Patti LuPone: Matters of the Heart

.. Patti LuPone starred on Broadway as Evitaand as Reno Sweeney in the Lincoln Center revival of Anything Goes. Earlier work included the original productions of The Baker’s Wife and The Robber Bridegroom. In London she created the roles of Fantine in Les Miserables and Norma Desmond in Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. As a dramatic actress she spent four years with John Houseman’s The Acting Company and recently starred on Broadway in Terrence McNally’s Master Class and David Mamet’s The Old Neighbourhood.

Matters of the Heart is a record of LuPone’s concert of the same name. The songs she has selected may come as a surprise to those familiar with her work in musicals. The majority of them are from contemporary sources and did not begin life in the theatre. Instead she has chosen material by the likes of Randy Newman, Lennon and McCartney and every cabaret singer’s composer de jour, John Bucchino. She also includes two numbers by Dillie Keane and Adele Anderson of British cabaret group Fascinating Aida.

Anyone who doubts LuPone’s ability to work with such material need only listen to her breathtaking interpretation of Newman’s Real Emotional Girl. As she says herself, this is the music she grew up with, and it shows. All the songs examine love in one form or another. She opens with a medley of Storybook (from The Scarlet Pimpernel) and Bob Merrill’s Love Makes The World Go ‘Round. This latter tune recurs throughout the album in Dick Gallagher’s superb accompaniments. The three Bucchino songs – all amongst his less familiar – are particularly strong. Unexpressed and This Moment both possess gorgeous melodies and intelligent and tender lyrics which only become more impressive with repeated listening. Playbill is a brilliantly clever Sondheim pastiche which also manages to be genuinely affecting on its own terms. The man himself is represented by an excoriating Not A Day Goes By and a wickedly arch I Never Do Anything Twice. LuPone also exploits her gift for comedy on I Regret Everything, which spoofs all of those tragic divas who trade on their chaotic lives while claiming to regret rien, and on Dillie Keane’s naughty Shattered Illusions.

Sondheim apart, the only traditional musical theatre composers represented more than fleetingly are Rodgers and Hammerstein. LuPone delivers exemplary versions of three of their songs including a lovely, lilting A Wonderful Guy. Among a number of selections which focus on love for children and family is Rupert Holmes’ My Son, on which a woman finds solace of her own while comforting her child, and Keane and Anderson’s wistful examination of the changing relationship of a mother and daughter, Look Mummy, No Hands.

It is difficult to recommend this album too highly. LuPone has never sounded better and the material includes something for everyone who enjoys fine melody and intelligent lyrics. She has clearly lived with and cherished these songs and identifies closely with them all. Buy the album and then go one better – make sure you catch her in person when she visits your town with her intimate and impeccably presented live show.

Aside from her show recordings, other Patti LuPone CDs worthy of investigation include the earlier concert recording, Live!, on which she offers her stage hits along with witty commentary on the gestation of many of the shows themselves. Also look out for Heatwave and its ritzy versions of Irving Berlin standards accompanied by the matchless Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under John Mauceri.

– Mark Jennett

image