Review: Patti LuPone's A LIFE IN NOTES at Carnegie Hall Was Transcendent

Patti LuPone looked back on her life through songs

By: Apr. 10, 2024
Review: Patti LuPone's A LIFE IN NOTES at Carnegie Hall Was Transcendent
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Seeing Patti LuPone’s A LIFE IN NOTES at Carnegie Hall was a transcendent experience. The iconic singer brought her solo show, in which she reflects back on her life through song, to the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage on Monday, April 8, 2024 at 8 pm. LuPone has such a unique voice; hearing her take on the songs that made an impact on her during her childhood, teenage years and young adulthood was a rare treat. You may have heard the songs before, but she put her spin on them, delivering them as only she could. LuPone is dripping with personality: when she sings, when she tells a story, even when she gestures. The crowd went absolutely wild when she held a martini glass significantly, about to launch into “Ladies Who Lunch.” LuPone manages to put so much of herself into everything she does that no matter how many times you’ve heard a song before, when she’s singing there truly is no comparison. Whether she’s doing a Broadway song she originated, a pop song from the radio, or a song that’s been covered hundreds of times, when LuPone is singing, she is truly all you can think of.

LuPone described A LIFE IN NOTES as a kind of musical memoir. The stories LuPone told between songs really held the evening together. The song choices were so apt, the ones I was unfamiliar with seemed like they must have been written just for this show. Janice Ian’s “Stars,” in particular, was so perfect. LuPone’s melancholy, slow rendition of it expressed the bitter side of fame (“And all you see is glory / But those who've seen it all / They live their lives In sad cafes and music halls / We always have a story”). Every song choice was perfect. LuPone closed out the first half of the night with Gene Raskin's "Those Were the Days," throwing her hand into the air with a peace sign and grinning wildly as the house lights came down to uproarious applause.

LuPone was accompanied on piano by her Music Director Joseph Thalken, and by Brad Phillips on strings. (Phillips switched between an impressive number of instruments throughout the show; about five, if I’m not mistaken.)

Review: Patti LuPone's A LIFE IN NOTES at Carnegie Hall Was Transcendent
LuPone with Thalken and Phillips. Photo credit: Chris Lee

In the second half, after intermission, Thalken and Phillips started playing the chords to "On Broadway." LuPone reappeared on stage, wearing a gorgeous sparkly silver dress with an elegant cape, and launched into a jaunty arrangement of the song. When she got to the line "They say I won't last too long on Broadway," she spit out a triumphant "ha!" After that, she spoke a little about the shows she did in the 80s, saying that she often thought about the show that made her career and the show she did in London and purposely chose not to join on Broadway ("I'll let you figure out which was which," she quipped.) She launched into a a sampling of songs from highlights of her Broadway career that also paired perfectly with the narrative (Les Miz, Evita, the recent revival of Company). Hearing LuPone singing live songs that I’ve only ever heard her do on CDs or YouTube recordings, surrounded by her fans, was electrifying. Perhaps the most memorable highlight song was “Anything Goes,” that high bubbly joyful tune, which LuPone interrupted partway through to give the context that while she was starring in that show in the 80s, friends of hers were dying all around her from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She paired it with "Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye," another Cole Porter tune. Thalken played a few notes of "Anything Goes" out under the end, in a bittersweet note.

Still, the overarching tone of the night was jubilant, with LuPone reflecting towards the end about her love for her husband and son with a medley of songs about how grateful she was for the time she’s had with them, including a touching “Time After Time.” Towards the end, she turned an eye towards the future and began singing a slow version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” She welcomed Bridget Everett (wearing a fabulous frilly pink dress that LuPone had some fun with) and the Young People's Chorus of New York City to join her on stage. They all walked out triumphant, to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Review: Patti LuPone's A LIFE IN NOTES at Carnegie Hall Was Transcendent
LuPone, Everett and the Young People's Chorus of New York City. Photo credit: Chris Lee

LuPone walked back on-stage for a lovely encore performance of the Beatle’s “In My Life,” before finally ending on a banger with a reprise of “Those Were the Days” that had the entire crowd clapping along. It was a perfect ending to a perfect show.

The show was conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, and written by Jeffrey Richman.

Follow Patti LuPone on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

For more shows at Carnegie Hall, visit them online.

(Header photo credit: Chris Lee)


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