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

By Seth Rudetsky
09 Jul 2012

Patti LuPone in Gypsy.
Photo by Joan Marcus

We talked about Gypsy and she remembered that Arthur Laurents was very into giving line readings to the cast. She, Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines were concerned because they wanted to put their own imprint on their parts. Patti said that Arthur finally let them explore their roles and allowed them to develop their own interpretations. I so agreed with what she said about line readings, which is that a lot of directors think "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Meaning, if a line always works a certain way, keep it that way. I've done a lot of Broadway shows where replacements have come in and tried to make a role their own and, in doing so, lost tons of the laughs because they want to do it their own style. However, she feels that an actor shouldn't just imitate the inflection. He/she has to understand what the line means and what the character's motivation is when saying it so even though the ending result the actor comes up with might sound exactly the same as the initial line reading, the actor has to have meaning behind it to make it truly work.

LuPone in Anything Goes.
photo by Brigitte Lacombe

The most exciting thing happened the final night. We finished the show and did the requisite encore. We walked out of the theatre and I kept one ear to the stage because I hoped there'd be the demand for one more song. There was a ton of applause so Patti went back and did "Buenos Aires." We took our bows, Patti and I left the theatre and went back to our (shared!) dressing room. I turned my back as she got into her casual street clothes and waited for James to knock because I knew he wanted a picture. I kept checking outside the dressing room for him to appear. The third time I looked out I saw Shelley, our excellent sound person, come out of the theatre. The dressing room is on the ground level and she was exiting the tech area so she was at the top of a long flight of stairs. She looked at me with a "what do you think" face. What did I think about what? How the show went? The weather? I looked back with a "what?" face and she yelled down: "They're still clapping!" That's right! In all the time it took for Patti to exit the theatre, walk to the dressing room and completely change out of her outfit, the audience was still clapping! I got her out of the dressing room and she went back for a third encore. So, after the fourth show she did "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "Buenos Aires" and finally "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." And this time, during the part when she breaks down and can't sing anymore, the audience suddenly started humming just like the Evita ensemble does during the show. It sounded beautiful!

There's so much more to tell, but I have a cruise meal to overeat at. So peace out and I'll write to you next from dry land!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)