BWW Review: Patti LuPone's DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY Is Masterclass Of Musical Theatre Storytelling With Magnificent Music

BWW Review: Patti LuPone's DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY Is Masterclass Of Musical Theatre Storytelling With Magnificent Music

Saturday 23rd June 2018, 8:30pm, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

Broadway Musical Theatre legend Patti LuPone shared an intimate night of memories and marvellous music in her concert DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY. Joined by her musical director Joseph Thalken on piano, LuPone gives the audience an insight in to how Broadway became such an important part of her life through delightful anecdotes and fabulous renditions of songs.

An alumni of Juilliard School's first Drama Division, LuPone takes the audience back to where it all began at the age of three watching The Kate Smith Hour when she decided that she would be a performer. Growing up in a house where her father loved opera whilst her mother favoured Jazz and musicals it is interesting to note that LuPone originally wanted to pursue Rock and Roll but thankfully for her fans she ended up in Musical Theatre. With two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, one Laurence Olivier Award, two Grammy Awards and numerous other awards and nominations, plus being inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2006, LuPone is considered Musical Theatre royalty and her performance reinforced that status.

DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY is so much more than an anthology of LuPone's career but also an insight into the magnificent woman and her dedication to her dream and acknowledgment of her effort to get to where she is, from failed auditions to false starts at making it to The Big White Way and receiving the only non-singing role in musical when she was starting out. Whilst other performers often focus on the high points, LuPone ensures her truth, honesty and humanity is expressed with the inclusion of works that weren't the big hits she and producers had hoped for and the anecdotes that show that it pursing a dream takes persistence, whether it be rising from knockbacks or accepting that the only affordable way to live in New York City is in a iconic railroad apartment.

The evening is a masterclass of how to present songs with heart; emotion; and connection, both between the singer and the song, and also making that expression reach to have the audience grinning with joy and elation or on in tears as their hearts have been torn out with emotion. LuPone is the consummate storyteller and master of her craft as she understands the use of stillness, letting her magnificent voice express the pathos, passion and persuasion of the song without unnecessary adornment that many lesser performers resort to. Everything is done with both purpose and a naturalness that conveys the depth of understanding of the character she inhabits and the sentiment being expressed. Whilst only single songs from characters are presented (there are at times multiple songs from the same production), LuPone ensures that the essence of the role is conveyed without the need to frame the piece beyond how it holds a significant place in her history. Her delivery of Eva Peron's speech to the people, Don't Cry For Me Argentina, is expressed with measured gravity and also humility as the First Lady of Argentina seeks to justify her pursuit of power by pleading for forgiveness from her loyal followers, presenting a most honest and insightful rendition of the work. She shows how Mama Rose's Some People is meant to be, delivering the intensity and conviction with a powerful stillness with every movement considered and having purpose whilst delivering the light and shade in the work as Mama Rose's hopes and ambitions are laid bare with a desperate plea to her father and anyone else who will listen.

Her physicality is fabulous with her facial expressions particularly delightful. Whilst many other performers opt to give Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields Big Spender a lot of movement, LuPone's stillness for SWEET CHARITY's famous number taps in to deliver the truest expression of a tired, jaded taxi-dancer ever seen on stage as she conveys the ladies weariness and cynicism with only movement from her neck up in a deliciously nuanced performance. Her versatility to move between big bold ballads wrought with passion and anguish to poignant tender pieces, bright comic works and fantastic takes on duets is wonderful and keeps the concert moving with a range of emotions.

Her interactions with Thalken express a synchronicity along with mutual respect and admiration as he skilfully proves that LuPone needs nothing more than a Piano, and she later proves that she doesn't even need that. For the Sydney concert, Classical Voice students from the Sydney Conservatorium Of Music joined Ms LuPone after the interval to round out the crowd backing a delightful rendition of Meredith Willson's Trouble from THE MUSIC MAN and Frank Loesser's Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat from GUYS AND DOLLS.

As LuPone explains early in the evening, she never saw plot, gender or age as a reason why she shouldn't sing a song if it resonated with her and thankfully she has retained that ethos for the programming of this concert. She delivers wonderful renditions of songs that she would potentially never perform in the context of a musical theatre performance, from the male roles to the ingénues that directors would have though it a waste of her phenomenal vocal power that is still as strong as ever, to cast her as, and she deals with the dilemma of wanting to cover two roles from the same production with brilliantly comic results. The songs are fpresented as the composer intended, with original lyrics and sung in their entirety with the exception of some intelligent edits to the title song where LuPone takes aim at the commercialisation of the Broadway, from theatres being 'lifted' to enable another mall to be constructed, to a toy store dominating Times Square real estate and the iconic intersection being turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare but she does show an appreciation for one of the precinct's famous barely clad buskers in amongst the commentary on the direction the famous space and her country is taking.

With the Adelaide and Sydney concerts completed, it is strongly recommended to do whatever it takes to secure a ticket to one of the remaining concerts in Canberra, Brisbane or Melbourne over the next week. For long time Patti LuPone fans and musical theatre devotees, DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY is akin to a religious experience. For those not as familiar with Ms LuPone's catalogue of work or musical theatre, this is a masterclass in how songs should be presented. To experience this incredible woman's immense talent in person should be on everyone's bucket list and this concert must not be missed.


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From This Author Jade Kops

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