Ragtime composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, entitled “I Was Here.” LuPone’s rendition of this melodic tune from the upcoming musical The Glorious Ones was completely and utterly thrilling, blasting the final lines of the song with a dynamic intensity: "Well, I will not flicker and die like an ember. /Too many men flicker and die./ I will leave something behind to remember./Somehow I must.../ Don't ask me why./I have no sons,/ At least none I can claim,/ And no patience for carving in stone./ All that I have are my skill and my name/ And this chance to make both of them known./ This is my key to the portal,/ How I can leave something immortal,/ Something that time cannot make disappear,/ Something to say/I was here."

LuPone returned for the second act in a shiny, dark gray skirt and a black fur bolero jacket, and with a French accent, she launched into “I Regret Everything,” a witty song from her newest recording, “Matters of the Heart.” She then revealed that she has never been in a Stephen Sondheim musical. “In the shoulda, gonna, coulda category,” LuPone said, “here are three Sondheim ladies.” This trio of Sondheim compositions was one of the most exciting and theatrical portions of the evening. She reveled in the double entendres of “I Never Do Anything Twice”; previewed her Mrs. Lovett (she will perform the role in a concert version of Sweeney Todd in May), finding both the comedy and longing in Lovett’s delicious (pun intended) “The Worst Pies in London”; and explored the depths of loneliness and despair in Joanne’s Company anthem, “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

An upbeat “Anything Goes” was next, and then LuPone turned her attention to torch songs from the thirties. She made a great case for the songs from this era, singing the hell out of two standards: “Ten Cents a Dance” and “When the Sun Comes Out.” The latter was particularly thrilling, with the Olivier Award-winning actress singing her heart out. In fact, she nearly blew the roof off the legendary hall, singing, “If my heart holds out, let it rain and let it pour. It may not be long before. There’s a knocking at my door, and you know the one I love walked in. When the sun comes out.” A present-day, more cynical torch song was up next, the hilarious “Better Off Dead.”

The final portion of the evening found LuPone singing tunes she could have performed if only . . . (1) she were a man (a stunning, intense rendition of Carousel’s “Soliloquy”) or (2) an African-American man (a stirring, full-voiced “Ol’ Man River”) -- it’s good to know that if LuPone had been born a male, “he” would have been a Broadway star, too! A song that summed up the evening, and perhaps LuPone’s career thus far, was a fitting finale: a thoughtful, yet stentorian version of “My Way.” The crowd again jumped up, applauding wildly for several minutes. LuPone returned to the stage in her third outfit for the evening, a slinky, silvery gown. She thanked the many people responsible for the evening -- including director Scott Wittman, writer Jeffrey Richman and musical directors Rob Fisher and Dick Gallagher -- and offered several encores, including an upbeat, swinging “The Way You Look Tonight” plus an unmiked version of “A Hundred Years from Today.”

It was a phenomenal evening from one of Broadway’s most exhilarating performers. Let’s hope LuPone is back where she belongs soon: on Broadway. Maybe in Peter Pan or South Pacific or West Side Story or . . . well, it hardly matters -- she can do it all!

IN OTHER NEWS: A stellar cast -- led by Betty Buckley, Victor Garber, Julie Harris and Cherry Jones -- will take part in A Joyous Christmas Concert, to be held on Dec. 13 and 14 at 7:30 PM. The concert, which will benefit both Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the social service programs of St. Bartholomew’s Church, will feature carols, music and original material by playwright Terrence McNally. The evenings will be held at St. Bartholomew’s Church (Park Avenue at 51st Street), and tickets range from $35 to $150. Call the church concert office at (212) 378-0248 for the $35 and $75 seats or BC/EFA at (212) 840-0770 for the $150 VIP seats, which include a post concert reception with the artists and a signed, pre-release copy of Buckley’s latest CD, “Betty Buckley,” a live recording of her first N.Y. concert appearance in 1984 . . . Julie Budd, Gretchen Cryer, Jamie deRoy, Julie Gold, Carol Hall and Christine Lavin are just some of the performers who will take part in A Holiday Cabaret on Monday, Dec. 6 at 8 PM at New York’s The Triad (158 W. 72nd Street). The evening will benefit Variety/The Children’s Charity, which helps “disabled, disadvantaged and special children.” There is a $20 minimum contribution and a $10 food/drink minimum, and reservations may be made by calling (212) 799-4599 . . . Christiane Noll, who is currently starring on Broadway in It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, will release her second solo album on Dec. 1. “Live at the West Bank Cafe: Christiane Noll” (Car-Jam Records) was recorded live at the intimate New York cafe this past summer and features a jazz trio led by David Budway on piano. Selections include “Old Devil Moon,” “I Can Cook Too” and “Amazing Grace” plus three original works by David Budway: “All Is Right with the World,” “I Can Tell That You Are Always There” and “Escape to Love.” The 16-track CD will be available in such N.Y. stores as Footlight Records, Tower Records (Upper West Side) and the Virgin Megastore (midtown) or you can visit the label’s website at www.car-jam.com.

