News & Notes
The Gypsy revival is shut out of the Tony Awards
The Mizner musical premieres in Chicago
Richard Kind talks about being Addison
Howard McGillin hangs up his Phantom mask as Wilson
Jane Powell returns to musicals as Mama
Gavin Creel leaps to a Sondheim show
Bernadette Peters is a gutsy Rose in Gypsy
The critics’ views about the revival
Tammy Blanchard makes the title role her own
A Little Night Music
New York City Opera brings back Night Music
The critics were divided about this production
The tiny Signature finds room for Follies
Florence Lacey finds Sally a most vulnerable role
A Boston Sweeney made the rafters ring
A provocative Pacific Overtures goes on tour
Dicapo Opera Theater brings Passion back to N.Y
A month of Sundays in Minneapolis
Sunday finally reaches an L.A. stage
A Toronto Sweeney wasn’t very scary
Patti LuPone will be Fosca in a Ravinia Passion
For Your Entertainment
Our anniversary issue puzzle by Sondheim
Barbara Cook’s Mostly Sondheim is now on DVD
Upcoming Sondheim shows in the U.S., Canada
LuPone to return to Ravinia as Fosca
She’s played Mrs. Lovett and Desiree, two of the great roles for women in Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, and now Patti LuPone is preparing for a third, Fosca, in Passion.
“I’m already having panic attacks,” LuPone confessed in an interview months before the concert performances at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill., August 22-23.
It will be LuPone’s third consecutive year at Ravinia, which is in the midst of a Sondheim 75 concert series that began in 2001 and is to continue at least until 2005, Sondheim’s 75th birthday.
Sweeney Todd, with LuPone and George Hearn was the first offering, followed by A Little Night Music, again with LuPone and Hearn, last year.
Passion will feature Audra McDonald as Clara; Giorgio had not been cast at press time.
For LuPone, it will be a chance to play the role she was offered for the original Broadway production in 1994.
“I was stepping on a plane on the way to London to do Sunset Boulevard, so I couldn’t do it,” she said.
So instead, her first Sondheim musical was the concert performance of Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic in 2000.
Welz Kauffman, then artistic administrator of the New York Philharmonic and now president and CEO of the Ravinia Festival, was responsible. He had created a program, American Classics, with the orchestra that included a focus on musical theatre. Sweeney was the obvious choice and Bryn Terfel was to star.
“I suggested Patti because she had the vocal power and would be able to stand up to Bryn,” Kaufmann said. “Steve was really excited.”
As it turned out, Terfel injured his back and bowed out of the production. George Hearn, who had played the role on Broadway and on tour, stepped in.
“He was a life saver,” LuPone said. “None of us had done this before, and with an experienced man in the lead, we were able to make this a success. Because it had been frightening.”
Later, LuPone and Hearn–along with McDonald, who played the Beggar Woman–repeated their roles with the San Francisco Symphony.
By then, Kaufmann was at Ravinia and proposed the Sondheim 75 series.
“The logical thing was to do Sweeney first,” he said. “We knew it, and this would give us a good feel for the theater before we moved on to something we hadn’t tried.”
After that, Kaufmann and Lonny Price, who directed Sweeney, talked about what other roles would be appropriate for LuPone and Hearn.
“There had been a two-week lovefest between George and Patti and Steve and Lonny when they were doing Sweeney with the New York Phil,” Kaufmann said. “There was such a magical feeling. With the orchestra on stage and the instrumentalists interacting with the actors, something wonderful came to pass.”
“There was a magic on stage with George,” she said. “There was such ease and familiarity. People were surprised that we hadn’t worked together before.”
When it came time to plan the 2003 concert, Kaufmann and Price chose Passion.
“I love it,” Kaufmann said, “I absolutely love it. And I was thinking that would be right for Patti and Lonny.”
And so LuPone is preparing for another round of intense work at what she has dubbed Camp Ravinia.
“It’s like doing a Broadway musical in ten days,” she said. “You’re just thrilled that you can remember your lyrics and the blocking and not falling on your face, literally and figuratively.’
Actually, there was an accident on the first night of Night Music. LuPone and Marc Kudisch, playing Carl -Magnus, collided on stage, and eventually LuPone had knee surgery.
“There’s no room for accidents in these productions,” she said. “There’s no time to make mistakes. You go in with trepidation and fear and you don’t just want to make it happen, but to make it happen with depth and experience. You want people to remember.”
People do remember her Mrs. Lovett, which was preserved on a recording of the New York concert and on a videotape of the San Francisco concert, later shown on PBS.
What does she think of Mrs. Lovett?
“She’s just pragmatic,” LuPone said. “She needs to do what she has to do to survive, even if that means putting half of Fleet Street into meat pies. She’s amoral, but she’s in love.”
Of Desiree, she said:
“She’s sensuous. She’s the daughter of a famous and elegant courtesan, which makes her a sloppy courtesan, a sensualist. She’s also a sloppy actress. She’s in a situation of her own making because she’s sloppy, but there’s no fear. So it’s all to the good.”
LuPone said she had just begun to get ready for Fosca but thought she would play it “much more grotesque” than usual. She said she was interested in the description of Fosca’s illness in the introduction to Fosca, the I.U. Tarchetti novel on which the musical is based. Fosca is described as suffering from hysteria, “manifesting such symptoms as emotional outbursts, convulsions, sexual aggressiveness.”
Just as she put her own stamp on Mrs. Lovett and Desiree, LuPone is likely to create a memorable Fosca in the concert at Ravinia in August.
“Lucky me,” she said. “If this is my only way to get to do Sondheim, I’m very lucky.”