Tuesday, November 11, 2008

CD Review: Patti LuPone at Les Mouches

I was up late last night, since I had today off. Well, that was only one of the reasons why I was up late. I really wanted to see how quickly after midnight iTunes unloaded its latest releases. It turned out to be pretty quickly, since, when I logged on at 12:45 AM, the CD that I had been coveting for a while was available for purchase.

That CD? Patti LuPone at Les Mouches.

I was in college when I became fascinated by Patti. A good friend of mine introduced me to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Patti's version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was on the disc I borrowed. That was enough to make me fall in love with her voice ten times over.

That, and the fact that she was a fellow Sicilian-American girl, sealed the deal for me.

Anyhoo, that compilation CD led me to purchase a couple of Patti's solo CDs. I also have some songs from Evita on my iPod (not the whole soundtrack...yet), and her soundtrack to Gypsy (which, if I'm lucky, I'll see on Broadway if I can get a good price on tickets) is on my most-wanted list. I saw her perform "Everything's Coming Up Roses" on the Tonys this year and was absolutely blown away. I felt that if she didn't win this year, there was something wrong with democracy. Fortunately, our Patti won.

So last week, I found myself over at SarahB's blog, where she had uploaded a WNYC interview between Patti and Leonard Lopate. I took a listen, and it was an excellent conversation. Patti is a diva, and one who takes a great deal of pride in her craft. This is where I found out about her new CD. There was a sample of a track from the Les Mouches CD at the end of the interview, "Latin from Manhattan," and it sounded so good I knew I had to have it--and it's very rare that I really want to buy a whole CD.

So what's the big deal about Patti LuPone at Les Mouches? Well, back in her Evita days, Patti moonlighted in a Chelsea nightclub, Les Mouches (now closed), Saturday nights at midnight. This gig lasted 27 weeks. She'd come out of doing her 8 PM performance of Evita, get to Chelsea somehow, and perform her cabaret act.

The gig was filmed, the tracks recorded on audio, and the tapes were seemingly lost to the ages.

Until now.

So how did Patti's legendary performance at Les Mouches once again see the light of day?

Patti related the story to Leonard Lopate. A couple of years ago, Patti asked a friend to put all of her tapes from her performances on DVDs "before the tape disintegrates." Her friend found the video from Les Mouches, decided it should be a show, and then, as Patti was starting rehearsals for Gypsy, Joe's Pub had a show called Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, where Leslie Kritzer sang the exact same songs and said the exact same dialogue that Patti did in the original gig. This led to renewed interest in Patti's nightclub performance.

According to Patti, they were about to release a recording of Leslie Kritzer's rendition of Patti's set from Les Mouches, when Patti stepped in and said, "Wait a minute here."

The result? The original tracks from the Les Mouches gig were digitally remastered and recently released onto CD.

And it's incredible.

You really feel as if you've traveled back to 1980, traveled back in time, to a nightclub in Chelsea, where a young Broadway ingenue is singing her little heart out. Patti's patter is so incredibly endearing in this set; she is so incredibly in awe of everything that's going on in her life, of everyone who has come to see her perform.

It's an interesting, wide-ranging set, and Patti really demonstrates her versatility well. In addition to "Rainbow High" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," she sings some 60s standards like "Downtown" and "Mr. Tambourine Man," as well as a Bruce Springsteen tune, "Because the Night." (I think another Patti, Ms. Smith, also sang that one. I need to do a fact check).

My favorite track, however, is "Meadowlark." I've heard Patti sing this on a couple of her solo CDs, but this one is my absolute favorite rendition. It will send chills down your spine. It's unbelievable.

It's really neat to listen to this gem of a CD, and see how far our Patti has come.

Now to get the Gypsy soundtrack!

This has been a week of reviewing some favorites of mine from the entertainment industry: Patti, Carole and Paula, and Carol without an E. Which reminds me, I promised to review the other Carol Burnett Show DVD I received a couple of weeks ago.

That will have to wait, Kittens, since I have to go to bed.

After all, I have work tomorrow!


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