Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Patti LuPone. Don’t Monkey With Broadway.

Conceived and directed by Scott Wittman. Musical direction by Joseph Thalken. Canberra Theatre Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. June 25. 2018

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Patti LuPone - Don't Monkey With Broadway
A vase of lush red roses on a Grand. Nearby a glass of water and at the piano musical director and accompanist Joseph Thalken against a mauve cyclorama. Enter Broadway legend Patti LuPone,  winner of multiple Tony and Grammy awards and an inductee into the American Theater Hall of Fame, LuPone strides smiling onto the Playhouse stage to the instant outburst of applause from adoring devotees. She is among the acolytes of her forty year Broadway and West End career. Broadway has come to Canberra and the audience is ecstatic.

After a momentary mike malfunction, a cheerful, unflurried and consummate professional LuPone launches into her opening number, Don’t Monkey With Broadway. LuPone’s opening number is an anthem to the iconic temple of American musical Theatre that has been he profession, her passion and her love since she graduated from the Juilliard School as an actress and singer in 1973. The evening is a celebration of love. From Irving Berlin to Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein, from Stephen Schwarz to Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, LuPOne shares anecdotes, intimate stories, told with the wicked assurance of a humour laced with experience and natural flair for comedy and opinions with an audience hungry for every morsel of this phenomenal artist’s amazing journey through the legendary shows of the past four decades. Don’t Monkey With Broadway for the fans is the hottest ticket that has come to town in ages.
Patti LuPone sings the songs of Broadway
LuPone and her musical director Joseph Thalken share an obvious synchronicity and Thalken’s accompaniment sparkles with sheer exuberance, in one with LuPone’s passionate joy. Her talent  launches a personal campaign for the preservation of a Broadway, steeped in nostalgia and nurturing the spirit of the songs that have inspired, excited and moved the generations who have filled the theatres to escape, celebrate or be entertained by the great composers, lyricists, performers and producers of the Broadway musical. With a word of warning LuPone admonishes the Disneyfication of 42nd Street, the proposal to raise the Judy garland Theatre to build a mall below or the changing character of iconic Times Square. LuPone is Queen of the Golden Years of Broadway and her show serves as a celebration of the glorious age of musical theatre and artists such as Kate Smith, whom she watched on television as a young child and musicals such as South Pacific and Sweet Charity.

Throughout a two hour evening of classic LuPone songs, audiences are treated to stories of the legends of the musical. theatre Power and emotion, sensitivity and sentiment, nostalgia and humanity are the spirits of her song. With a voice as magnetic as ever, but now maturer and bursting with feeling, LuPone endows every number with its unique sound and meaning. The heart rending delivery of Easy To Be Hard from rock musical Hair to Rodgers and Hannerstein’s comical  I’m Just A Girl Who Cain’t Say No from Oklahoma to Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Company  and one of LuPone’s signature songs, Ðon’t Cry for Me Argentina  from Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita. – every song is given new life by a singer in total control of her instrument, a range that can reach from the depths of pain to the heights of elation. LuPOne is the enchantress, casting her spell but never mystifying. The audience is rapt.

A surprise is just around the corner. The theatre techs set up three microphone stands and at the start of the second half, a music ensemble of some of Canberra’s brightest musical theatre talents appears to accompany LuPone’s forceful rendition of   Ya Got Trouble from The Music Man among others. The thrill shines in their eyes – to be sharing the stage with Patti LuPOne – to be in the presence of this down to earth, fun loving, genuine, enduring and immensely talented shining star of Broadway.
Patti LuPone
The surprise does not end there. As she says, the advantage of doing a one woman cabaret is that she can take on every role and she brings the house down with a solo duet between Maria and Anita from West Side Story. Add to this her sardonic rendition of Ladies Who Lunch  from Sondheim’s Company and the tender, ironic Nothing Else Can Harm You  from Sweeney Todd  and the audience is treated to a cavalcade of highlightsts from the old and the new, the familiar and the unknown in an evening of celebration and tribute to the magic of Broadway and the stupendous talent and personality of its shining star, Patti LuPOne.
A closing, feisty and triumphant rendition of Give My Regards To Broadway foreshadows the end of an unforgettable evening with the audience cheering and applauding on their feet . LuPOne is Broadway and for one night in June, Broadway came to Canberra.