Music

Patti LuPone

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Patti LuPone is pretty much a total badass.

Which is kind of a strange thing to say about a highly respected, Juilliard-educated, Tony-winning Broadway denizen, but facts is facts, and the fact is, LuPone fits the description of one who is a badass.

You can see it in the kind of stage roles she tackles—she was Broadway’s first Evita, a role that won her her first Tony. She played Fantine in Les Miserables, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (and scored a Tony nod), Mama Rose in Gypsy (for which she won her second Tony), and Lucia in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Tony nomination for that one too). And that impressive rundown barely scratches the surface of a theater career that has spanned more than four decades.

You can also see her badassery in the way she refuses to limit herself to one discipline, one artistic medium. Put her onstage, and she’ll act her guts out—and she’ll sing whatever you’ve got, no matter how much skill or stamina is required. She’s also made frequent appearances on the big screen, mostly in smaller character parts, but she has a way of making the most of such parts, whether she’s playing supporting roles in State and Main, Driving Miss Daisy, or Witness.

LuPone has also been a familiar face on the small screen, most notably (at least if you’re me) as Libby Thatcher, the fierce and tender mother on TV drama Life Goes On. Some of LuPone’s best television work has been in the form of recurring walk-on roles in various series. I always know when she shows up as defense attorney Ruth Miller on Law and Order (it’s always on in syndication somewhere), it’s going to be an especially entertaining episode, and the same goes for her turns on 30 Rock, American Horror Story, and Penny Dreadful. And then there was that time she was nominated for an Emmy for her work in an episode of Frasier involving juggling and a potentially vengeful mother.

If you do not find yourself duly impressed by LuPone yet, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that she once won a Grammy for an opera album—and opera isn’t even LuPone’s main thing, although it is an incredibly difficult discipline many people devote their entire lives to.

But she’s not just a badass in her professional achievements—LuPone has proven to be a woman you do not want to cross under other circumstances as well. Take, for instance, the time during a 2009 performance of Gypsy when LuPone stopped the show in the middle of “Rose’s Turn” and demanded a flash-happy cell-phone photographer be removed from the audience. That should’ve served as a warning to all audiences henceforth and forever, but in 2015, when confronted by a persistent texter in an intimate theater during the second act of Shows for Days, LuPone snatched the phone from the offender’s hand. In doing so, she lived out the dreams of every person who never wants to see another cell phone pulled out during a performance, or the grainy, poor-quality photos and video that are the inevitable result of all that profound distraction.

LuPone, a longtime and outspoken opponent of cell phones and cameras in theatrical locales, was unapologetic during the dustup that followed, saying, “We work hard onstage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else—the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage.”

All hail our new queen, Patti LuPone.

Consider yourselves warned when LuPone hits town for a Sat., April 23 show at the Mount Baker Theatre called “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…played that part.” Leave it to LuPone to focus a concert, not on the many, many successes of her long career, but instead on the stuff she didn’t do, but wanted to—the music, the iconic parts, the classic pieces from material as varied as Hair, Peter Pan, Funny Girl, Westside Story, and others. Along with singing out her Broadway bucket list, LuPone will also smatter in some of the songs that have made her a beloved staple on the Great White Way, and will not doubt put her dramatic skills to use in the telling of stories and regaling of recollections. It’ll be a night so unforgettable, you won’t even need a poorly composed cell phone photo to remember it by.

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