Cohesion and thematic continuity are not high priorities in this often brilliant yet occasionally bloodless 33-tune outing dedicated to the “various aspects of love.” “Matters of the Heart,” as conceived by director Scott Wittman, writer Jeffrey Richman and music director Dick Gallagher, showcases Patti LuPone’s magnificent vocal instrument well enough, but reflects little of her personality.
As if working off a burst of adrenaline, LuPone raced through her first nine numbers, barely pausing to interject such comments as “This is a brand new show, so if I miss a line just inform me” and “If I weep during a number it’s because I don’t have complete control of the song, yet.”
In fact, it wasn’t until her five-number encore set that LuPone, sleek and sophisticated in her white gown and newly blond-streaked hair, finally established some social rapport with the audience.
Still, LuPone certainly had her lyrics down and tears in check as she clicked off an eclectic range of tunes that included Cole Porter’s “Ridin’ High,” Jimmy Webb’s “Where Love Resides” and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cockeyed Optimist.”
Her emotions didn’t catch up to her until the heartfelt “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy,” about midway through the first act. The rest of the set also perked up considerably with Adele Anderson’s hilarious ballad “Shattered Illusions” and Lennon & McCartney’s lilting “I Will,” which highlighted LuPone’s occasional yodel-like mannerism.
In her first act-closing, “Being Alive,” from Sondheim’s “Company,” she pulled out all the emotional stops, reminding the audience that she deserves her status as one of Broadway’s reigning divas.
The second act provided more variation, if not more thematic clarity. LuPone took on a playful, world-wise continental air as she comically wended her way through Sondheim’s “I Never Do Anything Twice” and the hilariously self-deprecating “I Regret Everything” by Susy Williams/Bill Burnet. She then shifted moods completely to the callow woes of childhood, segueing from Randy Newman’s sad and ironic “Real Emotional Girl” to Judy Collins’ wistful “My Father.”
She concluded the evening with a 1950s R&B rendition of the Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern standard “The Way You Look Tonight,” which is as fitting a way as any to conclude this inconclusive sampling of music in search of a show.
Music director/pianist Gallagher is an amazingly intuitive accompanist whose technical virtuosity was always sublimated to the service of his employer.