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Celebrity Series of Boston Presents Patti LuPone, 'The Gypsy in My Soul'

Celebrity Series of Boston Presents Patti LuPone, The Gypsy in My Soul

Conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, Musical Direction by Joseph Thalken, Musical Arrangements by Jonathan Tunick and Joseph Thalken; John Winder, Andrew Sterman, Dave Riekenberg - woodwinds; Glenn Drewes, Frank Fighera, Bruce Bonvissuto - brass; William Sloat - bass; Mark Sherman - percussion; Paul Pizzuti - drums; Joseph Thalken - piano

Sunday, April 3 at 5 pm, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston Celebrity Series of Boston: 617-482-2595 or www.celebrityseries.org

Patti LuPone standing center stage, singing a capella and unamplified, can hold a rapt and hushed audience in the palm of her hand. I know this because it is precisely what she did during her third encore last night at Symphony Hall when the crowd held her with their applause, willing her not to leave them. Notwithstanding the fact that she had performed two dozen songs over the course of two hours, they wanted more. However, this was not greed; it was sheer adulation.

From the opening trumpet fanfare of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and the moment when the Diva strode onto the stage, this crowd was juiced. Although it was not a full house, it was a good house and people of all stripes were there to soak up some Broadway royalty. Two- time Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical (Evita, 1979, and the 2008 revival of Gypsy), recipient of an Olivier Award and countless additional nominations, LuPone wears her crown with a lot of swagger and a little humility. But, as Dizzy Dean said, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it."

And, oh, can she do it! With a stellar ten-piece band under the direction of pianist/conductor Joe Thalken backing her and the unrivaled acoustics of Symphony Hall,  LuPone loosed the gypsy in her soul on numbers made famous by her, as well as by others, and showed her ability to make any song her own. How often have you heard a female singer take on Paul Anka's "My Way" and challenge the Chairman of the Board? I'm guessing never, but Patti could co-opt it as her new anthem.

LuPone is not short on signature songs, and rolled them out, one after another in the second half of the show. She was rewarded with rousing applause when she struck her Eva Peron pose for "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," followed by "I Get a Kick Out of You" (Anything Goes), a sweet duet with Thalken on "Sleepy Man" from The Robber Bridegroom early in her career, and selections from Oliver and Pal Joey.

Just before her de rigeur rendition of "Everything's Coming Up Roses," LuPone shared a little background about discovering her love of acting from the movies "Lawrence of Arabia" and "West Side Story." Proclaiming that she could have played two roles in the latter, she set about proving it by singing a hilarious, albeit characterized by a split personality, duet with herself on "A Boy Like That." I think she would have made a great Anita. She definitely had the attitude right.

Act one consisted of songs by distinguished composers like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer, and Stephen Sondheim, but they varied in their degree of familiarity. For example, the Sondheim pick was "I Never Do Anything Twice" from The 7% Solution, and the Porter tunes were from Panama Hattie and Can-Can. LuPone let us in on her admiration for Edith Piaf and said she'd like to play her one day, leading us into believing she was about to do a Piaf cover. Instead, she borrowed a wonderful spoof from the canon of Bette Midler and, showcasing her comedic skills, French-accented her way through "I Regret Everything." She also did an interesting medley of an ethereal "Calling You" with Oleta Adams' "Get Here If You Can."

It's a rare performer who doesn't plan for an encore and LuPone took the opportunity to spoof herself, even as she sang Jerome Kern's "Just the Way You Look Tonight." She came out onstage with a camera, snapping photos of the crowd, and reminded everyone of the night in January, 2009, when she stopped the show because somebody in the audience took pictures during "Rose's Turn." It was a hoot!  The second encore song was The Bee Gees' "Nights on Broadway" with Thalken again on backup vocals. I thought it was an odd choice, but Patti had her disco groove going and appeared to be having fun.

All in all, the concert was a confluence of greatness, starting with the star performer. Add the band, the hall, and the playlist, and, to quote another Gershwin tune, "Who could ask for anything more?"

Photo credit: Rahav Segev, Ethan Hill

  

  

 


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