Did you expect less from me on Tony night?
Sometime, when musical theatre lies, it isn’t about a grand soaring idea, it’s just about the way you see the world. This is because when you’re interested in musical theatre, chances are you don’t spend a whole lot of time around people who are interested in musical theatre and it begins to consume your life and thought process. And as a result, you see things, people, everything in ways that are different than the way the rest of the world does. Or in this case, you see certain people differently than others do. For example, I spend a whole lot of time trying to reconcile the real world with the view that:
Patti Lupone is the most powerful woman to ever live
In case you’re completely unfamiliar with musical theatre (or at least had your awakening sometime in the Rent, Chicago, High School Musical time frame) Patti Lupone is one of the grande dame musical theatre divas. After being a member of the inaugural class of Juliard’s acting school, and then a founding member of “The Acting Troupe” she went on to star in some of the most amazing roles in musical theatre history, she played Eva Peron in Evita, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Fantine in Les Mis, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and of course the mother of all female Broadway roles, Mama Rose in Gypsy.
La Lupone is a polarizing figure. People love her, they hate her, they love to hater her. I’m in the first camp. I love Patti more than is probably healthy. My obsession with Patti Lupone is one of those things that my mother gave to me, however inadvertently. See, my mom saw her in Les Miserables in London in the late 80’s. She was pregnant with me. The way she says it, she was spoiled by seeing that brilliant original cast. When “I Dreamed a Dream” gets stuck in my head, it’s LuPone’s voice that I hear. “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of those songs that made me want to sing, and it was her version that did it.
When I was 16 I was smug little feminist, and there were certain songs that I absolutely refused to sing because I felt they, and the shows they went along with promoted violence and horrifying attitudes towards women (it’s another post all together, that one) but the one exception was “As Long As He Needs Me” from Oliver. How do you ask, did my voice teach get me to compromise on this one, “You know, Reenie, Patti Lupone played Nancy.” It was over, I would compromise any and all principals if I could even touch her shadow.
Speaking of touching her shadow, my mother once almost refused to go see Sunset Boulevard on Broadway because it was starring Glen Close instead of Patti she was fired in a most controversial way), and she stated “I’m not going to pay good money to see Glen Close approximate Patti Lupone!” She ended up going, but she saw Betty Buckley (who I guess was an acceptable substitute). See, this one was given to me by my mother.
Here’s the weird part…I’ve never seen the woman perform live. Not once. I wasn’t born for Evita, Les Miserables, or Anything Goes. I was too young for a lot of her prolific work in the 90s, and was living in Pennsylvania for college during Sweeney Todd and Gypsy, and couldn’t get anyone to go see her and Mandy Patinkin together in their showcase this past winter.
And yet I’m transfixed by her. My friend Katie and I take posed pictures with “Evita Arms” anywhere we deem appropriate (hotel balconies tend to be the winner) and just tonight, I put myself in to hysterics watching her sing five lines with Neil Patrick Harris on the Tonys, and squeeed with fangirly glee as she and Mandy framed the words, “there’s nothing more we can think of to say to you.”
But as it turns out, the world at large does not care much at all about Patti Lupone. She’s a minor star, everywhere but the Great White Way.
But let’s just face it, the truth, she’ll never leave us. And that’s how we want it.