Music

10.09.07
Patti LuPone
The Washington Post

Nelson Pressley 

You don't want to miss it when Patti LuPone throws a party, which is essentially what the Broadway diva did with her relaxed and engaging "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" Friday night at Strathmore.

How else to characterize her carefree, doo-wop version of "The Way You Look Tonight," or her puckishly envious glance at "West Side Story"?

"Hell, I could have played two of those parts," LuPone declared. Sure enough, she managed both roles at once in the Maria-Anita duet "A Boy Like That," singing with her patented, brassy energy while having deadpan fun switching between the characters.

Ostensibly, the act is a tour of roles and songs that the original Broadway Evita would like to have tackled at some point in her career. But despite a bit of catty early patter, the show is less a consideration of what LuPone coulda been than a celebration of the singular stage force she is. Behold as she cocks her hip, extends a hand yearningly toward the audience and sings from her heels. Many try, but few have the knockout punch of LuPone.

It landed with particular oomph during her moxie-fueled "Don't Rain on My Parade," but it was hardly the only weapon she used in this eclectic concert. "Trouble" from "The Music Man" might have been a slurred throwaway, and the happy "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' " had a curious tough edge . . . and to wrap up the quibbles, the bland "How to Handle a Woman" from "Camelot" isn't much to listen to in the best of circumstances.

But a Sondheim sequence found LuPone in supple, sublime form. She illuminated the witty lyrics of "I Never Do Anything Twice" with clever gestures and intelligent phrasing, delivered a poignant "Anyone Can Whistle" and added a brisk, ferocious and memorable "Ladies Who Lunch." LuPone and accompanist Chris Fenwick kept the tempos fast but not quite rushed, and they seemed to be having a ball during a second act, which LuPone said was largely new. The show felt fresh from beginning to end, whether LuPone was delivering the obligatory "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" or breezing joyfully through Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic," handling it all with infectious high spirits and casual command.