REMINDERS:

BETTY BUCKLEY

Betty Buckley and Ben Vereen will be the guest singers for an upcoming NBC ice-skating program on Nov. 28 (from 4-6 p.m.). The two Tony winners will take part in the “StarSkates on Broadway” program, which will be a broadcast of an event taped on Nov. 20.

A host of new concert dates have recently been announced for the multi talented actress and singer:
Dec. 13-14: St. Barth’s Church in New York, NY
Dec. 17: City Center in Coral Springs, FL
Dec. 18: Atlantic University Aud. in Boca Raton, FL
Dec. 31: Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
Feb. 5, 2000: Stillwell Theatre in Kennesaw, GA
Feb. 6: Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marin, CA
Feb. 8-9: Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall in Las Vegas, NV
Feb. 11: Center for the Arts at George Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA
Feb. 12: Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY
March 18: Folly Theatre in Kansas City, MO
March 19: Macomb Center for the Perf. Arts in Detroit, MI
April 24: Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance in Fort Worth, TX
April 26: Coronation 2000 in San Antonio, TX
May 4: Poway Center in Poway, CA
May 5-6: Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA
May 7: Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora, CA
May 8: Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

BARBARA COOK Here is Cook’s upcoming concert schedule:
Nov. 22: at The Plaza Hotel in New York, NY (gala dinner honoring Cook, Paul Taylor and Will Barnet with the 1999 Kitty Carlisle-Hart Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement)
Dec. 1: at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY (All-Star cast for The Noel Coward Centennial Gala); call (212) 980-3026 or (212) 247-7800
Dec. 31: at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA; call (215) 893-1956 or (215) 893-1999
Jan. 27-30: at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA (with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony); call (412) 392-4900

PATTI LuPONE

From Feb. 1 through Feb. 14, our Evita gal will perform on the stage of the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Feb. 18 will bring her to the Phil. Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida, and on Feb. 19, LuPone will take to the stage of the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida . . .Tickets are also now on sale for the upcoming New York Philharmonic production of Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. Starring LuPone and opera singer Bryn Terfel, the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim’s 70th birthday. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and may be purchased by calling (212) 721-6500 . . .

ANDREA MARCOVICCI

Marcovicci continues her Algonquin run through Friday, Dec. 24. Performances of “Our Songs. . .1965-1985” are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 9 PM, with dinner arrival at 7 PM (dinner is required at the 9 PM show). There is a $15 minimum and $45 cover charge. For her late show -- 11 PM Friday and Saturday evenings -- Marcovicci will perform songs of the 40’s, a return to the world of music that this artist loves, including such nostalgic tunes as “We’ll Meet Again,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “As Time Goes By.” For reservations, call the Algonquin (59 West 44th Street) at (212) 840-6800.

MAUREEN McGOVERN

Already announced McGovern concert dates:
Nov. 19: "Great American Songbook " at the Marsee Auditorium in El Camino, CA
Nov. 26, 27, 28: with the Baltimore Symphony at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD
Dec. 1: "Tree of Life & Festival of Lights" in Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 11 & 12: Holiday performance with the U.S. Army Band Orchestra, Army Chorale and Army Chorus at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
Dec. 17 - 18: "Holiday Pops” at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, OH
Dec. 30 - 31: "New Year's Eve Millennium Gala" with the Detroit Symphony at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI

Jan. 22: "Sondheim & Jazz: Side by Side" at the UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA
Jan. 23: at the Mentor Performing Arts Center in Mentor, OH
Feb. 11 & 12: "Valentine Pops" with the Baton Rouge Symphony at the Centroplex Theatre for Performing Arts in Baton Rouge, LA
Feb. 18 & 19: at the La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts in La Mirada, CA
March 5 & 6, 19 & 20: with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Philadelphia, PA
March 17: "An Evening with Maureen McGovern featuring pianist Lee Musiker" at Purchase College-SUNY in Purchase, NY
March 24 & 25: "An Evening with Maureen McGovern" with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic at the Rose Hall Stage in Oklahoma City, OK

ELAINE PAIGE

Some upcoming worldwide Paige concert dates:
January 21 and 22, 2000: with the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah

BERNADETTE PETERS

The two-time Tony winner currently stars as the gun-toting Annie Oakley in the acclaimed revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Marquis Theatre.

LINCOLN CENTER’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK

“Always: Celebrating 100 Years of American Song” is up next in this series and features such theatrical luminaries as Patti LuPone, Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin, Alton White, cabaret’s Mary Cleere Haran and Susanah McCorkle and more. This program is set for Dec. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m., also at Alice Tully Hall. Other titles in the series include “Who Wrote That Song,” on March 23, 24 and 25 (cast to be announced) at the Kaplan Penthouse and “Round About: Dawn Upshaw,” which features the gifted soprano singing the songs of Vernon Duke, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gershwin, Sondheim and more. Upshaw will perform on May 17, 19 and 20 at 8:30 p.m. at the John Jay College Auditorium . . . Call (212) 721-6500 for tickets.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful holiday, and happy diva watching!

-- by Andrew Gans
e-mail me at agans@playbill.com