Patti LuPone is ready to get personal
Patti LuPone is calling from a Chicago hotel, a stop on the tour for the world premiere of the new musical “War Paint,” in which she stars as a cosmetics pioneer.
Right now, she’s asking Matthew Johnston, her husband of nearly 30 years, to list a fun fact about her.
“I don’t know,” he says in the background.
She answers for him.
“You don’t know a lot about me,” she says into the receiver, playing on a seductive, husky voice.
In this playfulness, she could be addressing him, the person on the other end of the phone or the public at large. Because although the veteran actress and singer has played numerous characters on stage, Lupone’s next performance will be a rare intimate presentation of the woman herself.
On Sept. 9, LuPone, one of theater’s most beloved leading actresses, will appear at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which is celebrating its 30th year, for her new show, “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda — played that part.”
It will be just LuPone and the orchestra, as she looks back at her career and delivers numbers she would have liked to have sung had she been cast in those musicals, whether the character was male or female. She will also throw in songs she is well associated with and talk a bit in between numbers.
Forty-three years ago, LuPone made her Broadway debut in the Chekhov play “The Three Sisters.” Six years later, she starred in the original Broadway production of “Evita,” the musical based on the life of Eva Peron, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It led to her first Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
She’s played Fantine in the original London cast of “Les Miserables,” Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” Madame Rose in “Gypsy” and Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.”
She’s won two Tonys and two Grammys, an Olivier, received Emmy Award nominations and is an inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
But her favorite spot is home, rural Connecticut.
“It’s a lot of fun to do these Broadway musicals, and I love doing these concerts because they teach me so much about performing,” said LuPone, 67. “But I get bored easily. I’m a mother. I’m a regular person who lives in the country, and I live my life. It’s essential.”
For her, that means no personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts. LuPone, who believes that social media is “dangerous and a waste of time,” wants an audience to remember the mystique of performers.
Offstage, she prefers to live her life quietly, and she’s already thinking about her next act — retirement. But it becomes clear that she is torn, probably preferring a healthy mix of things rather than an all-in or all-out scenario.
“That’s a big concern because when I retire, what am I going to do? I’m not a crocheter or a gardener, I failed home ec, but I like to cook,” she said with a laugh. “You know the day goes by so quickly when there’s nothing to do.”
She can look back at a career that began at age 4 when she took her first tap-dancing lesson. LuPone, who grew up in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island, said the region’s school system was very strong in promoting arts education.
LuPone was among the first graduating class of Juilliard’s Drama Division, and shortly after graduation, she became one of the original members of The Acting Company, a nationally touring repertory theater company formed by John Houseman, the influential producer, director and actor.
For the Friday evening show in Costa Mesa, LuPone will perform songs from musicals that include “Hair,” “Bye, Bye, Birdie,” “Funny Girl,” “West Side Story” and “Peter Pan,” as well as selections from her performances in “Evita” and “Gypsy.”
“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” is the chronology of her life, she says, and singing pieces from musical theater with an orchestra is a “supreme experience.”
She declines to point to a favorite musical because that would be limiting, LuPone says, but her favorite aspect of any show is an element of surprise the leaves the audience feeling satisfied.
“Let’s have a happy time,” she said, thinking of her upcoming performance. “Let’s remember a happy time.”
If You Go
What: Patti LuPone, “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda .... played that part”
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 9
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: Tickets start at $19
Information: (714) 556-2787 or visit scfta.org
<p><strong>Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/KathleenLuppi” target="_blank">@KathleenLuppi</a></strong></p>