Patti LuPone• “Don’t Monkey With Broadway” Tour• February 4, 2023• The Noorda Center
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
“It won’t be easy. You’ll think it’s strange when I try to explain how I feel…” about Patti LuPone at The Noorda Center of the Performing Arts on the campus of Utah Valley University. What a moment in this venue’s history. To have a legend of the Great White Way grace this young stage is a massive get for The Noorda. But as I’ve mentioned before, this venue was up to the level of the great Broadway Legend and her performance and her still after all these years, powerful voice. The meeting of Lupone’s voice and the acoustics of The Noorda filled the air of the room was a beautiful union.
Patti LuPone is a three-time Tony Award winner, two-time Olivier Award winner, and two-time Grammy winner. It’s difficult to decide what she’s best known for. She originated the role of Eva Perón in Evita (Tony Award). She played the role of Fantine in the original London cast of Les Misérables (Olivier Award), her many roles within the great catalog of Stephen Sondheim musicals. Or perhaps to some as Norma Desmond in the original London Cast of Sunset Blvd. My introduction to Ms. LuPone was on the 80s TV show, Life Goes On. It wasn’t until later that I embarrassingly learned that she was this huge Broadway star. But once I found this out, I got myself caught up on her career and have been a big fan ever since. However, it wasn’t until I was sitting inside The Noorda that I was able to finally see her live.
Patti LuPone brought her Don’t Monkey With Broadway Tour to The Noorda on February 4th. Not only was it the tour’s opening show, but it was Patti’s first time performing live in three years. She expressed that there were some nerves but I found them impossible to notice. She was as polished as I expected her to be.
For the first half of the show, LuPone talked went through much of her history with musical theater. Sharing that her chorus teacher taught her discipline. She shared being cast in South Pacific in a local production, and then sang, I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy”. She told a hilarious story about going to her first professional audition when she was a senior in high school. It was for the tour of Sweet Charity. She mentioned that she didn’t know what the musical was about and sang a hilarious rendition of “Big Spender”. The audience cracked as she purposefully muddled through the song. Finishing with “How could I not know she was a hooker?”.
LuPone shared being cast in what was to be her Broadway debut but the show The Baker’s Wife died out of town. She mentioned the music of Jule Styne and sang the iconic song, “Some People” from the musical Gypsy. Mama Rose was not a role LuPone ever thought she was meant to play. But after hearing her perform that song, it’s hard to imagine that role not being meant for her. The audience roared their approval at its completion. It’s no surprise that Patti won one of her Tonys for playing this role in a revival production of Gypsy.
And then, for me the highlight of the show. I think I loved it because Pattie LuPone presented it just so perfectly. She simply said, “This is the show that made me a star.” And right then the piano introduction to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” began. She could have said so much more than that. She could have gone into her difficult relationship with the show’s composer, Andrew Lloyd Weber. But that simple sentence said it all. Evita made Lupone a star. A Tony and Grammy award-winning star. The audience applauded in excitement. I was on the edge of my seat. ‘I’m actually seeing Patti LuPone sing this.’
It was so surreal. She still sings it in the original key. That alone is as impressive as anything else that happened on this night. Her voice was strong, emotional, and drew the audience into every dramatic pause, glance, and belted note. I felt a tension like I’d never felt before. But in a good way. In the way that you are in the middle of opening your Christmas presents as a child. So excited to be in the moment but also anticipating the next gift, the next note.
Lupone finished by raising her arms in the way of her great character Evita. The audience roared, the lights blacked out, and we were left with 15 minutes to catch our breath. I’d need every second of that break. What a moment. I looked around as the lights came up. Some people looked like they were exhaling for the first time in 4 minutes. Others had tears in their eyes. I was frozen in the moment. One of my favorite concert moments ever.
While the end of the first half was worthy of a show closer, we still had the second half to go. And there was no letdown. Patti opened the second half of her concert singing “Trouble” from The Music Man. It was the perfect song to start the concert back up with. Not only did LuPone perform this song perfectly, but the audience joined in the fun singing back the lyrics that the ensemble would normally sing in the show. When the song was over I saw her look back at her pianist very impressed at what just occurred. Then she told the audience “Bravo!”. I mean they sang all the words. It was as if it was rehearsed. But unless they just left me out on that rehearsal, it was totally improvised.
Patti LuPone shared that it didn’t matter to her that she wouldn’t be cast in a role of a part played by a man. She would just sing those songs too. “Because they were just so more interesting to me.” LuPone then went on to sing songs from On The Town and West Side Story. She mentioned that West Side Story was her favorite musical. She sang an awesome version of “Something’s Coming”.
But one of the best moments of the whole evening was when Pattie sang what would be best described as a solo duet. LuPone shared that there were two parts she’d want to play in West Side Story. But if the played one she’d be disappointed she wasn’t playing the other. So she performed “A Boy Like That/ I Have a Love” the duet between Anita & Maria. It was both hilarious and impressive. She concluded her West Side Story with a moving performance of “Somewhere”.
LuPone concluded her main set with three songs from the late great Stephen Sondheim. My favorite of the trio was “Being Alive”. It feels impossible to not love that song. I’ve heard it performed by many a Broadway legend and I never tire of it.
It was no surprise that the audience demanded Lupone back with an encore. She walked on stage with what looked like a glass of wine. I could tell just by that, many people in the audience knew what was coming next. Patti then said, “I’d like to propose a toast.” The audience erupted because they knew “Ladies Who Lunch” a song that has become famous for in recent years. Carrying the torch from Elaine Stritch. It was another “edge of your seat” moment. The song ended with Patti throwing the contents of her glass into the crowd. The audience lept to their feet.
I still have to pinch myself to believe that I have finally seen Patti LuPone live. It was all I hoped it would be. I was so impressed with the power she possess in her well seasoned voice. I’ve seen a lot of Broadway legends in my day and I feel like I can see the “cracks” starting to show. With any singer who’s aging, their voice does too. But Ms. LuPone’s voice has been well preserved. The range, the blow your hair back power, and the dramatic way she presents these great songs is as impressive as anything you’ll ever see on the stage.