Patti LuPone brought her one-woman show, “Don’t Monkey With Broadway,” to Verizon Hall in Philadelphia on June 9 and it was phenomenal. The two-time Tony Award winner performed classic Broadway show tunes by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Stephen Schwartz, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. She also told stories in between songs about how her life-long love affair with Broadway began and her concern for what the Great White Way is becoming today.
When we arrived, I was surprised to see how sparse the stage was. There was a black Steinway grand piano with a beautiful flower arrangement that was perfectly lit and that’s it. Just Patti, a piano, and a spotlight. This made for a nice, intimate feel and put her voice front and center, with nothing to distract the crowd from its grandeur.
What astonished me the most about this concert was the control Patti has when it comes to her voice. While singing incredibly difficult songs filled with a dizzying amount of words and syllables, she effortlessly moved between notes. Whether she was belting from her diaphragm or singing with her head voice, Patti did it all with aplomb. While I admire several extremely talented male and female pop vocalists, Patti demonstrated how singing Broadway songs requires a voice that’s at another level, and her’s is in a class of its own.
One of the most beautiful songs was “Sleepy Man” from the musical The Robber Bridegroom. Patti sang it in a gorgeous, soft voice, and she was accompanied by Brotherly Love, Select Ensemble of the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. This talented group of male singers accompanied her for a handful of songs, adding a nice variety to the second act.
Dressed beautifully in two separate outfits – a seasonally appropriate polka dotted dress for the first act and a flowing black pantsuit for the second act – Patti Lupone took the audience on a journey of at least 20 songs and numerous stories. She was met with multiple standing ovations and was visibly brought to tears by the well-deserved adoration. It was a magical musical performance that gave me – and everyone else in Verizon Hall – a deep understanding and appreciation for one of the greatest voices in Broadway history.