Patti LuPone: From Les Mouches to Madame Rose

Broadway diva Patti LuPone releases a new old CD today: Patti LuPone at Les Mouches (Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom records). The disc is new, but the performance captured on it is from a New York nightclub 28 years ago. Every Saturday night, for 27 weeks, LuPone would dash from the Broadway Theatre after her final performance of Evita for the week and perform, with David Lewis at the piano, for a packed nightclub audience.

To read all about LuPone’s cabaret heyday and the release of the new disc, visit my theater page at here.

While LuPone was on the phone it was impossible not to talk to her about her Tony-winning turn as Madame Rose in the hit Broadway revival of Gyspy.

On her Gypsy company, which includes Tony winners Boyd Gaines as Herbie and Laura Benanti as Louise as well as Leigh Ann Larkin as June:

“This is the best company I’ve ever worked with on stage, the best experience on stage. It’s a joyful, deeply rewarding experience. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and this is a hard part that does nothing but renew me night after night.”

LuPone says she’ll be with the show through March 1. What about a tour?

“I would consider touring, but I don’t think it will happen. The producers say the road is `broken,’ which is to say the presenters cannot meet the guarantee of the production. I would love to come to San Francisco, L.A., Boston, Atlanta, wherever, with this show and this company. But I don’t think, considering the economic times we’re in, that it will happen. We’re not going to London because there’s not theater for it. It’s not the end of Gypsy, but there may be a long hiatus.”

The role of Rose is considered the apex of musical theater roles for women. This is the second time LuPone has taken on a role originated by Ethel Merman (the other was Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes). The current production is directed by Arthur Laurents, who wrote the show’s book, and LuPone has great praise for her director.

“This is the best script ever written for Broadway. Take the music out, you have a play. With the character of Rose I’m still connecting the dots. Bubbles have burst, and I’ve been able to connect dots from the first to second act. I have two unbelievably good actors, Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti, and we continue to investigate with each other. That’s why I’m so happy. It’s the purest kind of experience one can have if you dare to act on a stage. In this particular case, Laura and I, especially in the final moments of the play, break it open. We make it different every night. The interpretation changes.”

LuPone will be 60 next year, and at about the six-month mark in Gyspy, she hit a sort of wall and wondered if she was going to make it to the end of this musical marathon. So she went to a nutritionist.

“I cut out wheat and coffee. I have more energy and stamina. I already have stamina – I was built for the stage. But I don’t want to miss shows, so that’s why I went for help. My instinct said go, make sure you can finish this run, make sure you’re not knocked out of the part. I also get about 12 hours of vocal silence, and I have a great singing teacher. This show taught me how to breathe. It’s all about breath. Every show is about breath, every singing role is about breath. But we walk on stage and forget the breathing. We’re shallow breathers and have to consciously drop breath into the belly and float breath on the voice. Technique and breath, vocal silence and breath – that’s how I persevere.


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Click here to see a YouTube video of LuPone at Les Mouches singing “Meadowlark.”
And here is LuPone at Les Mouches singing “Rainbow High” from Evita:

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