BWW Interviews: PATTI ISSUES Star Ben Rimalower Shares his Favorite LuPone Moments

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LuPone-Patti-Issues-star-Ben-Rimalower-shares-his-favorite-LuPone-moments-20010101Patti LuPone (left) and Ben Rimalower. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Self-identifited uber-fan of Patti LuPone, Ben Rimalower brings his critically-acclaimed hit, one-man show "Patti Issues" to Mary's Attic June 13-June 14 (June 13 is already sold out).

Rimalower is certainly not alone in his fandom and says everyone should respect and celebrate the work of one of Broadway's most celebrated divas. To wit, he's put together 10 of his favorite Patti moments. Prepare to joint the tribe of fans. If only we had a snappy name to call ourselves? Patti's melts, perhaps?

Without further ado, take it away, Ben....

#1 Meadowlark, "Patti LuPone in Concert in Nantucket" (archival footage, 1994)
http://youtu.be/qBsx5ou-pDw
If I must pick one all-time favorite Patti song, it has to be Meadowlark and surely this is the best video of it. Her voice is only slightly changed from her original recording of Meadowlark on the cast album of The Baker's Wife in 1976 and she has gained so much more warmth, richness, control and shading. The roller coaster ride this song takes makes for an exciting performance by almost any singer, but the range of emotional colors and vocal dynamics Patti brings is astounding--nothing can compare with Patti's soaring on the "fly away my meadowlark" and her springy leap up to the super-high belt notes of the climax inspired a generation. If that doesn't sell you, then watch Patti feel herself up and down in a deep moment going into the cathartic finish. If that's not your musical orgasm, then you're not just dead to me, you're dead.

#2 Rainbow High, "The Merv Griffin Show" (1980)


From Patti's disco Aladdin jumpsuit to the way she flips her hair at the top to the bizarrely dramatic timing of that fountain, there's much to comment on in this little piece of insanity (the solo version of Rainbow High as Patti performed it in her nightclub act at Les Mouches). What really strikes me about this video, though, and keeps it at the top of the list of Patti clips I always show people, is her sheer ferocity, growling out Evita's primadonna demands with imperious attitude and dark, threatening power, and yet still embodying the brightness and fun. Even after vocally bottoming out on "I'm not a second rate queen getting kicks with a crown," Patti bounces into the "we'll put on a show" spirit of the returning Buenos Aires theme, reminding us that fascism aside, her Eva is one of the great musical heroines, alongside Fanny Brice, Dolly Levi and Sally Bowles. Patti's essence is one part diva monster, one part good time girl.

#3 'Everything's Coming Up Roses' (Tonys, 2008)

This Patti LuPone video is really my everything. Some people might wish you got the climactic Rose's Turn on the Tonys broadcast, but Patti's performance is so galvanizing, you can't complain. Every single note gives me goosebumps and her body is almost balletic in the way she stalks across that stage. Tremendous!

#4 Being Alive, "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall" (1992)


The audience gets excited when Patti comes out onstage in this all-star concert, but they couldn't have known the extent to which she was about to make history. Being Alive has since become one of Patti's signature songs and a staple of her repertoire and it always brings the house down, but never more than here. It's thrilling and engrossing like an epic movie how she builds from the sensitivity of her initial caressing the lyrics (the restraint on "put me through hell") to expansion on "but alone is alone, not alive" with no pause for breath into "somebody crowd me with love" finishing with the most monumental song ending I've ever heard. That last note is as expressive as a shout and as musically exciting and extended as an aria-and it's the finest example of Patti's delayed vibrato. You can actually hear the audience stamping their feet as if clapping can't express the excitement Patti generates.

#5 A New Argentina (Tonys, 1980)

This is pretty definitive Patti. You get close-ups of her thrilling singing and acting in this dramatic sequence from Evita. And then when she comes downstage to deliver those rangy cadenzas, well, they test the mettle of anyone playing Eva, but no one will ever tear through them as ferociously as Patti. When she half-brags half-complains about having to belt a G in Evita, this is what she's talking about. It's that extra high note in the final verse, "he supports you for loves you, understands you, is one UH-of you." That's the same note Julie Jordan sings in If I Loved You in Carousel.

#6 The Worst Pies In London, "Sweeney Todd In Concert" (2001)


I first met Patti working as the Assistant Director on this production of Sweeney Todd, after being obsessed with her for my entire life. Even if I hadn't been part of this project, though, I know I would have been a big sucker for Patti's larger-than-life musical comedy magic in this number. Look at her throwing shade on "Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop." Her entire body is so dramatically in sync with the San Francisco Symphony's glorious rendition of Sondheim's masterpiece. Patti's Mrs. Lovett is such a crazy, horny, weirdo and there's voice for days--she hardly seems to breathe at all, just effortlessly blaring out this rangy tour de force in a full chest voice with virtuoso vibration. Stephen Sondheim told me, "For a woman her age, well, any age, it's astonishing."

#7 Buenos Aires (Tonys, 1981)

I like to think this is what Patti would be like as Anita in West Side Story, just a sassy, salty sprite. For anyone who's ever fast-forwarded though the long musical interlude in Buenos Aires, it's a pleasure to watch Patti jauntily nod at the conductor and go straight from the bridge into the third verse. Of course, the real pleasure is that bridge, Patti's effortless and bright belting of those C naturals popping up to the F sharps ("Aaaaaaaand if eVER") is pure joy.

#8 Blow Gabriel Blow, "In Performance At The White House" (1990)

In Performance at the White House, during Patti's run on TV's Life Goes On. She clearly relishes the opportunity to get wrapped up in gold lamé like a Christmas present, sing her face off and act like a tart in front of heads of state. This sassy, salty, belty-as-all-hell performance really exemplifies what Frank Rich was talking about in his Anything Goes New York Times review (of Anything Goes) when he said, "lips so insinuatingly protruded they could make the Pledge of Allegiance sound lewd." I never get tired of Patti's athletic, leather-lungs domination of this song.

#9 I Dreamed A Dream (1985)

Here's Patti on the Joan Rivers Show fresh off her Olivier-award winning triumph at the epicenter of the explosion of international smash hit mega-musical Les Miserables. Try to forgive the 1980s hair and styling and get lost in Patti's rapture as effortless floats in and out of belt voice conjuring the man who broke her heart. It's a slow burn. Few Fantines start as small as Patti and few get as big in the end.

#10 I Love Paris

Thank God somebody videotaped this! I saw Patti in Can Can at Encores three times and I wish I could have seen it more. She was absolutely glorious, exhibiting a kind of old school generosity of spirit towards the audience we don't see anymore. She was fierce in Live And Let Live, beautiful in Allez-Vous-En and hilarious in C'est Magnifique, but I Love Paris was an anthem and a love song and the ovation would not end until she sang the whole thing again. That's what stopping the show really means.

Ben Rimalower is in "Patti Issues" June 13-June 14 at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark. Tickets, $20 (June 13 sold out). www.pattiissues.com

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Misha Davenport Misha Davenport is a Chicago-based freelance writer, blogger, critic and singer. He studied playwriting at Michigan State University under the late Arthur Athanason. He has been covering theater in the Windy City for more than a decade at the Chicago Sun-Times and currently as a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com. He sits on the board of the not-for-profit arts group Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and resides in Rogers Park, just steps away from the emerging theater district located there. He is a fierce advocate and lover of live theater from shows in 50-seat storefronts to big Broadway blockbusters.