Patti Labelle on Broadway

Broadway's St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse's one-woman show, "Patti LaBelle on Broadway," shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit.

Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit.

LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted its response: The singer’s enthusiastic (talk about understatement), camera-wielding fans jam the aisles to get their shots, the singer clearly relishing every second of the devotion. What other Broadway performer would so gleefully share her stage with impromptu visits from a leggy, bald-headed dragqueen, a kid from the Boys Choir of Harlem and Vegas comic Rip Taylor?

At 53, LaBelle is in as strong and supple voice as ever, her trademark over-the-top style soaring beyond a muddy sound system, unimpressive lighting and the absence of stage direction that could have lent a more sharply defined pace to her concert. (On opening night, the lengthy intermission came 90 minutes into the show, after which LaBelle returned for a weaker half-hour.)

As unapologetic in favoring rowdy R&B over her bigger-selling pop hits as she is in showing off her ample figure in tight minidresses, LaBelle all but dispenses with “Lady Marmalade” and “New Attitude” in quick, shortened versions.

Her show includes a healthy selection of numbers from her latest Grammy-nominated R&B release, “Flame,” and showcases the slower, sultrier soul grooves of “If You Asked Me To” and ’60s chestnut “Ain’t No Way.” As LaBelle wails to crescendo after crescendo, holding notes for improbably long minutes, she makes clear that she is not a performer who’s afraid to show off.

LaBelle’s vocal fervor is excessive, and those who like their soul a bit subtler might want to look elsewhere. But there’s no mistaking the control LaBelle wields over her instrument, with every whoop and swoop impeccably achieved. Same goes for her on-the-sleeve emotionalism: Somewhere in LaBelle’s stylistic lineage, along with the soul shouters and blues wailers, is the showbiz razzmatazz of Judy Garland, an influence LaBelle has made clear by borrowing “Over the Rainbow” as her unofficial theme and closing number.

Backed by her longtime seven-piece band, LaBelle plays Broadway through Jan. 25, then heads to Washington, D.C.’s Warner Theater Feb. 4-8. Gotham’s recent warm spell notwithstanding, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway” sizzles with more heat than any New York winter could expect.

Patti Labelle on Broadway

(St. James Theater, New York; 1,617 seats; $ 64.50 top)

Production: A 98.7 Kiss FM & Chesapeake Concerts presentation of a concert in two acts.

Crew: Musical direction, James (Budd) Ellison. Costumes, Michael Harrell; lighting and sound, Stage One Prods.; executive producer, L. Armstead Edwards. Opened, reviewed Jan. 13, 1998. Running time: 2 hours, 30 min.

More Film

  • Lionsgate Unveils "The World of The

    Lionsgate Unveils World's First 'Hunger Games' Theme Park

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • Lawyer: Weinstein Rape Accuser's "Biggest Regret

    Lawyer: Weinstein Rape Accuser's 'Biggest Regret Is Opening That Door'

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • Sylvia Hoeks Girl in the Spider's

    'Blade Runner' Breakout Sylvia Hoeks Joins 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • Heather Kerr Gloria Allred

    Former Actress Heather Kerr Accuses Harvey Weinstein of Forcing Himself on Her

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • nickelodeon animation loud house

    Female Animators Call for End of Culture of Sexual Harassment in Open Letter

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • Sean Young Harvey Weinstein

    Actress Sean Young Alleges Harvey Weinstein Exposed Himself to Her

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

  • Woman Walks Ahead TIFF

    Jessica Chastain's 'Woman Walks Ahead' Lands at A24, DirecTV

    Broadway’s St. James Theater might need a Disney-size renovation after singer/force-of-nature Patti LaBelle blows through her two-week stint. The volcanic R&B powerhouse’s one-woman show, “Patti LaBelle on Broadway,” shakes the foundations with vocal muscle and vigorous spirit. LaBelle, never one for understatement, has not toned down her show for Broadway, nor has her audience muted […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content