ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Life in London With Christopher Fitzgerald, Gavin Creel, Jared Gertner; Revisiting Sunset With Patti LuPone

By Seth Rudetsky
27 Jun 2013

LuPone as Fantine
Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench
My show went fantastically and, yet again, I tried not to read reviews, but the publicist kept sending me e-mails with the subject line, "Five star review for Seth Rudetsky," and "Another five star review for Seth" and "Third five star review for Deconstructing Broadway." How could I resist?

One night at Patti's show, I asked her about auditioning and she said she hasn't done it in years, except recently. She went in for the Dianne Wiest part in the new Woody Allen musical, Bullets Over Broadway. She had always wanted to do one of his films but heard that his casting director didn't like her. She went this month and read for him, and a few hours later she heard from her agent that she didn't get it. She told us, "Maybe it wasn't the casting director all this time. Maybe he doesn't like me!" Hmph.

Speaking of not liking, Patti was not having it when she was told during Les Miserables rehearsal that all the leads in the show would join the chorus once their part was over. She successfully avoided doing any scenes after Fantine's death by feigning she couldn't rehearse because she needed to save her voice for the production of The Cradle Will Rock that she was doing at night. However, once that show was over, she showed up at rehearsal and before she could duck, someone in the show spotted her and pointed her out to Trevor Nunn. He immediately put her in the barricade scene. She was so annoyed, she decided to be a man in the scene. That is, until Enjolras announced, "All women and children leave the barricade." Then, she said, she immediately became a 10-year-old boy and fled. She also decided her onstage character was a smelter, which is someone who makes bullets. One night after she came offstage, Roger Allam told her that she was melting the iron for bullets on top of a haystack. She told him to watch her the next night. She pretended to put the iron down as usual and then pretended to heat it up. Soon, she started hopping around the haystack and putting out the "fire" she had caused.

I accused her of doing it in back of Frances Ruffelle in order to upstage "On My Own" but she claimed it was during a big barricade scene. She then seriously told us that the main reason she's happy she did the barricade scene is because she got to be onstage every night and hear Colm Wilkinson sing, "Bring Him Home," saying it was, "one of the best theatrical moments" she's ever had.

Sadly, one of the best theatrical moments I could have had won't be happening. Patti let it slip that after Elena Roger left the revival of Evita, she got a phone call asking if she'd be interested in doing Evita. As Eva! It didn't work out, but I'm investigating doing it for one night on Broadway for the Actors Fund. How amazing would that be? We shall see…

The big event at Patti's show happened towards the end of the week. It's similar to the show I did in Provincetown, which was recorded and is available on SethTV. Here's a link to a promo video.

The first time we did it, I convinced her to do "Rainbow High," which she hasn't sung since the show closed. This time, we got an e-mail from a guy playing Magaldi on the tour in the UK. He asked if he could get up out of the audience to sing with Patti. She said yes, but first let's see a video of him. We liked him and she re-learned, "Eva and Magaldi." He's off this week, so he comes onstage every night and they do it. She had to compeltely relearn it...watch!

Patti LuPone in Sunset Boulevard
photo by Donald Cooper

I kept getting tweets asking if Patti had sung anything from Sunset Boulevard. She had discussed it...and how upsetting it was to be fired etc...but she never sang it. I began to realize how much people wanted it. After all, this is London where people saw her do it and loved it! And the dresser for our show is her dresser from Sunset Boulevard. He told me how amazing she was, and how, on her final performance, when she sang "As If We Never Said Goodbye," she sang one line from the song to each and every person on stage. I decided to ask her if she'd be willing to sing something. She wrote that she would try but she doesn't remember the music. So I took that as a yes and got the music e-mailed to me from my trusty friend Michael Lavine.

We sound checked as usual ("I have to run the high notes to see if they're there") and at the end I asked if we could try a song. As soon as I mentioned Sunset Boulevard, her husband Matt beamed and said it would be so wonderful if she would sing something from the show. I opted for "With One Look" because I'm obsessed with how she doesn't breathe before the final high note. Also, I'm obsessed with the original key which they had to transpose to Glenn Close. We ran it in rehearsal and Patti's husband was so moved, he was crying by the end.

Patti "didn't remember the music," meaning she sang it perfectly. She got a second encore last night and turned to me in the wings and asked what she should sing. I said, "I think you have to try Sunset." She got onstage and said she was going to sing it from in back of the piano because she felt more protected there. It was very emotional for her to sing it again. She started singing and stopped after four beats to collect herself...she started again and NAILED IT. So beautiful, so moving and the final D was AMAZING! And here's the video!

OK, I'm traveling again this weekend! Come up to Provincetown this Friday or Saturday and see me and Joanna Gleason at the Art House. And on July 4th, see me and Sutton Foster! Get thee to PtownArtHouse.com. And on that note, peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)