Broadway’s Vocal Virtuoso Gives Voice to Dylan, Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney, Les Miz and Much More

Photos by Douglas Freidman

The day before she turned 75, the Great White Way’s songstress supreme gave Angelenos a bravura birthday present on April 21, as Patti LuPone presented her musical memoir A Life in Notes at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The three-time Tony Award winner may be noted for outspokenly insisting upon thee-a-tuh etiquette in regards to audience members’ use of cellphones, face masks, etc., but the second LuPone took the stage L.A. ticket buyers erupted with a spontaneous ovation. Throughout her one-woman show, the mezzo-soprano was cascaded with admiration, ebullient but always respectable, by a near-sold out crowd filled with affection for the two-time Grammy Award winner.

Clad in black slacks, suit jacket and lowcut white top, LuPone conversationally told her rapt listeners that the songs she’d chosen to perform were sort of a musical diary of her life. Accompanied by music director/pianist Joseph Thalken and Brad Phillips on strings (which included guitar, violin and, methinks, a mandolin), during Act I the 1949-born songbird primarily serenaded us with a number of her favorite pop songs. They included: 1959’s “Teen Angel” by Jean Surrey; “Town Without Pity” by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington and originally sung by Gene Pitney in the 1961 movie of the same name; and a crowd pleasing, rollicking rendition of “Those Were the Days” by Gene Raskin, an adaptation of a Russian tune that Mary Hopkin had originally performed in 1968 on the Apple label.

Although LuPone’s first act accentuated rock hits, it was punctuated by patter and works derived from musical theater, the genre Patti is best known and lauded for. They included Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “We Kiss in a Shadow” from their 1951 The King and I and Marc Blitzstein’s “I Wish it So” from the 1959 musical Juno, which is based on a Sean O’Casey play. She also crooned Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s torch song “The Man That Got Away,” which Judy Garland sang to great acclaim in 1954’s A Star is Born, plus another number taken from a British movie, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s title tune from 1966’s “Alfie.”

But it seemed to me that after the intermission, when LuPone triumphantly returned to the stage clad in a flowing, gorgeous gown, she flipped her formula. In the second act, the type of songs she’s best known for – showtunes – dominated LuPone’s live soundtrack, which she cleverly heralded by singing “On Broadway” by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. Although this early sixties’ piece actually started out as a bluesy, rock song recorded by artists such as the Drifters and George Benson, the latter’s version found its way into the 1979 Bob Fosse biopic All That Jazz, and “On Broadway” has been also incorporated into two Broadway musicals. 

Lupone’s next song in her second set was straight from musical theater’s rapturous repertoire, “I Dreamed a Dream,” by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, which LuPone first sang onstage in the 1985 West End production of Les Misérables. This was followed by one of those showstoppers that has earned LuPone immortality and Tony Awards, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, from 1980’s Evita, wherein Patti played the title character. LuPone belted out what may be her signature song so powerfully that it was enough to wake General Juan Perón from the dead and give Ethel Merman a run for her money.

She followed this up with another Great White Way classic, a faux boozy, reflective version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Ladies Who Lunch,” from 1970’s Company; Patti portrayed Joanne in 2018 West End and 2020 Broadway revivals of Company. LuPone lightened the load with Cole Porter’s droll “Anything Goes” from the 1934 musical of the same name, and then with a Porter piece straight out of the Great American Songbook, Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”

Interwoven throughout the second act’s showtunes were Bob Dylan’s ode to eternal youth, “Forever Young,” and an exceedingly lovely, lyrical rendering of the Beatles’ ballad “In My Life,” from 1965’s “Rubber Soul.” And what a life the admirable Ms. LuPone has had, still going strong at 75, with sheer lung power. A Patti LuPone concert is best enjoyed when experienced, as Lennon and McCartney put it, with that special someone you’ll “never lose affection” for: “But of all these friends and lovers, There is no one compares with you… In my life I love you more.”  

I first saw/heard Patti LuPone live in 2007 when she co-starred with Audra McDonald (see: in the biting Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which I also caught at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Another one of those “places I’ll remember,” like her unforgettable one-woman show, A Life in Notes – sure to make music lovers sit up, listen raptly, tap their tootsies and take note, as without fail, the inimitable Patti LuPone hit all the right notes. A simply splendid time was had by all.

Verdi’s La Traviata is being presented April 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Puccini’s Turandot runs May 18-June 8 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90012. For tickets: ; (213)972-8001.     Renee Fleming in Recital graces the Dorothy Chandler stage 7:30 p.m., June 15 at. For tickets: ; (213)972-8001.