ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Patti LuPone in Provincetown; High Flying, Adored!

By Seth Rudetsky
09 Jul 2012

Patti and James

Well, we had two shows the first night and Patti said we had to do the Evita songs at the second one. Why? Because Ryan Murphy (who created "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee" and is a big Evita fan) had gotten married that afternoon and was, naturally, spending his wedding night at Patti's show. We did both songs and the audience went crazy. Before the songs, I played a recording of her singing the "Rainbow High" modulation ("I'm their savior!!!") from the original cast album and then compared it to Madonna singing the same section in the film. Let's just say, it didn't compare favorably. When Patti finally sang that part of the song live, she got full out applause in the middle of the number. So thrilling!

After that performance ended, she did the requisite "I'm pretending the show is over, but I'm coming back to do an encore" chestnut. She did a fantastic "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" and we exited. The theatre is pretty small and once you leave the stage, you have to walk outside. We were standing outside the theatre and chatting for a minute and suddenly Patti became the Broadway version of "The Bionic Woman." She cocked her head to the side because she was hearing something. A cry for help? A kitten caught in a tree that needs rescuing? No. Something more important. She looked at me and said, "They're still applauding." That's right, even though we were completely out of the theatre, she was able to use her supersonic hearing that is acutely tuned to cries of "Brava!" and "Encore!" After she heard it, she looked at me with a mischievous smile and said, "Do you wanna do B.A.?" Yes! I was so excited because "B.A." is Evita talk for "Buenos Aires"! That's another song she hasn't done in around 30 years. Yet again, she did it in the original key and killed it! So good! After the show, Mark Cortale (who runs the Art House) saw Ryan Murphy and asked him if he liked the show. Ryan responded with, "Are you kidding? It's like crack." True 'dat!

Patti performing "B.A" in the Broadway production
photo by Martha Swope

Patti was so forthcoming. The interviews were as exciting for me as the songs. She talked about the bad experience of doing Oliver!, which was on Broadway but directed by a British director. First she started off by telling the audience, "Let's get this out of the way; Americans can't do Shakespeare and the Brits can't do musicals. Over and out!" Blimey! She told us that there was an associate director who came over before rehearsals and cast the show. Then the director showed up for the first day of rehearsal and within a few hours fired the little boy who played Oliver! Patti also un-fondly remembered "As Long As He Needs Me." First of all, she wanted to sing it in a higher key because Georgia Brown had such a low voice. The music director, however, refused to raise the key so she sang it with a Bea Arthur flair. After the show opened, she met Lionel Bart (who wrote the whole show) and he told her that she could have sung it in any key she wanted! Yet again, blimey! She also recalled the staging of the number which went completely against her instincts. As she was singing the incredibly exciting ending section, the director wanted her to back up and as she held the last note, he asked to her exit the stage. She said, "So…when the song is over, you don't want me onstage to get applause?" Answer: "That is correct." After telling the story, she got up and sang the entire song in a higher key than Georgia Brown and stood center stage the whole time. So satisfying!