Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Broadway stars don't come much bigger or more combative than Patti LuPone, the Tony-winning force of nature who has left her indelible imprint on numerous musicals including "Evita," "Anything Goes," "Sweeney Todd" and "Gypsy." Equally loved (by critics, the gay community) and feared (by cellphone abusers everywhere), she is an actress whose ferocious stage presence knows no compromise.
LuPone will perform a concert Tuesday at UCLA's Royce Hall as a benefit for Reprise Theatre Company. "Gypsy in My Soul" will feature the actress singing an eclectic array of songs with a 10-piece band. The program will no doubt skew Broadway, but LuPone isn't divulging the lineup, preferring not to tip her hand.
This fall, LuPone is returning to Broadway in a concert production titled "An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin," which opens Nov. 21 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The show has been traveling the country and has played at the Ahmanson Theatre and the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge. (It is scheduled to return to Southern California in March at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.)
LuPone spoke recently by phone from Barrier Island in South Carolina, where she was vacationing. When asked about the artistic influences in her career, she singled out the music teachers in her hometown of Northport on Long Island. She said students were introduced to musical instruments in elementary school and that she picked the cello, because the school didn't have a harp.
LuPone also chose to speak about four individuals who have inspired her in different ways throughout her life.
Edith Piaf: I'm an Italian and my emotions are just under my skin.... There's just a purity and rawness in her singing that goes straight to my heart and my gut and it always has. There's such expression in her voice.
Bette Davis: I grew up on Long Island ... and they used to show old movies on television at 10 and 1 o'clock. I saw Busby Berkeley musicals and Bette Davis movies. Davis wasn't the most beautiful actress but she was the most courageous at the time. I was maybe 8 or 9 years old when I first saw her. I used to cut school and feign illness just to see Davis. My mother never knew this because she was off at work.
David Mamet: We started working together in 1976. I learned more from acting for him than four years at Juilliard. There's a simplicity and paring down, a stripping away of control. I love it when he directs me because it's his material.
Stephen Sondheim: He's a task master when it comes to pitch and what is considered Broadway singing -- no bending of the note, no swooping. I was in "Company" this year at the New York Philharmonic -- at the after-party, he gave me a note and I wanted to smack him. Well, I didn't want to smack him. But this was two hours after the production closed.... Basically, [he said] I was slurring two words and that I recovered. It's his music and his lyrics so of course he's going to notice.... It takes a lot of concentration and discipline to sing him as written. When I see musicals in New York today, I usually don't know if I'm watching "American Idol" or a Broadway performance. It should be as precise as an operatic aria