Patti LuPone: Don’t Monkey With Broadway – CD Review
I cannot begin to articulate the feeling of joy and warmth that has washed dover me while listening to the new Patti LuPone album Don’t Monkey With Broadway. This collection of delightful anecdotes and perfectly chosen numbers is TRIUMPH! With a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “PATTI”!
We all know Ms. LuPone can sing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”, we all know she can sing “Some People” and we all know she can sing “Meadowlark.” They are all here and she sounds just fine on all of them, but it is in the unexpected numbers that LuPone really shines. It never would have occurred to me that the world needed a recording of Patti LuPone singing “Lot of Livin’ to Do” from Bye Bye Birdie. I’m here to tell you, it did. Her sultry voice wraps its fingers around this Strouse/Adams melody and captures every drop of excitement therein. It’s the perfect treatment of a song that I have always felt built into one of Broadway’s finest chorus numbers. LuPone crackles and pops with fiery passion in the Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni and James Rado ballad “Easy to Be Hard” from Hair. For those who have questioned Ms. LuPone’s articulation in recent years will be eating crow while reveling in her spot-on navigation of Professor Harold Hill’s “Trouble” from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man where she effectively and unabashedly, rivals Robert Preston. In a quieter moment, LuPone does a mash-up of the Rodgers and Hart classic “Close as Pages in a Book” and “There’s a Small Hotel.” LuPone is most in her element when sings Rodgers and Hart. You can feel her riding their music and let it wrap her in its elegant folds.
The album also features a few tour-de-force moments that will get your pulse running. “If” from Two For the Aisle, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It’s a sassy and witty number about a betrayed woman who exacts her revenge. Ms. Patti has fun playing it and the number will demand repeated listening. She also does a trio of Sondheim songs that demonstrate her depth and versatility. We’ve heard “Being Alive” before, and this performance doesn’t erase past ones or ask us to rethink her interpretation (why should we?), but her fragile performances of “Anyone Can Whistle” and “Another Hundred People” something to behold. The consummate performer gives us her very best here, and LuPone at her best is to witness how Broadway should look and sound.
Broadway Records has done a fine job by Ms. LuPone, creating a delicious recording that includes lovely packaging and some fun photos. They have created the pedestal upon which we can place a diva of this stature and show her in a new light. Sometimes, when a performer has been around a few decades (give or take) you start to take them for granted. Patti LuPone has become such a legend and a bit of an unfair caricature over time: the brassy diva with an affected style and larger-than-life persona. Patti LuPone’s new album Don’t Monkey With Broadway gives us a whole other side of that LuPone myth. She is an entertainer who can be subtle, nuanced, funny and warm. This album made me fall in love with her all over again.