Patti LuPone goes exploring in 'Gypsy in My Soul' concert
Patti LuPone has a love of traveling, which she has put to creative use in her concert show “Gypsy in My Soul.”
The two-time Tony Award-winner returns to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a program she describes as a “combination of wanderlust, imagination and Broadway show tunes.”
It’s one of several shows she has ready for different bookings, including “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,” which she presented in Sarasota four years ago, and a program of duets with Mandy Patinkin that they performed in 2012. (Patinkin is also coming solo this season for a Sarasota concert on April 1.)
LuPone likes the variety.
“I just like to sing different things. I get tired of doing the same things over and over,” she said in a telephone interview. But there’s also room for the familiar and the unfamiliar.
“I know people expect me to sing ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,’” she acknowledged, but since that song is about a foreign country it can fit into the show. And she can include that with a host of other songs that audiences may not instantly recognize.
The whole idea of travel is different now than in the past, she said.
“It’s difficult these days. Incredibly hard, the airports and hoping the flight takes off and then, if it takes off, hoping it’s going to land. The anxiety of flying and hotels and bed bugs.”
The challenges of travel become less important once she reaches the next city.
“You know what to expect when you get to the theater. It’s nerves, places, lights coming on,” LuPone said. “I always look at the audience. I always know who I’m playing to. If I connect and they know I’m connected to them and they’re willing to connect back, then I’m home free.”
And she feels at home in the theater. She has been nominated six times for Tony Awards and won for her performances as Eva Peron in “Evita” and Mama Rose in a revival of “Gypsy.” She has been seen in numerous films and television roles, most recently in an episode of the HBO hit “Girls.”
LuPone develops her shows with writer and director Scott Wittman, who created “Hairspray” and “Catch Me If You Can” with his partner, composer Marc Shaiman.
“I collaborate with him on all of my shows,” LuPone said. “He’s a real scavenger of music. He knows so much more than I do. He’ll play stuff and if I react to it emotionally, I generally want to sing it.”
At the time of the telephone interview, she was preparing for another series of concerts with Patinkin and she was a little distracted trying to focus on what she was singing next and what she would be performing in Sarasota.
“I have to concentrate on this show I’m doing now and we just did it in D.C. and then I’ll think about the other one,” she said with a laugh. “It keeps Alzheimer’s at bay.”
When she and Wittman are choosing songs, she favors those where “the melody and the lyrics are married and it becomes an easy song to sing. You’re always looking for that. But I always like to tell a story.”
The right combination of music and lyrics “make it very easy to learn and memorize because it just makes sense,” she said. “There are very difficult songs that are gems that are classics that are difficult to learn, melodically. The absolutely best songs are the songs we recall.”
Even learning the “easy” songs is hard work. “But that’s what it takes for me to perform well. It’s all hard work. That’s what it’s all about.”
Hear LuPone singing Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch":
PATTI LUPONE performs “Gypsy in My Soul” at 8 p.m. March 25 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N,. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $60-$90. For more information: 953-3368; vanwezel.org