It’s been a quarter-century since Patti LuPone sang the old ones in the intimacy of a small club that requested the proverbial two-drink minimum. That was during her acclaimed award-winning turn as Eva Peron. These evenings she’s leaning on the piano in the posh environs of Feinstein’s at the Regency, and she is again singing the old ones, under the collective banner “The Lady With the Torch.” The lady is a confident and assured performer, and her reflective interpretation of songs for losers makes for a comfortably paced hour.
LuPone’s new program is in marked contrast to the Broadway repertoire she offered in her 1995 stand at the Walter Kerr Theater, or her solo concert at Lincoln Center four years ago. Indeed, there are no reprises from “Evita,” “Anything Goes” or “Sweeney Todd.” She’s been there and done that.
This time around the diva is offering a subtle and restrained performance in a program that focuses on timeless torch songs. “The keys are left in the mailbox” is painfully realized in “A Cottage for Sale.” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears out to Dry” details the state of a self-pitying, stay-at-home guy.
The Broadway diva dives deep for the sweet sorrow of a lyric, and saves her brassy belting technique for a few choice accents. She opens her lungs for a briskly paced “By Myself” and belts the big finish of Harold Arlen’s “Ill Wind.”
Dubbing Edna St. Vincent Millay a dubious Billboard chart-topper in 1916, LuPone offers a rare treat with “I Had a Little Sorrow.” The poem was musicalized by Stan Kenton and his main thrush, June Christy, and Christy’s husband, saxman Bob Cooper.
LuPone turns a few classic torch songs into broad comic turns. After shooting grandpa, grandma sings “Who’s Sorry Now” to his corpse sprawled at her feet, and Johnny Mercer’s “I Wanna Be Around” — braced by a Jimmy Durante vaudeville strut — proves a huge, giggly crowdpleaser.
A real treat is an a cappella encore of a song introduced by Ethel Waters in “Blackbirds of 1933.”
LuPone advises “Don’t save your kisses, just pass them around” with the timeless Victor Young serenade “A Hundred Years From Today.” It’s an encouraging postscript for the proverbial loser.
The diva has put on a few pounds and a wardrobe consultant would be a blessing, but the serenades of sorrow couldn’t be more affecting. Dick Gallagher, LuPone’s musical director and accompanist for previous concert appearances, provides rich and flavorful support.