The incomparable Patti LuPone, international musical theater star, performed at the Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, this past weekend on Saturday March 22, in her solo concert, “Far Away Places.” Her diminutive physical size can barely contain her over-sized charm and charisma, let alone her distinctive voice. A musical theater star still at the top of her game, her voice remains in great condition. While at times more husky in the lower range than in previous years, LuPone can easily switch into powerful alto belt whenever she wants.
The theme of the concert was loosely based on Patti’s life on the road as a musical theater actor and singer. Interspersed throughout the evening, Patti spoke about some of these experiences which seamlessly led into the music. LuPone’s “Far Away Places” showcased her virtuosic abilities as a performer and singer. She was flawless in spinning out precise complex rhythms, long legato phrases, or change colors in her voice depending on the song. Whether LuPone was belting, crooning, standing still, or moving to the beat, she was simply mesmerizing.
LuPone avoided performing songs from musicals that brought her Broadway fame. This made her show even more impressive. This was an evening of great music, in the style of former stars like the legendary Edith Piaf or Lotte Lenya. Lupone’s way with the complex and demanding music from Kurt Weill, Willie Nelson, Bee Jees, Cole Porter, Edith Piaff and Sondheim allowed her to shine and always tell a story. Hardly ever about romance though some about revenge, these songs ranged from dark and brooding, to lyrical or percussive or simply bawdy fun.
“Far Away Places” was conceived and directed by Joseph Thalken, himself a legendary musical director and arranger. LuPone’s backup band of 5 expert musicians, often sounded like a full orchestra. Thalken accompanied her on grand piano, along with Paul Pizzuti (Drums and Percussion) Andrew Stein (Violin), Antony Geralis (Synthesizer and Accordion), and Lawrence Saltzman (Guitars and Banjo).
Especially impressive were Thalken’s arrangements of the Kurt Weill repertoire, bringing out the dry and percussive bite in Weill’s music. His occasional vocals in duet moments with LuPone were delightful. The ensemble and LuPone’s singing were expertly blended by the genius of Mark Fiore, Sound Engineer.
After generously entertaining us for two hours, LuPone concluded “Far Away Places” with not one, but four encores, including a song performed acapella without a microphone which touched everyone’s hearts. Lupone’s performance of “Invisible” done with a hilarious Latino accent from the new musical, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown“ led to her final encore from Evita, the role she created on Broadway. Singing a powerful and joyful “Just a Little Touch of Star Quality” LuPone’s rousing final encore, summed up the entire evening.