Patti LuPone, the original Evita and a two-time Tony winner, is winging through town for a revival of her 1999 solo show of contemporary tunes, “Matters of the Heart,” which she’ll perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday. The multi-disciplinarian who has defined such roles as Fantine in “Les Miserables” and Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” spoke with Daily Variety about the origins of “Matters,” some of her musical heroes and TV shows like “Glee” and “American Idol.”
Daily Variety: How did “Matters of the Heart” come about?
LuPone: I was frankly sick and tired of singing showtunes. I grew up on Long Island in the ’50s and ’60s listening to rock ‘n’ roll, while my mother listened to opera and my dad listened to jazz.
I believe that if a song is well written, it can tell the same kind of story that a showtune can. There’s an original piece by (cabaret composer) John Bucchino in there, and two songs by Randy Newman, a song by Joni Mitchell and absolutely some showtunes in it.”
DV: Who were your heroes growing up?
LuPone: Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Ronettes, the Shirelles, the Four Seasons. Then, when I was much older, Cream, the Beatles, the Band. Of the solo artists it would have to be Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson.
DV: Harry Connick Jr. released an album of contemporary pop tunes last year called “Your Songs.” What is it about singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Elton John that inspires people to revisit their music?
LuPone: They tell really great stories. This (material) is the contemporary musical of our time.
DV: Do you consider any particular period in Broadway history to be the golden age of musical theater?
LuPone: Probably when Rogers and Hammerstein and Jule Styne were writing in the ’50s, don’t you think? “Oklahoma,” “West Side Story,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “Gypsy” — those had to have been very heady years.
DV: “Glee” seems to be the first TV show to have extended interest in the musical from the boards to people’s living rooms. Are you a fan?
LuPone: Absolutely! Hopefully this will want to make (audiences) go to a Broadway musical. I think it’s really terrific.
DV: I understand you’re close to completing your memoir (“Patty Lupone: A Memoir,” published by Harmony). Any skeletons in the closet revealed?
LuPone: This is not about my personal life. I just did a chronological accounting of my career, starting with when I fell in love with the stage at 4 years old and then everything up to the closing night of “Gypsy.”
DV: No juicy, behind-the-scenes gossip?
LuPone: There is juicy, behind-the-scenes gossip, but it just depends on what you consider “juicy.”
DV: What about the proliferation of competition shows to determine who will be the next big pop star or ball room dancer?
LuPone: “Oh, those I hate. It’s a very difficult profession. And it’s insulting to the people who have trained for a discipline — acting and singing are crafts and disciplines. And it really compromises the integrity of people who are truly born to the boards and have dedicated their lives to it.
“It’s also, especially ‘American Idol,’ so derivative. They all sound like somebody who’s already famous. So who cares? And ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is pathetic. If you’re going to have a competition, have it with real dancers. Show me some real talent.”
DV: Do you have any advice for aspiring actors and singers?
LuPone: “First of all you have to love the craft. And then you have to train every aspect of your being to serve that craft. That would by my advice: love it and then study it.”