DIVA TALK: The Best of 2013

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27 Dec 2013

Patti LuPone
Photo by Ethan Hill

Patti LuPone at Carnegie Hall
In November Patti LuPone offered a two-act version of Far Away Places to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Anyone who caught LuPone’s one-act version of the show when it premiered at 54 Below knows it’s a thrilling journey featuring knock-out renditions of “Bilbao Song,” "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking," “Pirate Jenny” and “Hymn to Love.” Among the additions to the Carnegie Hall evening were “Just a Gigolo,” Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” a roof-raising “Buenos Aires” and a lively duet with Bridget Everett on “Me and Bobby McGee.” As terrific as the show was, the encores were even more extraordinary: gorgeously belted versions of “With One Look” (even more beautiful 20 years after I watched LuPone’s heartbreaking performance in the London world premiere of Sunset Boulevard), “Meadowlark” (as riveting as ever), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’s “Invisible” (a welcome addition to LuPone’s eclectic repertoire) and Kurt Weill's haunting "September Song." Following numerous standing ovations, the Tony and Oliver winner concluded the evening singing “The Melody Lingers On” a cappella. A perfect end to a perfect night.

Andrea Martin in Pippin
Without a doubt the most surprising and joyous moment of the year in the theatre was delivered by the comedic genius that is Andrea Martin in the Tony-winning revival of Pippin at the Music Box Theatre. Her humorous and touching rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “No Time At All,” combined with her high-flying, shocking trapeze routine, was so thrilling that the audience leapt to its feet en masse. Twenty years ago Martin’s double takes and comic shenanigans so impressed in the short-lived My Favorite Year that she was also Tony-honored for her work. I will never forget either performance.

Judy McLane
photo by Joan Marcus

Judy McLane in Mamma Mia!
Over the past decade I’ve had the pleasure of catching several thrilling actresses in the role of single mom Donna Sheridan in the international hit Mamma Mia!, but none may have been as perfectly cast as Broadway’s current leading lady, Judy McLane. In McLane the musical has finally found the perfect vocal fit. McLane’s singing embodies everything that was exciting about 70’s pop; in fact, she has the smoothness of Karen Carpenter but with a bigger Broadway sound. It’s a top-notch cast overall, with especially strong performances from the trio of possible fathers: Aaron Lazar, Daniel Cooney and Graham Rowat. But it is McLane’s powerhouse rendition of “The Winner Takes It All” that will ring in your ears post-curtain.

Elaine Paige at Town Hall
Following evenings in Atlantic City and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Town Hall marked the third time I’ve seen Elaine Paige’s career-based concert evening. That I was still awed by the British actress’ vocal prowess and her focused intensity says a lot about the many talents of the woman who created leading roles in the London premieres of Evita, Cats and Chess, drew equal acclaim for her work in Piaf, Anything Goes, The King and I and Sunset Boulevard and wowed New York audiences with her performances in Boulevard, Sweeney Todd and, most recently, the starry revival of Follies. When Paige’s voice opens in full glory in “As If We Never Said Goodbye” or “If You Love Me,” one can only sit back and let that rich, lush sound wash over you. The evening featured one song I’ve never heard Paige perform live, Noel Coward’s “Mad About the Boy,” which was stunningly delivered by the actress as three distinct women, all besotted with the same leading man. A tour de force in song.


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