REVIEW: A night to remember with Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone’s “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” at the Hill Auditorium on Nov 20, 09

The one and only Patti Lupone
The one and only Patti LuPone

You gotta love a woman who starts a show with “Go Blue” and “Buckeyes suck”. To those of you who don’t know Patti Lupone (come on now, really? 😉 ), she’s one of the divas of  Broadway whom you just gotta see. If you love musicals, then you would have definitely come across her.

The list of her awards- including Tonys, Best Actress in a Musical, etc. – is almost as long as her list of stage credits. She is one of the most illustrious stars of Broadway. Her critically acclaimed roles include Evita (she was the original Evita!), Sweeney Todd, “Fantine” in Les Miserables, Rose in Gypsy, just to name a wee few.

Patti LuPone was in town yesterday for her one-woman show “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda”. This show is about the roles and songs that she could have, should have and would have done “had she been asked or had she been around or had she been a guy” (I faithfully quote her). She also delighted us with the roles she did play (oh yeah, she has had a great run).

Now, in concerts, the relationship between an audience and the artist is so different. Some artists are so god-like (and hence so cool and aloof) that the listeners, with a mingled feeling of respect and awe, sit up straight in their chairs, afraid to shift their bulk around. You can compare this to watching Zeus in heaven use his thunderbolts or the Berliner Philharmoniker perform, for instance.

Some other artists are so down-to-earth and warm that you feel as if you have been invited to a party in the artist’s very own living room and you kick off  your shoes and swing your legs up on the chair in front of you. This would be like going to a party that playful musically-gifted Hermes throws or watching  Patti (see, she made us feel so at home that I feel like I have known her for a really long time and I want to call her by her first name instead of the socially appropriate Ms. LuPone) perform.

Now about the show.

There was only Ms. Lupone’s magnificent brassy (and unique) voice and Mr. i-never-miss-a-beat-or-tune Joseph Thalken’ s  piano sounds on stage.

Mr. Thalken
Mr. Thalken

Ms. Lupone, started off with a lovely opening melody followed by “An English Teacher” from “Bye, Bye, Birdie”. She then regaled us with tales about her own career in between the songs. She was just so hilarious that you gotta see it. There was never a dull moment to the show. Her choice of songs was great and that is very important for any artist. Had Patti played those roles, she would have definitely owned these too. Throughout her show that night, you could see the stamina, the mannerisms and the unmatchable multi-tasking ability of a true Broadway actress. Only an actress from Broadway can sing, act, pose, mimic, dance and look fabulous while doing it all.

Here’s a list of songs that she performed and my comments about them. I wish they had posted the list in the program notes. But then again, it would have ruined the surprise. I am giving this list as I want people to go check these out. They are the perfect songs for a gloomy winter day (sigh, we will be having so many of those soon).

An English Teacher- Bye Bye Birdie (hilarious!)

A Wonderful Guy- South Pacific

Don’t rain on my parade- Barbra Streisand (Oh, this was so power-packed and she rocked this song)

Easy to be hard-  Hair (the high notes she hit in these were just mind-blowing)

Everything’s coming up Roses- Gypsy

She won a Tony award for her performance in this musical.  You will know why when you listen to her.

You mustn’t be discouraged- Fade out Fade in (my second favorite)

This was her audition song for Juilliard. This song is set in one of those make-you-feel-good tunes…until you hear the lyrics.

“When you think you’ve hit the bottom
And you’re feeling mighty low,
You mustn’t feel discouraged –
There’s always one step further down you can go.”

The song only gets better and everybody was cracking up  and I was laughing so hard that I almost fell off my seat (the guy sitting next to me didn’t notice as he was busy guffawing too).

Meadowlark- The Baker’s Wife

A boy Like that/ I have a love- West side story

Oh, this was so good- like eating fresh Creme Brulee at La Dolce Vita (hey, i just LOVE their desserts and am not advertising for them, ok).

A quiet thing- Flora the Red Menace (Originally sung by Liza Minelli)

Never Never Land- Peter Pan

This song is from the 1960 production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with Mary Martin as Peter. Aww…this was so good. I would love to be in a place where time is never planned. Wouldn’t we all?

Don’t Cry for me Argentina- Evita

My first favorite. This was so awesome. This is “her” song and she owns it. It doesn’t get better than this. You could see her transform into Evita (or Evita as we know her from musicals) almost instantly. The humor was gone and was replaced with the pleading in her voice that also conveyed power and charisma. I had to see it to believe it. This alone was worth going to the show.

Oh what a beautiful morning- Frank Sinatra (It was definitely a very beautiful evening for me.)

Trouble in River City (“Ya got Trouble”)– the Music Man

You just gotta listen to this song. Patti never missed a beat and it just suited her voice so well.  She just fired all her guns and sang it at a faster pace than Robert Preston. I love Patti’s version better now. Wish she would release a recording of that. Sigh! Patti, are you listening?

How to handle a woman- King Arthur’s lament from Camelot

Cole Porter’s “So in Love”- from Kiss me, Kate

Sleepy man– Robber Bridegroom

This “duet” was awesome. Mr.Thalken did the background vocals while flipping the pages of the sheet music while continuing his smooth playing of course. I just love it when a person multi-tasks. 🙂

As long as he needs me- Oliver!

She then did a Sondheim Set.  What a great composer Stephen Sondheim is!

I never do anything twice (the Madam’s song) from the film The Seven-per-cent solution

Anyone can whistle-Anyone can whistle

As per the lyrics: “What’s hard is simple. What’s natural comes hard. ” What ??? I think will have to see the original musical to understand.

Send in the clowns– A Little Night Music

My Way- Frank Sinatra (loved this).  With this perfectly apt song, Patti ended the absolutely beautiful evening.

Did you think that we let her go so easily? We begged for more. She sang Sondheim’s  “Ladies who lunch” from the musical “Company”, Kurt Wiell’s “September Song” and a classic Sinatra “The way you look tonight” (she sang this without the mike and it was just so beautiful).

We were greedy and still wouldn’t let her go. The evening ended with the entire audience standing and Patti singing Sinatra’s  “A 100 years from today” sans the piano and sans the microphone. The air was electrifying and there was complete silence except for Patti’s golden voice. The scene is still etched in my mind and that I feel is what every artist strives for- the undying adoration of a devout audience.

Still enchanted, Krithika, for [art]seen

Krithika is learning to whistle and if you hear sounds like the squeak of a trapped  mouse or a horribly out-of-tune piccolo on campus, just ignore.

Disclaimer: If I have left out any song from the night’s performance or cited the wrong song, do lemme know. Folks, I am striving to be politically correct here, ok. 😉