BWW Review: Masterful Musical Theater Storytelling with Patti LuPone in DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY
"I have played some of the strongest and brassiest women on Broadway, but that is never, ever how I perceived myself."
While BYU's de Jong Concert Hall lacked the intimacy of Feinstein's/54 Below when she opened the famed nightclub, legend Patti LuPone wowed theatergoers with her dazzling DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY cabaret act.
With Audra McDonald and Bernadette Peters set to perform at UVU's Noorda Center for the Performing Arts (that's a combined tally of 10 Tony Awards and 14 additional nominations), LuPone brought all of her trademarked unique artistry and pistol-packing bravura to lead off a triumvirate of Broadway stars concertizing on Utah County stages in the next few months.
"Instinctually I knew that Broadway was my destiny."
There's a palpable love for the genre as she recalls her 10-year-old self entranced by Kate Smith "with the big voice" on TV and realized that she, too -- with her mother's musical theater LPs as inspiration -- she had a voice that could carry her onto the Great White Way.
The celebrated diva has been on New York City stages for more than 40 years, and she's played a number of concert dates recounting hits from her many previous stage performances. With gutsy reinvention, DON'T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY explores her intimate connection to the demure characters she always thought she'd play ("Happy Talk" from "South Pacific," "A Lot of Livin' to Do" from "Bye, Bye Birdie").
Uniquely for this performance, to protect sensitive ears, she replaces a "shit" lyric from the show's title song with a surprise foghorn. Yet thankfully there's no censoring a spilled martini onstage ("Ladies Who Lunch" from "Company").
Gender isn't a reason not to sing a song if it resonates ("Trouble" from "Music Man," "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" from "Guys and Dolls").
"It didn't matter to me that I would never be cast in a part that was played by a man. I cast myself. And staged all the numbers in my brother's bedroom, because that's where the turntable was. And I'm still doing it!"
Playing two characters at once is also no barrier: From her favorite musical, "West Side Story," she performs Maria and Anita in the same song ("A Boy Like That"/"I Have a Love") with brilliantly comic results.
And there are musicals that inspired her ("Easy to Be Hard" from "Hair").
LuPone has a sense of ownership that tells the audience she is completely at home with her music. Each new song showcases her mature, powerful voice, and she is superbly supported by her musical director Joseph Thalken, who gracefully glides her through the bittersweet and jazzy passages.
Of course, a Patti concert is less about songs than it is about experiencing songs LuPoned. And while her pitch wasn't always perfect, particularly in the lower register, the big notes -- and there were oh so many -- were moments of magnificence.
Nobody else quite does what LuPone does.
The opportunity to experience the world of an authentic Broadway star in a Utah seat is a rare privilege. Yes, I'll be in the audience at each of the three UVU concerts (two for Audra and one for Bernadette).