Patti Lu Pone
Leicester Square Theatre
Sunday 16 – Sunday 23rd June
Patti Lu Pone is a big star. She has won two Tony Awards and an Olivier and was Fantine in the original Royal Shakespeare Production of Les Miserables. As a musical theatre star they don’t come much bigger. The audience was full of men, mostly gay, who simply couldn’t get enough of her.
Starting the night off was Seth Rudetsky, himself a very funny, camp performer. He got things off to a great start by treating the audience to some hilarious video footage of The Osmonds performing a disco version of “If I were a rich Man” and Shirley Bassey singing on an oil rig. The audience laughed hysterically but you would have to be off a certain age or persuasion to find a lot of it very funny. Eventually Patti Lu Pone came on and the show got started, with Rudetsky accompanying Lu Pone on piano and singing along to some of the songs.
Lu Pone belted out two songs from Evita,- ‘Rainbow High’ and ‘Buenos Aires’- with Rudetsky gamely playing along. Between songs he interviewed her about some of her experiences working as a serious actor and moving into musical theatre. Lu Pone came across as slightly self-effacing, as though she was afraid to show her diva side which is clearly something which has made her so successful. The songs where she took centre stage were the best, where she was illuminated by a spotlight and watched by a hushed audience. ‘I regret everything’ was a new song written by the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lu Pone sang it as though it was the flipside to Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Non Regrette Rien.’ Otherwise things sagged a little during the non-musical numbers, and it would have been nice to have heard more songs.
She sang ‘Fine Life’ from Oliver, which your reviewer was delighted to join in with, going on to ‘As Long as he needs me’. She did her worst cockney accent, screwing up her face and looking like a stroke victim. The sound quality was first rate and Lu Pone’s showcased some fine singing, even if she found it hard to reach the high notes on Rainbow High.
Luckily there were two encores. The audience leapt to their feet to give a standing ovation, giving us time to hear Lu Pone preview a song from an upcoming musical of Woman on The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Lu Pone looked like she could convincingly play Pepa, the woman left by her husband who puts her into a mental hospital. As for Rudetsky, it’s nice to see that as well as supporting Lu Pone he has his own show at the same theatre later this month, Deconstructing Broadway. It sounds great, seriously.