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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Just a Little Touch of Star Quality

Someone once said to me, "Patti Lupone is one of those actresses you either love or hate." That annoyed me not just because it was an attempt at sounding interesting by parroting a cliché, it also wasn't accurate. Not in my case anyway.
I would say I've always been rather ambivalent about Patti Lupone. I would never sleight any performance of hers that I have seen or heard, but I've always had performers that I preferred to her in the musical theatre realm: Bernadette Peters, Betty Buckley, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Kristen Chenoweth. Three of those last five names have also played the role for which Lupone has received her most recent accolades and awards, the domineering stage mother Rose in Gypsy.

I do see why she is "worshipped" by some. She is a consummate performer of immense talent. I also see why she is hated by others. Her brassy vocals are not for all tastes, and she has a reputation for being a demanding diva.
For me, though, neither camp has managed to sway me to their side. I think Patti Lupone is just fine. I wouldn't necessarily fall all over myself to see her in a show, but I know that I would be thoroughly entertained by her performance.

Recently, though, I have been inundated with Patti Lupone media. I read an article about her in Entertainment Weekly. (Can't find a web version of the article, sorry. You'll have to check your dentist's office. The leads from The Social Network are on the cover.) There are pieces on her in the L.A. Times, Time Magazine and The Faster Times. There's even a fun interview with her on NPR.
Now, while Patti Lupone is working on a new musical version of Pedro Almodovar's Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown set to open on Broadway this month, the media blitz is really all about her no-holds-barred autobiography Patti Lupone: A Memoir in which she dishes on everything from the Broadway show that never happened The Baker's Wife, to the difficulty of performing Evita and Gypsy (her two Tony-winning performances), to her betrayal by Andrew Lloyd Webber with the Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard. I haven't read the book yet, but I intend to as it sounds like a very interesting story told by a very interesting woman. I don't know what my opinion of Ms. Lupone will be after I've read it, but I'm sure I will no longer be ambivalent.

As an aside, the problems with The Baker's Wife stem largely from the book of the show, in my opinion, as the musical score by Stephen Schwartz is among my favorites. A few years ago, my friend and fellow director Gary Hathaway staged the show here in Denver and managed to work around the majority of the book issues. So if you or your theatre company are toying with the idea of staging this very touching musical (and I think you should), you should definitely look up Gary and pick his talented brain. You probably won't be able to get the lovely and amazing Alannah Moore to reprise her stunning turn in the title role of that production, but you'll still probably get one hell of a good show.

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