Theatre review: Patti LuPone wreaks vengeance on Andrew Lloyd Webber


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The Independent Culture

Patti LuPone says she loves London though one sometimes wonders why, given the treatment that Broadway’s original Evita has endured at the hands of a particular English composer, who also happens to sit in the House of Lords.

So it’s no surprise that the two-time Tony Award winner (and an Olivier recipient, as well, for her Fantine in the very first Barbican Les Misérables) has plenty to say about Andrew Lloyd Webber in the show that she and New York pianist/interviewer Seth Rudetsky have brought to the Leicester Square Theatre this week.

Some of what LuPone “says” goes unspoken. A flared nostril or narrowing of the eyes communicates all we need know about her ongoing feelings towards the man who famously fired his one-time Eva Perón from the Broadway run of Sunset Boulevard, the Lloyd Webber musical that LuPone premiered at the Adelphi Theatre 20 years ago next month. (She was  replaced for New York by Glenn Close, who won her own Tony for the part.) Can LuPone simply forgive and forget? Fat chance: “I’m Sicilian,” she growls, sotto voce, into her microphone, suggesting that this reigning musical-theatre diva is her own one-person mob.

And though you’d imagine that her Evita tales would be one sustained, undiluted triumph – that’s the show that made LuPone’s name, and she continues to dominate people’s perceptions of it, as Argentinian performer Elena Roger found to her cost in the Broadway revival last year – think again.

Not only does LuPone talk about her reluctance to do the part when her allegiances at the time ran toward an off-Broadway production of David Mamet’s play The Woods, but she  illustrates – with no small help from Rudetsky – just how difficult Lloyd Webber makes things musically for his leading ladies: “You see what I mean?” she asks while navigating a particularly tricky passage from Evita showstopper ‘Rainbow High’: “Who wrote this?!”

But far from devolving into 90 minutes of score-settling, a deliberately knockabout evening finds LuPone in relaxed, often hilariously chatty form and in excellent voice, as well, given that those Evita high notes date back 34 years. She tears into songs from Gypsy and Oliver! and Sondheim’s “Ladies Who Lunch”, before concluding with the delicious “Invisible” from her most recent Broadway musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on the Almodóvar film. Patti LuPone invisible? With luck, not any time soon.

To 23 June (08448 733 433)