Sunday, February 1, 2009

Duck and Cover

Patti Lupone has always been a showstopper, and she proved it several weeks ago in the final weekend of her celebrated turn as Mama Rose. She got very mixed response to her actions. During her climactic song in Gypsy, really only a few minutes before the final curtain, she stopped everything to complain about an audience member who was taking pictures. This, of course, is a big no-no, and apparently she had had enough. There are folks out there who wonder what the hell she thought she might accomplish by halting her own performance to insist the poor schnook be removed. Others, including the audience in attendance that night, applauded her actions.

Well, I wouldn't have done it, but I'm not Patti Lupone trying to scale that monumental breakdown number, "Rose's Turn." And the fact that this was the day before the show's premature closing probably weighed heavily with her. Lupone fought long and hard to play Mama Rose on Broadway, including having to convince author and director Arthur Laurents, who resisted the idea for years. Lupone finally proved herself during the New York concert staging of the show several years ago, and Laurents himself directed her in the revival. The show won lots of Tonys, for Lupone's performance and those of her two co-stars. As I wrote previously, the show was scheduled to conclude when the stars' contracts were up in March, but the tanking economy took its toll, and the production instead closed two weeks ago. I have no doubt Lupone was deeply disturbed by this, and I can verify (as can any stage actor) that the final few performances one gives of a beloved role are precious and personally valuable. To have one of her last shows marred by flashing cameras was apparently too much for the diva.

Frankly, I run hot and cold on Lupone. I have never seen her on stage in a musical, but have seen her in two straight plays, one of which (Master Class) she improved simply by her presence in it. (I wrote about seeing that show here). It's hard to find a subtle moment in any Lupone performance, on stage or screen, but who cares? I believe she gives her all to whatever she attempts.

Now that Gypsy is history, Lupone is hitting the road in a concert which should quite something. If there is a male counterpoint to the histrionics of Lupone's performances, it's Mandy Patinkin. Remember his performance of "Buddy's Blues" in the Lincoln Center Follies concert? Yikes. Here's a quick song which is very indicative of his musical performances these days. Get this guy a Valium...

I loved Patinkin's work in Sunday in the Park with George, a performance, preserved on video,which continues to make me weep. Nowadays, though, his singing makes me wince.

Lupone and Patinkin, who won twin Tonys for their performances in Evita decades ago, are joining forces for a concert tour. That may be a truly frightening evening. I'm serious here. Take this guy:

...and team him up with this gal:

...and all I can say is, TAKE COVER.

In an irony which theatre folk really enjoy, the very moment Lupone was going off on that audience member for snapping pictures , someone else was illegally audio-taping her performance. It is that audio tape which steals this clip:

With Lupone and Patinkin on the road together, nobody's safe.

Where can I buy a ticket?