BWW Reviews: Patti LuPone & Seth Rudetsky Ignite at the Broad
On Saturday October 19 the inimitable Patti LuPone brought her exquisite talent, intelligence and sense of humor to the Broad stage in Broadway @ the Broad: Patti LuPone featuring Seth Rudetsky as pianist/host. Rudetsky, best known as the afternoon host on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio's On Broadway and LuPone presented this semi-improvisational program last summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts and later for a week in London, to unanimous acclaim.
Audience members are asked to provide questions for Ms LuPone in the lobby before the show. As host, Rudetsky has a list of the questions and feeds certain ones to LuPone. He keeps things on track by asking further questions that lead to a discussion of various aspects of her career and an eventual song, chosen by him. She never knows what's coming next, so in that sense the show is spontaneous, and many times throughout, LuPone complained of not remembering lyrics to some songs. Rudetsky assisted and even dueted with her on a couple of them.
I had offered a question. It was introduced by Rudetsky pretty early on as from Don from North Hollywood (the info I provided). I asked, "Are you enjoying working on American Horror Story in Coven?" LuPone laughed and said she has only filmed one episode so far, but very much. She described her role and working with Jessica Lange. All of this led to Rudetsky's question to her about how she enjoys working on film as opposed to stage. They then managed to leap back to the very beginnings of her Broadway career, to The Robber Bridegroom and she performed "Sleepy Man".
Spontaneity can be fun and make for an interesting evening, and this one was no exception. LuPone talked about The Acting Company at Julliard of which she was a part, Fantine in Les Mis, the role that she originated in London, how she had wanted to do a Mamet play instead of Evita, how she has always considered herself a class clown and how Stephen Sondheim played task master with her with his repeated dictatorial criticism "monotonous mush" the day before a taping. She did the concert of his Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic and a PBS taping of Passion. There's one thing that can be said of LuPone: the so-called 'diva' is open and honest about herself - anyone who has seen her webseries Exits and Entrances has witnessed these qualities many times over. What is her favorite role? She has none. She is "awed by life."
As material changes from show to show, that of course affects musical numbers. This one's highlights included her opener "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. She never knows what the opener will be until she makes her entrance and hears Rudetsky's first few bars at the piano. Other tunes: the aforementioned "Sleepy Man", "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis, "Anything Goes", "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Company, "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife, and as encore "Buenos Aires" from Evita. Comedically - LuPone wishes to be remembered for comedy as opposed to drama - we were treated to "A Boy Like That"/"I Have a Love" displaying her versatility to be able to play both Anita and Maria in West Side Story. That duel, which she does so well and that is offered as a regular part of her Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda show, is hilarious. She also essayed "Trouble" from The Music Man, carrying off the difficult patter with great skill and panache... and a sturdy rendition of Sinatra's anthem "My Way" toward the end of the 90-minute set.
Rudetsky is relaxed, confident, unpredictable and an overall hoot. Whether she's singing or talking, LuPone has a strong, but infectiously quirky technique and consistently holds her audience in the palm of her hands. Together their chemistry creates an indubitably delicious concoction.