Introduction: Throughout the course of 2006, I've had many incredible opportunities to see some of the best actors, singers and dancers of our time perform live on the stage. Rather than recap the best shows of the year (which I'll do at the close of the 2006-07 Theatrical Season), I'm devoting the last six days of the calendar year to those live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year.
Even though her bravura performance in Gypsy would have been more than enough to capture the #1 position on my list of the year's singular sensations, this classy diva had two exceptionally remarkable performances during 2006 that I was able to catch -- that magical one at Chicago's Ravinia Festival in August and the other on Broadway in the acclaimed revival of Sweeney Todd.
Patti LuPone is simply sensational, and it was a sincere pleasure -- no, an honor -- to be in her audience twice during the past year.
Here's what I had to say about LuPone's riveting performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy:
With theatre legend Patti LuPone in the lead role of Mama Rose, this Gypsy proved to be anything but bare. Instead of an over-the-top Mama that's all too easy to do, LuPone proffered an exquisitely nuanced performance that simultaneously excited and repulsed, making one of Broadway’s most memorable roles hers for keeps.
Near the end, LuPone took her devastated Rose to new heights with an unforgettable, heart-wrenched rendering of “Rose’s Turn,” which proved to be, quite literally, a showstopper of the first order. A most affectionate audience interrupted with a long, sustained standing ovation.
Additionally, here's what I had to say earlier this year about her superb performance in Sweeney Todd:
I've long been an ardent admirer of Patti LuPone. While I've seen her in three other productions (including the brilliant Broadway revival of Noises Off in 2002), this marked my first opportunity to see her perform in a Broadway musical. Not only does she provide a delectable, vampy take on the downright demented Mrs. Lovett, but she also adds to the orchestrations by playing percussion and tuba!
Here's toasting you, Patti LuPone, on making this musical lover rejoice twice this past year. Here's wishing you a glorious 2007!
Happy New Year!
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Gypsy (The SOB Review) – Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL (August 14, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #10 - Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York, NY) (May 15, 2006)