Patti LuPone's stellar career has encompassed her Olivier-winning creation of the role of Fantine in the first London cast of Les Misérables, two Tony Awards for her roles as Eva Perón in Evita and Mama Rose in Gypsy, and originating Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard in the West End. She is back in London for one week only and the anticipation in the room at the start of the evening was palpable.
Before LuPone took to the stage, Broadway savant Seth Rudetsky provided a warm-up to perfectly set the tone for the evening. For half an hour or so he showed and hilariously deconstructed clips of musical greats in their moments of not-quite-such-greatness, including The Osmonds' bizarre take on Fiddler On The Roof, Andrew Rannells' lip-licking performance of "I Believe" (The Book of Mormon) from the 2011 Tony Awards and a hysterical lyrically-challenged rendition of "June is Bustin' Out All Over" by Leslie Uggams. Rudetsky's one-man show next Saturday is guaranteed to be a hoot.
After the interval, the show was part performance, part interview, and wholly entertaining. Rudetsky, as interviewer and accompanist, calls the shots, selecting songs from a huge repertoire and firing questions off the cuff. It's a format that works extremely well. A great rapport between the two brings out enlightening tales about auditions and choosing roles, brutally honest anecdotes about ‘ugly' contractual negotiations, and strong viewpoints on audience etiquette.
But it's the performances that truly bring the house down. From the opening number "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (Gypsy), through lesser-known songs such as "Sleepy Man" (The Robber Bridegroom) and "Invisible" (Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), to massive showstoppers "I Dreamed A Dream" (Les Misérables) and "Rainbow High" (Evita), LuPone's vocals are strong, sassy and nothing short of a sensation.
There is also plenty of spontaneity, including occasional reading from lyric sheets and one magical moment in which an audience member gets up on stage to sing Valjean opposite LuPone's Fantine during her death scene; a birthday treat he probably won't forget in a hurry.
Spectacular music, fascinating insights, irreverent humour and true star quality – if you're a fan of Broadway, or musical theatre in general, this show is an absolute must-see.