Patti LuPone originated the role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation of Billy Wilder's film noir classic Sunset Boulevard at London's Adelphi Theatre in July 1993. In a much-publicized series of events, LuPone was fired from the production, which later arrived in New York with Glenn Close.
LuPone, who details that experience in her self-titled memoir, rarely sings material from the production. Audiences in attendance for the June 19 performance of her current London concert engagement had the rare opportunity to hear LuPone perform material from Sunset – in the original key.
Seth Rudetsky details the occasion for Playbill.com:
I've been doing this Patti LuPone show in London, which is similar to the show I did with her in Provincetown, MA. The whole thing was recorded and is available on SethTV. Here's a link to a promo video. The first time we did the show, I convinced her to do "Rainbow High," which she hadn't sung since Evita closed. This time, we got an email from a guy playing Magaldi on the Evita tour in the UK. He asked if he could get up out of the audience to sing with Patti. She said, "Yes, but first let's see a video of him!" We liked him (!) and she relearned the Eva and Magaldi sequence. He's off this week, so he comes onstage every night and they do it. She had to completely relearn it. Watch!
Anyhoo, I kept getting tweets asking if Patti had sung anything from Sunset Boulevard. She had discussed it and how upsetting it was to be fired from the production but has never sung it.
I began to realize how much people wanted it. This is London, where people saw her do it and loved it! And, the dresser for our show is her dresser from Sunset. He told me how amazing she was, and, how on her final performance, when she sang "As If We Never Said Goodbye," she sang one line from the song to each and every person on stage. Listen to the audio here!
I decided to ask her if she'd be willing to sing something from Sunset. She wrote that she would try, but she didn't remember the music. I took that as a YES, and got music emailed to me from my trusty friend, Michael Lavine.
We sound-checked as usual ("I have to run the high notes to see if they're there."), and at the end I asked if we could try a song. As soon as I mentioned Sunset Boulevard, her husband Matt beamed, and said it would be so wonderful if she would sing something from the show. I opted for "With One Look" because I'm obsessed with how she doesn't breathe before the final high note. Also, I'm obsessed with the original key, which they had to transpose for Glenn Close.
We ran it in rehearsal, and Patti's husband was crying by the end. He was so moved. Patti "didn't remember the music" – AKA, sang it perfectly.
She got a second encore last night, and turned to me in the wings and asked what she should sing. I said, "I think you have to try Sunset." She got onstage and said she was going to sing it from in back of the piano because she felt more protected there.
It was very emotional for her to sing it again. She started singing and stopped after four beats to collect herself. She started again and NAILED IT. So beautiful, so moving and the final D was AMAZING!!!!!!
PHOTO ARCHIVE: Patti LuPone's Stage Career... So Far