A seasoned pro takes a sold-out house on a world tour in song.




Review By Joel Benjamin




Patti Lupone’s rather rueful Far Away Places was more a psychological journey than a larky travelogue. She and her music director/pianist/backup singer Joseph Thalken, put together a show in which the emphasis was on a lost love and dark, dim memories, with Kurt Weill’s songs prominent in that department. No one else but Patti Lupone could take the Weill/Brecht/Blitzstein “Pirate Jenny” and make it simultaneously piercingly sorrowful and scary. From the Weill/Brecht Happy End, “Surabaya Johnny” and “Bilbao Song” had the world weary quality reminiscent of Lotte Lenya’s versions.

Her opening song, “The Gypsy in My Soul” (Clay Boland/Moe Jaffe) was the quick-spinning motor that set the show in motion and the title song, “Far Away Places” (Joan Whitney/Alex Kramer), done as a quiet waltz, had a meditative quality, shattered by the novelty song “Back in Nagasaki” (Harry Warren/Mort Dixon), full of the usual dumb period stereotypes about Asians, performed at a whiplash speed.

Her journey included a subdued visit to the very eccentric “Supermarket in Old Peking” (Cole Porter).  She didn’t quite capture the silliness of the song as she sped through it, but her “I Love Paris” (also Porter) had the requisite passion as she threw her head back and let loose. She stayed in Gay Paree long enough to do a Edith Piaf parody in which she “regretted everything” and also tell the tale of “Just a Gigolo” (Leonello Casucci/Irving Caesar). She even got to the Netherlands in Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” (English lyrics by Mort Shuman)

She visited Spain in one of the songs from her Broadway show Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (David Yazbek) and then sang a sultry “I Cover the Waterfront” (Johnny Green/Edward Heyman) which could have been anywhere.

That funny jazz standard “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” (Nat Simon/Jimmy Kennedy) had just the right sauciness while “Black Market” (Friedrich Hollaender), originally sung by Marlene Dietrich, was a microcosmic look at post World War II Berlin. Ms. Lupone caught the desperate tone under the slick lyrics.

Ms. Lupone returned to America for the Country/Western twang of “Me and Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster) but rushed back to Europe with Billy Joel’s “Vienna (Waits for Me),” encoring with “(Stand Back) Buenos Aires” from Evita (Lloyd Webber/Rice), giving the audience a familiar, pleasant jolt.

Throughout the show Ms. Lupone connected the numbers with autobiographical tidbits, some humorous, some touching, particularly when she spoke lovingly of her son who is now touring with the Acting Company, the very ensemble which gave her her own start so many years ago. She sang with authority, striding the stage like the diva she is. Her voice is…well, it’s Patti Lupone’s unique voice, complete with the swoops, hesitations, occasional mushy pronunciations and power expected of her. It’s a vital instrument that all composers would love wrapped around their songs.

Speaking of instruments, her incredible band included Andy Stein on violin, Larry Saltzman on guitars & banjo, Antony Geralis on keyboard & accordion and Paul Pizzuti on percussion, each of them taking brilliant solo turns.


Patti Lupone – Far Away Places (May 9, 2015)

Schimmel Center at Pace University

3 Spruce St., between Park Row and Gold Street  New York, NY
Series information: 212-346-1715 (B.O.) or 866-811-4111 or www.OvationTix.com

More information: www.pattilupone.net