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Patti LuPone—Matters of the Heart

Reviewed by Karl Levett

Presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 W. 65th St., NYC, Nov. 13-Dec. 17, Sundays and Mondays only.

On a wave of Bob Merrill's "Love Makes the World Go 'Round," Patti LuPone glides onto the Vivian Beaumont forestage in full sail, a la Loretta Young in Vicky Tiel's trailing maroon gown. Indeed, a Broadway Queen of all she surveys. For her vocal examination of "Love—in all its forms," she has chosen romantic strings—Dick Gallagher at the piano backed by a felicitous string quartet (Rick Dolan, Rob Taylor, Richard Brice, Arthur Fiocco)—a wise decision for this diva who has always had her own built-in brass section. Lupone is a Broadway veteran who seems reluctant to advocate the way of the Great White Way, but, rather, seeks to wander the lanes with more contemporary songwriters. Such artists as John Bucchino, Dillie Keane, and Dan Fogelberg are among those represented here. It is a most commendable path to choose, but not without its own hazards.

There's a considerable irony in LuPone, one of America's most distinguished theatrical singers, wishing to turn her back on the stage door and seek more personal pastures. She seems to have a particular fondness for the anecdotal songs of the '60s and thereafter, those often celebrating life's banalities and here epitomized by Joni Mitchell's "The Last Time I Saw Richard." These songs, when grouped together on a program, have sonorous sameness, lacking the individuality and sturdiness to stand up in a theatre. The best of these is Judy Collins' haunting "My Father," but there are several others where vapid lyrics prevail. To prop up these sagging sentiments, LuPone often has to quickly erect a theatre column to give support. Her renditions of Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's "Back to Before" are vividly emotional and impeccably sung. LuPone also has a wicked way with a comic song, as shown here in Randy Newman's "Better Off Dead."

Supremely confident and always in control, LuPone is now at the top of her form. Pity then, that this presentation evokes unplumbed depths and promises still to be kept.

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