Reviewer: Robert Cottingham
Patti LuPone is undoubtedly a big star. She has won two Tony Awards and an Olivier and created the rôle of Fantine in the original Royal Shakespeare Company production of Les Misérables. As a musical theatre star, they don’t come much bigger. And in the Leicester Square Theatre where she is playing a week long residency, she finds an audience who simply can’t get enough of her.
Starting the night was host Seth Rudetsky, himself a very funny and camp performer. He got things off to a great start by treating the audience to some hilarious video footage of The Osmonds performing a disco version of “If I were a rich man” and Shirley Bassey singing on an oil rig. The audience laughed hysterically but you would have to be off a certain age or persuasion to find a lot of it very funny. Eventually Patti LuPone came on and the show proper got started, with Rudetsky accompanying LuPone on piano and occasionally lending vocal support too.
LuPone belted out numbers from a range of the shows for which she is famous, including two songs from her award-winning turn in Evita – ‘Rainbow High’ and ‘Buenos Aires’- with Rudetsky gamely playing along throughout. Between songs he interviewed her about some of her experiences working as a serious actor and moving into musical theatre. LuPone came across as slightly self-effacing, as though she was afraid to show her diva side which is clearly something which has made her so successful. The songs where she took centre stage were the best, where she was illuminated by a spotlight and watched by a hushed audience. ‘I regret everything’ was a new song written by the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, LuPone sang it as though it was the flipside to Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Non Regrette Rien.’ Otherwise things sagged a little during the non-musical numbers and it would have been nice to have heard more songs, given the tameness of the chat.
She sang ‘Fine Life’ from Oliver, which your reviewer was delighted to join in with, going on to ‘As long as he needs me’ where she gave her worst cockney accent. The sound quality was first rate and LuPone showcased some fine singing, even if she found it hard to reach the high notes on Rainbow High.
At the end, the audience leapt to their feet to give a standing ovation and encourage two encores, giving us the opportunity to hear LuPone preview a song from an upcoming musical of Woman on The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. LuPone looked like she could convincingly play Pepa, the woman left by her husband who puts her into a mental hospital. And as for Rudetsky, it’s nice to see that as well as supporting LuPone he has his own show at the same theatre later this month, Deconstructing Broadway. It sounds great, seriously.