Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Theatahhhh

Saw "Gypsy" tonight starring Patti Lupone at the St. James Theatre. Here is the part to end all parts for women in musical theatre. The Lady Macbeth of musical theatre. And I know I didn't originate that comparison, but it is a true one. Patti Lupone is the diva of her generation to knock it out of the park. I was walking into a moment.

I had the good fortune when I was (really) young to see her and Mandi Patinkin in "Evita" in its pre-Broadway run at the Curran in San Francisco. She was unforgettable. I later saw the LA production with Loni Ackerman and there was just no comparison. I have also heard her on the London cast album of "Les Miserables" and she is really brilliant. I only wish I saw her in "Sweeney Todd" where I heard she was incredible again. (It frightens me I know this stuff the way other guys know baseball players. "Roll, roll, roll in zee GRAVE.") Basically she and Bernadette Peters should mud wrestle for who is the biggest Broadway star of their generation. (Now that would sell tickets to an interesting audience!) I would give Patti the Merman mantel regardless.

So why was this performance just so wah-wah? What in hell was she up in the first Act? It was so average and uncommanding? Was this a direction choice? I felt she walked through the part in a production that bordered on regional theatre. This is flippin' Broadway.

Well, for some reason she pulled it out in a much better second act and really got the cracked up, washed up, frustration and pain of "Rose's Turn" at the end. Thank God. This is Patti territory, but what was going on in "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone?" Not a lot.

I will cringe when I read all this in the morning, but I am sticking to it.

Laura Benanti as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee was the gift of the night. She I will think about like I do the gelato from Capo Giro in Philadelphia. She is that good. Wow, what a performance, and whatta a body! I have to say she has it all and knew how to play this part from timid set aside sister to French speaking circuit stripper extraordinaire. Fantastic.


Tony Westbrook said...

I saw her and Laura and Boyd this past summer when they did the show at City Center Encores. She was AMAZING! All of them were..and I agree with a friend..I don't think they should have moved it to Broadway. Obviously something is off...and that may be what the problem is.
I got to see her in SWEENEY TODD and she had a cold and was STILL AMAZING!!!!
Hopefully she'll get back on her feet.

criticlasm said...

I saw her here in Mahagonny, and it was just so-so, and I saw her in Master Class and liked her, but not blown away (Zoe CAldwell did that). Anything Goes? Blown away.

This is a challenging part, and I imagine it would be easy for her to walk through it at this point. I saw the Bernadette one, which I liked, if only because it made a different choice with Rose. I think as a performer she lays back for me and goes for the joke when she doesn't need to. But that's just based on what I've seen in person. I'd be interested in seeing it if only to compare or Bernadette (which was ultimately somehow sadder because at the end you think--yeah, she's got a great body and voice, and maybe she could've been something, but was a victim of her time and bad choices, as opposed to just delusional).

And yes, it's like baseball cards. At this point, I just have to accept that. I'm one of those show card traders. Sue me.