Greetings from the high seas! Actually, from the Hudson River. I'm on The Broadway Cruise and as I type this we're leaving the pier at 53rd Street and 12th Avenue. Goodbye burning hot sun of New York City! Hello burning hot sun of Bermuda. I'm here with Juli, James, his mom and my mom. Into cruising? Check out news about the August 2013 Playbill Cruise – Broadway On the High Seas; I'll appearing on it with Howard McGillin and Patti LuPone from Lincoln Center Theater's Anything Goes reuniting! But on my mind for this week's column is another excursion — my two-day trip to Provincetown with Patti LuPone.
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It all began when I was 13 years old. My friend, Allen Hahn, got me two albums for my Bar Mitzvah; the soundtrack to "All That Jazz" and Broadway cast album of Evita. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch in the den, opening up the two (!) record set, taking out the included lyrics and listening to it for the first time. It's so weird when you first hear it ("…to inform the people of Argentina, that Eva Peron, spiritual leader of the nation, entered immortality…") but after non-stop listening sessions, I became obsessed. I loved the music/lyrics/performances but it was Patti's singing that riveted me. The tone and power of her voice and, most importantly, the incredibly high belting. I had never heard a woman belt an E, F and then a G! Unbelievable! Of course, my mother continued her tradition of only taking me to see Broadway shows after the original stars had left so I eventually saw Evita starring someone else. Not just the replacement, mind you…the replacement's matinee cover. My point is, my dream has always been to hear Patti sing my favorite Evita songs live. A dream I thought was 30 years too late to ever happen.
Cut to: I asked her to do my Broadway Series at The Art House in Provincetown, MA, and she said yes. Her three shows immediately sold out, so we added a fourth. I told her it was going to be a casual show consisting of me interviewing her and then running to the piano to play. I mentioned that I wanted her to sing some Evita songs and she seemed game but we wound up not rehearsing anything in New York because she got sick during her acclaimed run at 54 Below. Also, I knew she had to perform her show with Mandy after the Provincetown gigs so I knew she couldn't push herself. I thought maybe she'd haul out "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," but would limit her belting. Yet, a few days before the gig she emailed me and wrote that we should rehearse a few songs, just for fun. She said we could run through "Rainbow High" and then she added: "And let's try 'High Flying, Adored' just to see if I can still hit that note. What is that note?" (FYI, the sustained note is a D and then it goes up to an E, but I didn't want to tell her in case it freaked her out.) Well, I showed up for a quick sound check and nervously took out "Rainbow High," worried she'd tell me to forget it. Not only did she not say that, she suggested we lead into it with "High Flying, Adored" since that's how it is in the show. Really? Both songs? Was my dream about to come true? I thought I'd give her an out in case she wanted to save her voice, so I tentatively asked, "Original key?" Instead of asking to try it a few steps down, she shrugged and said, "It's the only key I know." Brava! I started playing the vamp and Patti launched into both songs. With all the top notes. She had certain inflections that are so uniquely hers that it took me right back to listening to her sing those songs on my record player all those years ago. I was literally holding back tears as I was playing because ever since I was a kid, I'd always dreamed of one day hearing Patti sing these songs live. Now, not only was I hearing her sing them, I was playing them for her! It was more than I ever expected.
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