Patti LuPone Prepares to Christen NYC Nightclub, 54 Below, With Faraway Places

By Andrew Gans
31 May 2012

Scott Wittman
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
The new concert act for 54 Below was created with Tony winner Scott Wittman and musical director Joseph Thalken. "I can't move without [them]," LuPone said. "Joe [has found] musicians who can double. So the violinist plays reeds, and the accordionist will play keyboards, and the guitarist will play a banjo, and the drummer will play percussion, which is fabulous."

Those musicians include Thalken on piano, Andy Stein on violin and saxophone, Larry Saltzman on guitar and banjo, Antony Geralis on accordion and keyboards and Paul Pizzuti on drums.

Discussing the difference between playing a large concert hall versus a more intimate space like 54 Below, LuPone said, "Well, I always hearken back to the days of The Acting Company, when we were thrown into situations where it would be a 90-seat house or a 9,000-seat house — literally. All of my experience on the road — if it wasn't The Muny opera house, it was some black box — teach you how to adjust performances. That kind of experience ... and all of the touring I do now helps me as well. I'm sure everybody who goes out there and plays performing arts centers learns very quickly how to adjust because some of them are built extremely poorly, and you have to fight to be heard. Some of them are gigantic and are the most intimate houses. It depends on the venue.... But again, it's experience that teaches you how to project and deliver in houses like this....It's always about the acoustics and sightlines, but really about acoustics. And, if the acoustics are good, then I'm home free."

LuPone said only once during its heyday did she get to visit the famed Studio 54. "I went there once, and I didn't get the place. I preferred Xenon and then later the Tunnel. Actually, what I preferred were the discotheques when I first got to New York City in the late '60s. Cheetah and Ondine — some of them had live bands, and that, to me, was better than the disco thump ... Maybe I was intimidated by Studio 54, but I was not a fixture there. I was a fixture at a couple of the other places!"

Although she has yet to visit the new nightspot, LuPone said, "I understand it's quite beautiful, and it's exciting to have a little bit of glamorous nightlife in New York again!" Producer Frankel added, "No seat is more than 23 feet from the stage. People in the furthest banquette are going to be 23 feet from the stage. It's like being in a living room with a Steinway baby grand and Patti and five musicians. It's going to be beyond spectacular!"

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. Tickets and information are available at