Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Patti LuPone slips into something comfortable

I went back to Gypsy yesterday, in the most excellent company of my friend Tristan. Before the curtain came up, the usual announcement about turning off cellphones and unwrapping candy segued into something more ominous: "Ms. Patti LuPone has injured her foot—" (cries of disappointment in the audience) "—so she will do this evening's performance in Isotoners. Her voice, however, is unaffected." (Cries of relief.)

Once I got used to seeing LuPone traipse around in gray slippers, the evening proceeded just fine. But the slippers actually made "Rose's Turn" even better than usual: Wearing a ratty painter's smock, then taking it off as she launched into her final aria, Rose in Isotoners looked like a bag lady in the throes of early dementia. Plus by that point LuPone had whipped herself up in a frenzy, sweaty and disheveled. It was a glorious sight, the kind of reason we go to live theater.

Seeing the show for the third time also confirmed my total stage crush on Laura Benanti, both as the mousey Louise and as the sultry Gypsy Rose Lee. Benanti is a smooth, slinky marvel in her strip montage toward the end; when she winks at the audience, it is both her and Gypsy who are in complete command.

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