Review: Patti LuPone at Wolf Trap

The Barns at Wolf Trap resonated with the powerful belt of one of Broadway’s reigning divas tonight as Patti LuPone brought her concert “Don’t Monkey with Broadway” down to DC. A whirlwind tour through some of her favorite Broadway songs, the original Evita proved once again that age has not slowed her–or her voice–down one bit.

LuPone is perhaps most well known for her star turn in the titular role of the original Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita.  Most recently seen on Broadway in her concert with Mandy Patinkin titled An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, she also earned raves (and a Tony) for her stellar performance as Mama Rose in the recent Broadway revival of Gypsy.  A Grammy, Tony, and Olivier Award-winning icon of stage and screen, her most recent project involved creating the role of Helena Rubinstein in the new musical War Paint in Chicago.

The evening opened—appropriately—with a Patti-fied version of “Don’t Monkey with Broadway,” including a poke at Brooklyn hipsters and horrified crack about the possibility of President Trump that garnered quite a lot of applause and agreeing “whoop”s. The lighthearted tone and clear affection for Broadway and its music set the tone for the rest of the evening as LuPone focused on the Broadway songs she likes best, regardless of the age or gender of the character. Songs like “Happy Talk” from South Pacific, or a fantastic quick-talking version of “Trouble” from The Music Man made it clear that LuPone can sing pretty much anything she wants and sing it fantastically.

Patti Lupone performing 'Woulda , Coulda, Shoulda' at 54 Below on July 22, 2013. Photo by Rahav iggy Segev /
Patti Lupone performing ‘Woulda , Coulda, Shoulda’ at 54 Below on July 22, 2013. Photo by Rahav iggy Segev /

LuPone’s vocal skill is such that she can brassily belt and then quickly transition to soft and quiet, sweet tones, such as in her rendition of “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife. Despite the demanding nature of the song (nearly 6 minutes!) as it requires both strength and tenderness, LuPone made it seem effortless. Her strong belt is so powerful that the oft-used-cliche of “blowing the roof off” seems likely to come true in the intimate Barns setting, especially in such power anthems such as “Being Alive” or “Blow Gabriel Blow.”

Yet she is not mere power–her acting skills are on full display with these songs from shows  where she is able to use dynamics and expressions to make the audience feel exactly what the character is going through and trying to convey. Her absolutely hilarious flirty version of “I Cain’t Say No” from Oklahoma! had the audience in stitches, as she became completely believable as a flirty teenage minx, and her duet with herself in “A Boy Like That” as she played both Anita and Maria and switched back and forth was another funny moment.

My favorite songs though were the more serious ones where LuPone flexed her dramatic muscles. Her rendition of “Millwork” from Working began with a bit of a monologue and then transitioned right into the pathos of the song, where LuPone was restrained and quiet with moments of letting-go to express the resignation and anguish of the character. It was absolutely fantastic. Similarly, her treatment of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” was not LuPone singing one of her greatest hits but Eva Peron pleading with the people of Argentina.

Joining LuPone for a few songs was the a capella group Potomac Fever (an ensemble from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC), backing her up on a few songs including an appropriately lullaby-like “Sleepy Man” from The Robber Bridegroom. The also sang a song by themselves, and chose—much to LuPone’s delight—“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. The smoothness of their voices and their blending skill was fantastic, and the soloist’s emotion and lovely clear high notes amazed both the audience and LuPone, who exclaimed after that he sang it “better than [she] ever did!”

At the end of the night, it was more than evident that with Broadway in the capable hands of divas such as LuPone, there is no need to “monkey around with Broadway”!

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Patti LuPone: Don’t Monkey With Broadway plays again tonight at 8 pm at The Barns at Wolf Trap – 1635 Trap Road, in Vienna VA. Tonight’s performance is sold out. For tickets to future Wolf Trap events, go to their calendar of events.

A Chat with Patti LuPone on ‘Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’ on September 27, 2014 at ‘Arts by George’ at George Mason University by Joel Markowitz.

‘An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin’ at The Kennedy Center by David Friscic.

‘Patti LuPone: Matters of the Heart’ at The Music Center at Strathmore by Joel Markowitz.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1553.gif


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