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Patti LuPone & Brotherly Love sing out on Philly Pride Day

Verizon Hall, Philadelphia

June 9, 2019

Patti LuPone in concert Photo credit ; Rahav iggy Segev / Photopass.com

Patti LuPone sauntered  on the Verizon Hall stage on Philly Pride Day in strappy black heels and stylish cocktail dress circa 60s de La Renta and launched into Cole Porter’s “Please Don’t Monkey With Broadway” rarely sung anymore in anybody’s repertory, but this audience knew it and were already hooked.    “I’ve seen theaters torn down… and sage old 42nd St. turned into the Disney walk of shame.”  Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a full-throated diva shady night.

Accompanied on a Steinway is the gifted arranger and show tune piano virtuoso Joseph Thalken for close to 2 hours, LuPone still has a ball with her audience, just don’t get out a cellphone or a camera or there will be a theater rumble to this side of “West Side Story.”  And speaking of that show, she told the audience that she always wanted to play either female lead in that show, so in her concert rep she sings both in ‘A Boy Like That’ a vocal switch-blade duel, with Patti the mezzo-lethal Anita and Patti the virginal soprano Maria.  True theater high camp gold.

LuPone also sang her favorite songs from that early Bernstein/Sondheim score- Like many singers, struggled with those tricky time signatures and descending notes of “Something Coming” but made up for it with her sumptuous vocal power on “Somewhere” which she admitted is a song that is always emotional for her to get through. LuPone still has a dyed in the curtain call Broadway belter delivery, even if she now makes, at 70, some upper range adjustments.  

Hilariously recreating her first singing role on as one of the hookers in Sweet Charity, singing ‘Big Spender” but, at saying that at 17, she didn’t realize what it was really about.  LuPone recreates herself doing the number in hilarious deadpan, Fosse flexing her hand on the mic stand and slumping her torso, by the final notes though, she was blowing the hall away.  

She sang many songs from shows she was in, especially in her pre-Evita days, but she didn’t get to sing until now.  One that should have been a hit for her is “Meadowlark” by from Stephen Swartz’s show The Baker’s Wife, which closed in two days.  But she sang a rousing version of “Lot of Livin’” from “Bye, Bye Birdie” and quiet drama to “Easy To Be Hard” from “Hair” ..(How can people have no feelings How can they ignore their friends Easy to be proud Easy to say no..)

LuPone soared on “Some People” from Gypsy, without over-singing, its already bombastic luster. And that was her warmup for the role that sealed her star in London and Broadway, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”  Thalken’s stellar piano intro setting the scene and somehow sounding like a full orchestra, as LuPone gazed over the audience in character as Evita and proceeded to devastate the concert hall with her vocal command. She created the role of Eva Peron on Broadway in 1979 and she still owns it.  

It was Pride Day in Philly and the 12- member Brotherly Love ensemble from The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus joined her for the second set.  She launched into ‘Trouble in River City’ from Music Man with the men exaggerating her call and response chorale reactions over the town delinquents who are not following the straighter straight narrow.  

The finale of songs from Stephen Sondheim and it is impressive that she doesn’t sing them the same way twice is in the moment with the song, this pianist and this audience.  A fast tempo ‘Another Hundred People’ from Company sung with the sharpest edge and “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd” was sung as a resistance anthem to a troubled world. Gorgeous. “Being Alive” will always be a showstopper for LuPone, and it was in Verizon Hall too. What tops that, only one encore with Patti wielding a martini and toasting triumphantly “The Ladies Who Lunch.” But on this Philly Pride Day, another highlight was “Sleepy Man” a vintage chorale lullaby from a forgotten show called “The Robber Bridegroom.” Patti’s back to the audience as she sang lovingly to the PGMC choristers “Always love my dear…I’m right here.” The many theater queens in the audience were feeling the love righteously from one legendary Broadway Baby.