The house lights went down. The murmuring of the audience ceased. The accompanist entered and the crowd applauded, but all eyes were fixed on the sides of the stage. The background shifted from red to blue and she entered. There she was: Patti LuPone. A true Broadway legend, a woman who created multiple iconic roles, from the title role in “Evita” to Fantine in “Les Misérables.”
She began to sing an updated version of Cole Porter’s “Don’t Monkey Around with Broadway.” As each inside joke reached the ears of the crowd, Broadway lovers began to laugh and cheer, especially at the line “turn all the proud boys gay,” which received tremendous applause.
LuPone continued with songs from her early roles such as Nellie Forbush’s “A Wonderful Guy.” LuPone played Forbush in her high school’s production of “South Pacific” followed by the national tour of “Sweet Charity,” where she landed her first acting job while still in high school.
LuPone followed the song “Hey, Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity” with “Meadowlark” from the beloved but niche musical “The Baker’s Wife” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from her star turn in the revival of “Gypsy.”
LuPone’s voice appeared not to have aged. Despite her 76 years of age, her voice sounded exactly the same as it did on cast recordings made when she was much younger. While “Evita” is a famously controversial musical, when LuPone sang “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” her first act closer, she left audience members in tears.
“She delivered each song with remarkable pathos,” IU PhD student Joshua Goley said. “It's almost addiction — she wants something from the audience, and you think, ‘I have to give it (to her),’ because she wants it so much. She sings a lyric and really makes you believe it.”
To open the second act, LuPone opted for a more nontraditional set of songs. Emerging on stage in a tuxedo and stiletto heels, she proceeded to sing a series of songs intended for men, starting with “Ya Got Trouble” from “The Music Man.” As the song employs a chorus for several lines, LuPone would point the microphone to the audience, offering them a chance to sing with a Broadway legend.
LuPone followed “Ya Got Trouble” with several love ballads as well as songs from “West Side Story,” which she said was one of her favorite musicals. Her solo rendition of “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love” had the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. As the title suggests, the song is meant to be sung by two actresses, but LuPone’s comedic facial gestures allowed for her to pull it off solo.
Goley said he would have liked to have heard “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables,” which LuPone was the first actress to sing, while IU junior Eva Sharma said she was interested in hearing “Anything Goes” from the revival of the same name LuPone led.
However, both still said their expectations were more than satisfied. Sharma said she has been a fan of musical theater for many years and came to the concert to see LuPone.
“I’ve been a fan of Patti LuPone ever since I can remember,” she said. “I just want to say I had a really great time. This is definitely one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at IU Auditorium and I’m never going to forget it.”