Patti LuPone and Debbie Reynolds


I’m capturing the weekend the only way I know how: grainy camera phone pictures and half-baked commentary.

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Patti and the CSO presented a very tasteful evening of Kurt Weill songs, featuring his rarely performed “Seven Deadly Sins.” Truthfully, “Sins” was a bit of a snore. Originally a ballet, it’s a terribly modern piece with two women playing “Anna.” The dancer is the naive, impulsive Anna who gets into all sorts of sin, and the singer (LuPone) is the wise Anna, commenting on the dancer Anna’s sinful ways. (The dancing wasn’t performed.) The male quartet Hudson Shad played Anna’s family, with a bearded bass portraying Anna’s mother (?). Patti sang an English translation of Brecht’s libretto.

While it was interesting to hear this rarely performed work, I didn’t find it particularly compelling. Lots of extremely similar music passages to another Weill/Brecht piece: The City of Mahagonny.

That said, I applaud LuPone’s fearlessness in doing something new and complex. She’s always willing to take a risk, and I respect her for this. While visibly anxious (she even acknowledged her nerves during the second act), her voice was strong and confident. In fact,  I don’t think I’ve ever heard Patti so in command of her instrument. (I know Beth is rolling her eyes at that statement.)

In an interview with Hedy Weiss earlier this week, LuPone hinted that a more realized production of “Sins” may be in the works. Very interesting.

Side note: Ravinia now features jumbo screens, a major plus to lawn listeners. I’m guessing for bigger acts like Blondie and Bonnie Raitt, they lug out lawn screens, but for this they just had the pavilion screens. It was nice to sit on the lawn behind the pavilion and watch the concert comfortably:

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After intermission, Patti came out to perform a handfull of Brecht’s American works — mostly from the Broadway stage. Many we’ve heard her sing before on the “Patti LuPone: LIVE!” album (I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Lost in the Stars, My Ship, Surabaya Johnny.)

The arrangements, while lush and rich, seemed a bit leaden for Patti — and she kept looking back at Maestro James Conlin for tempos. Her “Mack the Knife” wasn’t my favorite. However, her encores, which she sang with Ravinia CEO Welz Kauffman on piano, were very nice. Especially “Je Ne T’Aime Pas.” Subtle.

Ok. I missed the powerbelting. I was waiting, with baited breath, for her to sing “The Saga of Jenny” from Lady in the Dark. Great belting potential. But, nope.

Debbie does Drury Lane

I just wanted to use that title somewhere. I’m so tacky.

So, Debbie Reynolds. She’s a one-of-a-kind treasure. Boundless energy. Eternally youthful. She loves the audience, and the audience loves her for loving them, and she loves them for loving her, they just love each other. And that’s showbiz, kid.

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Yeah, Jamie and I were the youngest by a few generations. Debbie (or Mary Frances Reynolds, as is her birth name) had house lights brought up to scope out her audience. She spotted me and asked me if I was single.

Really, it was a  mutual admiration society. Even to the point of rather than performing an encore, the audience crowded to the stage and she bent down and shook people’s hands and took pictures. In fact, pictures — with flash! — were taken throughout the show. She welcomed it — even posing mid-song for a photo op.

(A far cry from the previous evening’s performance, I should note, where I was told three times not to take pictures — with my blackberry standing outside of the pavilion without flash at three different locations.)

Her loose patter made the afternoon. Her singing…notsomuch. She doesn’t have much of a voice, and unfortunately chooses songs that are out of her league — including a Judy Garland medley for her finale. But her extremely devoted audience didn’t seem to mind.

I’m reviewing the show for Edge (?), so expect more details in the near future.

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6 thoughts on “Patti LuPone and Debbie Reynolds

  1. I stuck mostly with Amstel, as wine gives me a headache lately. But – I hear it was wonderful! You were missed!

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