Saturday, November 25, 2023

Patti LuPone in Concert at the Ordway Center

Last Sunday night, I had the great pleasure of seeing Broadway legend Patti LuPone in concert at the Ordway. I've seen her a few times in the past (at Orchestra Hall pre-blog and at the Dakota in 2013), and I'm always amazed not only by her vocal abilities but her talent in storytelling and entertaining a crowd. Titled Don't Monkey with Broadway, this show that she's been touring for a few years (including a 2017 album) is the story of her life and career through songs. It was a fantastic night of music at the Ordway, and while Patti won't be returning, the Ordway has many more great nights of music and theater on the schedule this season. Next up on the musical theater side is a new touring production of the classic Peter Pan December 6-31. This season also brings us a lot of holiday music, and 2024 concerts including local legend Jamecia Bennett on February 24 (like Patti, a master vocalist and performer) and another Broadway/TV/film legend Mandy Patinkin for two shows in April (a recent announcement I was very excited about because Mandy is the one living performer whom I've never seen live that I most want to see). Check out the full schedule of events here, and make your plans to visit the Ordway this season!

Patti performed on the big stage at the Ordway to a nearly full house, on a stage empty except for a grand piano, played by Patti's longtime collaborator and Music Director Joseph Thalken. She began the show with the title song, Cole Porter's "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway," with a few updated lyrics for today. Then she took us loosely chronologically through her life and career, telling stories of how she eagerly consumed Broadway albums as a child and wanted to sing every song, regardless of age or gender of the performer (including songs like Sweet Charity's "Big Spender" that are not necessarily appropriate for a child to sing). She sang several songs that she's performed in shows she's done ("Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from Evita) as well as songs from shows she's never done but loves (a trilogy from West Side Story including "Something's Coming," "Somewhere," and, hilariously, both parts of "A Boy Like That"). And of course, it's not a Patti concert without a little Sondheim, including three songs from Company (the current tour of which closed it's Minneapolis run that very day) - "Another Hundred People," a stunning rendition of "Being Alive," and of course, the song she recently sang in the show on Broadway, a highly entertaining "The Ladies Who Lunch." She closed the show with an unexpected choice - an unplugged version of the traditional Scottish song "Parting Glass," to send her audience out with a warm glow of companionship.

Patti sings in a way that seems effortless, but comes from decades of experience. Not only is the quality of her vocals outstanding, but she's able to convey a wide range of emotion, singing with silly comedy, or deep pathos. A memorable moment was when she teared up singing "A Song for You," another unexpected choice with lyrics that obviously mean a lot to her. And it really did feel like she was singing her songs for us, in an intimate night of music with a few thousand other people.
I've been so many places in my life and time
I've sung a lot of songs
I've made some bad rhymes
I've acted out my life on stages
With ten thousand people watching
But we're alone now
And I'm singing this song to you