BWW Reviews: PATTI LUPONE, The Leicester Square Theatre, June 17 2013
Patti LuPone's reputation as act and "belt-ress" precede her; her forays into British theatre have been almost as regaled as her work in the USA. However, many Brits may not have heard of Seth Rudetsky, host and pianist who handles the first half of the show solo.
Rudetsky begins by stating his preference for casual shows & states he'd like to replicate what often occurs in his living room: show tunes around a piano and huh-lairious videos. What comes next is a serious of hysterically funny video clips of old-school musical theatre, where various things go wrong. Rudetsky has also interviewed most of the actresses at some point, so is able to dish the hideous giggle-and-empathy-inducing stories behind the various mishaps. This is a show for real musical theatre nuts, which those with tragically in-depth knowledge of theatre will probably adore, while some might be left feeling like they're pretending to laugh along with one big "in" joke.
After the interval, LuPone burst in, immediately demonstrating distinctive, soaring vocals. While her style is slightly mannered at times, here is a woman who truly has a voice. That said, a large part of the evening was Rudetsky interviewing her about her life's work, and while some of this did provide lovely insight into shows many know and love, some was probably of rather more interest to the die-hard Patti fans than to the rest of the audience. In fact, at times LuPone would have come off rather better if she'd sang more and discussed her lack of affection for Andrew Lloyd-Webber less; ingratitude is not an attractive quality in an actress.
However, it is LuPone's acting that stands out. Again, at times she seems a little mannered, but then does a simply beautiful job otherwise. Her rendition of Sondheim's The Ladies Who Lunch is quite brilliant - a boldly characterful, yet highly intelligent performance. She has moments of pure candour within her work that tug at the soul - and make it quite clear why Cameron Mackintosh was determined to have her originate the role of Fantine.
While you can perhaps neither love or hate LuPone, it is certainly interesting to see what all the hype is about. This is a gloriously haphazard evening, with LuPone fumbling through sheet music and lyrics as Rudetsky changes the show's contents every performance. For the devoted musical theatre fan, this is a very fun evening out, and a rare opportunity to catch one of the US's greats on this side of the pond.
Patti LuPone and Seth Rudetsky are playing at the Leicester Square Theatre at 7pm Tuesday 18 June-Thursday 20 June, 6:30pm Saturday 22 June, and 4:30pm and 7pm Sunday 23 June. Seth Rudetsky's Deconstructing Broadway is also playing at 9:30pm Saturday 22 June.