ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Conquering Broken Pianos With Patti LuPone, Unbroken Circle Reviewed in New York

By Seth Rudetsky
25 Jun 2013

LuPone in Women on the Verge.
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Patti did a lot more songs ("Being Alive," "Rainbow High," etc.) and when the show ended, the entire audience stood immediately. Patti came back out and we brought up Nic Gibney, the guy who's playing Magaldi in the British tour of Evita. He had written to me on Facebook and asked if Patti would be willing to sing "Eva and Magaldi." I re-taught it to her and they did it together as an encore. It went so great and then I kept playing so Patti could do the song that immediately follows: "Buenos Aires". Again the audience stood and Patti came out for another encore which I decided should be "Invisible" from Women on the Verge. Not surprisingly, she sounded amazing and her acting was great.

The next day, I was at breakfast with Jack and started getting texts from Mark Cortale (the producer) telling me that the reviews were over-the-top! I try to resist reading them, but the publicist sent me quotes, and The Telegraph gave us five stars, saying, "Anybody who has ever enjoyed a musical on the stage should see this show, a miraculous close-up encounter with Patti LuPone. It is a fair bet that they will have the time of their life." WhatsOnStage described the show as having, "spectacular music, fascinating insights, irreverent humour and true star quality – if you're a fan of Broadway, or musical theatre in general, this show is an absolute must-see."

The great news is, the next six shows remained just as exciting as the first one and Patti got at least two encores a night. The horrible news is that on the second night, the pedal broke again. But this time, instead of not being able to sustain, it was the opposite; all the pedal did was sustain. I tried to play a song, but realized it would have had to have zero chord changes because whatever chord I first played sustained for two minutes. I told Patti we should chitty-chat onstage while the tech people came to fix it. The got it working and Patti sang "Invisible." At the end of the song, the pedal broke again! The tech people came back, and Patti and I chatted. After a long time, I found out that there was another piano backstage and no one told me we could just replace it! I guess it was worth adding an extra 30 minutes to the show (!) while they tried various pedal-fixing techniques. Once I knew about the other piano, we took a ten-minute "interval" and they brought the piano out. The good news is, we got an acoustic piano the next day. The better news is, we get more amazing press with the London Evening Standard printing an article called, "Patti LuPone Unfazed by Pesky Piano."

While all this amazing stuff was happening in London, I was anxiously awaiting the opening of Unbroken Circle in New York. The official opening was Wednesday night, and because it's an Off-Broadway show, not all the critics have come yet. But the Daily News has said, "carefully plotted and well-paced…revelations fly out and sting like hornets," and Broadway Spotted said, "A beautiful and heartbreaking story…with laughter, and emotional, stirring moments…The theater world needs more stories like this one!"

The New York Times came, which was a big coup because they don't always review Off-Broadway shows and, not only does the review say, "The script makes all the right moves," (Brava, James!) but, right before opening night, James and I were talking about the cast and hoping that the critics would mention how fantastic Eve Plumb is. Eve left California a few years ago for a New York theatre career and, from interviewing other former sitcom stars, I know how hard it is to be taken seriously in theatre if you began in TV. We always hoped this show would make people realize what a great comedienne she is. Well, James and I were so happy when the Times singled her out with, "Ms. Plumb is the attraction." YAY! Then it says, "She demonstrates a flair for grown-up comedy here. Maybe there is a reason her 'Brady Bunch' lament, 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia' endures!"

Unbroken Circle plays again this Wednesday and I still have a discount code to tout: BroadwayOffers.com and the code is UCSETH (The UC before Seth stands for Unbroken Circle).

Speaking of UC, I have so many more stories about the UK, but wait until Part Two of my column!

(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.)