In certain Broadway circles, the name Patti LuPone conjures a stage legend: LuPone in her Tony Award portrayal of a brash, charismatic Evita...
In certain Broadway circles, the name Patti LuPone conjures a stage legend: LuPone in her Tony Award portrayal of a brash, charismatic Evita Peron in Broadway’s “Evita.” LuPone as anguished Fantine in the original, London “Les Misérables.” LuPone out-Mermaning Ethel in a revival of “Anything Goes.”
Yet despite her celebrated mezzo-soprano pipes and steely bravura, glimpsed now in concert musicals televised on PBS (recently, Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion”), LuPone is known best to many as the mom in an old TV family series, “Life Goes On.”
That’s partly because LuPone hasn’t toured much. In fact, as she reckons it, her one-woman revue “Matters of the Heart” (opening at the Paramount Theatre tonight) will be her first Seattle run.
From Portland last week, LuPone chatted with typical candor about her career, looks, show and today’s Broadway.
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Do you mind if people mainly know you from “Life Goes On,” which went off the air in 1993?
Not at all. TV of course gives one the biggest recognition, and stage does not. But if in fact they recognize you from that, they’re bound to come to the theater to see you — if they like you!
“Matters of the Heart,” with Patti LuPone, runs tonight through Sunday at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $11-$47 (206-292-ARTS or www.theparamount.com.)
You’ve done a lot of TV guest spots since, and won an Emmy for an appearance on “Frasier.” Have you wanted to do another series?
No! You have no life. You’re there 10 to 16 hours a day on an hour-length drama. I actually got furious one time, and stormed off the set at 3 a.m. They said, “Where are you going?” and I said, “I have to nurse my baby!” Half-hour situation comedies are easier.
You haven’t done much on Broadway lately, but you’re very busy. So what’s up?
Concert versions of shows. That’s all I do now. I just did Marc Blitzstein’s opera “Regina” in D.C. I work a lot at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, where we first did “Passion.” An incredibly difficult show, but I’m glad it got on TV. The music is exquisite.
What about your solo events, like “Matters of the Heart”?
I’ve been doing them for years. Scott Wittman (the co-lyricist of “Hairspray”) directs all of them. This time I said, look, I don’t want to just sing showtunes. So we started listening to music, on the theme of love. Love lost, family love, lust, first love. It’s just piano, string quartet and me.
What are some of the songs?
A real range of pop and other stuff, with a few showtunes — including three by Sondheim.
Do you relate to the lyrics from your own experience?
I think I had those experiences 10 or 20 years ago. I’m married now, and the road is smoother. But the road of love was always rocky for me. Lots of curves and detours and crashes!
Are you willing to do a new musical, if one came along?
Well, I’m controversial. And I don’t look American — in casting that’s always hard. I look totally Italian, with the Roman nose and the dark marks under my eyes.
Also, Broadway has changed considerably. There are few great visionary showmen left, the kind with theater in their blood who want to create magic for audiences and also make money. Now they just want to make money.
So between shorter gigs, what are you up to?
I live in rural Connecticut and spend a lot of time with my teenage son, who’s into music. I don’t like Rush, and he does. He just got turned on to Nirvana, who I love. He’ll ask me if I ever heard of Jimi Hendrix. I’ll say, uh, yeah! We’re bonding over music.
So was your favorite role Evita, Fantine, Fosca in “Passion”? …
: I have no favorites. It limits you. The surprises in my career are what’s made it interesting. I’m constantly awed by the earth and the world. I couldn’t be awed if life wasn’t full of surprises.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org