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Don't Mess With Patti LuPone 

Don't Mess With Patti LuPone 


Broadway's beloved gay icon disses social media and reality TV, but she always commands respect. 

Patti LuPone is not only the reigning Broadway star of our time, the two-time Tony Award winner is beloved by legions of LGBT fans -- for some very good reasons.
It's no secret that many gay men are musical theatre fans -- in fact it's one of our most enduring cliches. Musical theatre presents a fantasy world where everything is much more fabulous than the dreary or oppressive world where many LGBT folks grew up feeling isolated and different.
But since LuPone first burst onto the scene in 1979, becoming a star and winning the Tony as Broadway's first Evita, she's often played women who've fought like hell to overcome obstacles through the sheer force of indomitable will. What LGBT theatregoer can't identify with that?
With her signature power and presence, LuPone originated the iconic roles of Fantine in Les Miserables and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard in their London premieres; and she's starred in many acclaimed revivals, including Anything Goes, Sweeney Todd, and Gypsy (which earned her Tony number 2).
Offstage, she's unapologetically outspoken about the lack of civility in our digital age. As she revealed in a recent phone interview with The Advocate, she has no time for social media either.
"Some people think I'm a dinosaur, but I'm not on any social media," she says. "I believe in my life being private, except when I'm on stage. I don't have the energy to tell everyone what I just had for breakfast."
If you're a theater lover who bemoans the lack of manners at live performances, you have a champion in Patti LuPone. In 2009 she stopped a performance of Gypsy to scream at an audience member for taking photos, demanded that he be thrown out of the theater, and lectured the audience on respect and public manners.
Her diatribe was met with wild applause, and a YouTube recording of the incident went viral.
"My biggest pet peeve is the lack of respect for the craft of acting," she says. "I'm sick of reality TV, which really degrades the art of acting. It's all become so cheap. The standard today is so low."
LuPone is currently appearing in the Los Angeles Opera's West Coast premiere of gay composer John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles (through March 1), and she'll bring her acclaimed solo concert Far Away Places to San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall Monday.
Far Away Places, which LuPone has performed at venues large and small, including Carnegie Hall, features tunes by an eclectic list of songwriters, including Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, and the Bee Gees.
But the Broadway baby is hitting new notes alongside opera stars Patricia Racette (as Marie Antoinette) and Christopher Maltman in The Ghosts of Versailles. "It's such a trip," she says. "I'm having the time of my life."
Patti-lupone01x400d_0She plays an Egyptian diva who enters on a huge pink elephant and has one over-the-top number. "My scene is an oddity in the opera," she says. "It's just seven minutes in the first act. It has nothing to do with the plot -- except that it does."
LuPone was named after her great-grand-aunt Adelina Patti, one of the most acclaimed opera singers of the 19th century. "I didn't know much about her when I was growing up, but when I was a kid people said I should sing opera because I have a big high soprano."
As she revealed in her 2010 book Patti LuPone: A Memoir, she nearly lost her famous voice in the mid-'90s after the vocally grueling Sunset Boulevard. "I had a vocal cord operation and I couldn't talk for five months," she says. "I had to be trained to talk correctly and then sing correctly."
She credits vocal coach Joan Lader with saving her voice and her career, and she came out of the ordeal sounding better than ever. "I have no idea why, except that now I have technique," she says. "I was just willing my voice to sing before. I'm continuing to learn to sing, learning new techniques from the opera choral masters."
LuPone cites gay icons Bette Davis and Edith Piaf as her early inspirations, and she's a big fan of young Broadway stars Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) and recent Tony winners Lena Hall (Hedwig) and Jessie Mueller (Beautiful).
"I also love Judy Davis and Cate Blanchett," she says. "I prefer European actors, probably because they get better material to do than Americans. We just get a lot of superhero stuff."
LuPone has been having great fun with recent television gigs, including playing herself on HBO's Girls, and as the very twisted Bible-thumping neighbor on last season's American Horror Story: Coven. She'll keep things supernatural by guest-starring as a 200-year-old witch on season 2 of Showtime's Penny Dreadful.
While L.A. and San Francisco fans can get their dose of LuPone live, East Coasters need not fear. She'll bring her cabaret concert The Lady With the Torch to New York's 54 Below April 1-15.
For all things Patti LuPone, visit her official website.
Tickets for LuPone's upcoming performances can be purchased below.
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