A no-nonsense reputation precedes Patti LuPone everywhere she goes, including telephone interviews.
And yet, the Broadway superstar gives generous, sometimes surprising answers often punctuated with warm, throaty laughter.
LuPone will be in concert Saturday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center when Sinfonia Gulf Coast presents its end-of-season gala: An Evening with Patti LuPone in “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda … played that part.”
LuPone took a few minutes during her busy tour schedule to talk about her career and the show, which was originally conceived and directed by Scott Wittman with musical arrangements by Dick Gallagher.
It turned into what would become LuPone’s first solo performance on the Carnegie Hall stage and chronicles how she ended up there.
“The selections are derived from a chronological history of my life in musical theater,” LuPone said. “But they are not necessarily what you might expect, not the main role. Growing up, listening to opera with my mother, I always responded to the ‘other’ character.”
The Tony award-winning LuPone’s earliest memories of performing are not of singing or acting, but of dancing.
“I started dancing when I was 4 years old,” she said. “My father was principal of the only elementary school in our hometown. He started an extra-curricular program after school that included dance. My mother enrolled me, and that’s where I was bit. I fell in love with the audience and never looked back.”
She credits music teacher/choral mistress Esther Scott with “absolutely recognizing” her potential.
“A lot happened through her, much of my inspiration. She would give me solos in the chorus,” LuPone said.
She believes the desire to perform is innate in human nature.
“I think everyone wants to be on the musical theater stage,” she said. “You have rock and rollers writing musicals. It’s crazy!
“Sting wrote a musical. Elton John wrote a musical. Bono wrote a musical. I think Sheryl Crow is writing a musical.
“TV shows like ‘Glee’ and movies like ‘High School Musical’ just threw a light on something that has always existed.”
Sinfonia Music and Artistic Director Demetrius Fuller has been working two years to get LuPone here to perform with the orchestra.
“Sinfonia is honored to have multiple award-winning singer/actress Patti LuPone join us for our annual gala event,” he said.
“Aside from having one of the most marvelous voices, her resilience as an artist of stage, screen and TV is incomparable to her peers.
“There doesn’t seem to be a genre that she has not conquered.”
In addition to her legendary musical theater performances, LuPone has starred in numerous television shows, television movies, Emmy-nominated guest appearances, written a best-selling memoir and sung on celebrated recordings.
She’s recently had a recurring role on the hit show “Girls” as she has had in the past on such favorites as “30 Rock.” And she starred in “Life Goes On.”
“Being on stage is my favorite,” she said, “because that’s an actor’s medium, really. That’s between the actor and the audience. That’s the magic.”
LuPone enjoys a longtime association with playwright/director David Mamet.
“David and I grew up together in the business,” she said. “There’s a deep musicality to his work. I respond to that and to his ideas even if I don’t always understand them.
“I am so honored to be associated with a living playwright, and I want to work with him for the rest of my life.”
LuPone explained that “Could, Would, Shoulda” is “always evolving.”
“There are always songs I wish I could have done and songs that I remember,” she said.
The list of shows represented includes “Hair,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Funny Girl,” “West Side Story” and “Peter Pan” and, of course, her Tony Award-winning performances in “Evita” and “Gypsy.”
“When we do it with just piano and voice, there’s more improvising,” she said. “With a full orchestra, we have to follow a set song list, but as long as the orchestra wants to have fun, it will be a fun night.”
“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda … played that part” will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach.
Preferred seating ticket is $49.50; reserved table seating with light hors d’oeuvres is $125. Call 269-7129 or visit SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.
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