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BWW Review: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2018: PATTI LUPONE: DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY at Adelaide Festival Theatre

BWW Review: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2018: PATTI LUPONE: DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY at Adelaide Festival TheatreReviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 21st June 2018.

Few people in Adelaide will ever have the opportunity to see a show on Broadway, but the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has brought some of the top Broadway stars to Adelaide. This year is no exception. Winner of several Grammy and Tony awards, and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, Patti LuPone, in her show, Don't Monkey With Broadway, brings us songs and anecdotes from over four decades in musical theatre.

There are no prizes for guessing that the performance began with Cole Porter's Please Don't Monkey With Broadway, from the film, Broadway Melody of 1940, the song from which her show's title is derived. LaPone is ably assisted by director, Scott Wittman, who has done a marvellous job of ensuring variety, many changes of pace, and juxtapositions of comedy and drama, and by her musical director and accompanist, and occasional duettist, Joseph Thalken, who goes above and beyond the usual realms of the role.

LuPone takes us right back to when she was a toddler and her first discovery of music, in its many forms. With a father who loved jazz, and a mother who loved opera and musical theatre, she was surrounded by their record collections, and soon singing along to them. From a very young age she had already determined the course of her life and we discover that she is a superb storyteller as she leads us through school productions, failed auditions, shows that opened, and closed again in no time at all, and on to her successes and illustrious career on the Great White Way.

It is worth mentioning, at this point, that she has written an autobiography, Patti LuPone: A Memoir, and it is on the New York Times Bestseller list. If her narrative in this production is anything to go by, it is likely to be one of those books that are impossible to put down.

The first half of the evening visited a wide range of shows, some household names, some more obscure, even though the songs might be familiar, and a couple that were short-lived. Being out of context gave her the chance to sing some of the songs that she would never get to sing, otherwise.

The songs were as diverse as her career. A Lot of Livin' to Do, from Bye Bye Birdie, was followed by one of the roles that she could never play, as she sang Bloody Mary's Happy Talk, from South Pacific, and then a very tongue-in-cheek, world-weary hooker interpretation of Big Spender, from Sweet Charity, that had the entire audience laughing.

Easy to Be Hard, from Hair, paved the way for that beautiful song, Meadowlark, from the Stephen Schwartz musical that had only a short run, The Baker's Wife, leading to another short run musical, with James Taylor's song, Millworker, from another Stephen Schwartz musical, Working.

Back to familiar territory, and we were treated to two songs from the Rodgers and Hart musical, Pal Joey, I Could Write a Book, written for the show, and There's a Small Hotel, written for an earlier show, but not used, and revived in this musical.

The humour was there again in her marvellous version of I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say No, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbuster, Oklahoma, and continued in If/If You Hadn't But You Did, from Two on the Aisle, by that great team of Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne.

Some People, from the Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne musical, Gypsy, is Mama Rose's defiant refusal to settle for an average life. LuPone won her second Tony Award for this role, the worst stage mother who ever lived, and so it was no surprise that she gave a definitive performance of the song.

LuPone won her first Tony Award, of course, for her performance as Eva Peron in the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Evita, and she brought the house down with her rendition of Don't Cry for Me, Argentina, closing the first half of the show.

After a short interval, we returned to find that a group of young people, who will be performing in the Class of Cabaret shows on Saturday, had joined her as a backing chorus. They joined her, as she took on the role of the conman, Harold Hill, to sing Trouble, from the Meredith Willson musical, The Music Man, a role that she would not be likely to ever play.

Another of the songs that she would not normally get to sing was Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat, Nicely Nicely Johnson's 'testimony' from Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, adapted from the very funny novels written by Damon Runyon. Backed, again, by the Class of Cabaret, she reinvented the song.

Blow, Gabriel, Blow from Cole Porter's Anything Goes, again with the chorus, was another big winner, before a moving performance of a piece from one of those shows that came and went, Sleepy Man, from The Robber Bridegroom, by Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman.

Without Stephen Sondheim, the second half of her show would have been extremely short. Leonard Bernstein composed the music for West Side Story, of course, but Sondheim was the lyricist and, as we all know, he went on to write many of his own musicals. LuPone drew on all of that, including singing both parts of the duet between Maria and Anita in A Boy Like That/I Have a Love, which brought forth a few laughs, as well as Something's Coming and Somewhere. She then explored a good selection of songs from Sondheim's shows, including Another Hundred People, Anyone Can Whistle, The Ladies Who Lunch, and Being Alive.

George M. Cohan's Give My Regards to Broadway suggested that we had reached the end of the evening but, no, LuPone had a few more songs in reserve. It was a good thing that she did, because the audience gave her several standing ovations, with deafening applause and cheering and, clearly, did not want to leave while there was even the slightest chance of another song.

Patti LuPone has been to Australia a couple of times before, and we can only hope that she will be back soon, and often.

I wondered how many people dropped past the merchandise stall to pick up a copy of the double CD, Don't Monkey With Broadway? My bet would be that there were quite a lot, as a queue was already forming when I went past as I left the theatre. If you missed out, don't worry, it is available from Amazon as physical CDs, or from iTunes as a download.


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From This Author Barry Lenny