While Patti Lupone Vows She’ll Never Do Another Musical, She Is Singing Soon Onstage in L.A.

Musical theater legend Patti LuPone may have sung her last show.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever do another Broadway musical cause I just don’t think they’re very good right now. They’re not writing for me,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t know if I want to do eight shows a week in a Broadway musical, but I would do a play in a heartbeat.”

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From the age of 4, she knew she wanted to be on Broadway. A graduate of Juilliard, she won her first Tony for Evita in 1980, a second for her performance as Madame Rose in the 2008 revival of Gypsy and a third for playing Joanne in the 2022 revival of Company. TV fans know her from shows like American Horror StoryCrazy Ex-Girlfriend and Frasier, for which she received an Emmy nomination. This year, she’ll be seen in Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, a spinoff of WandaVision starring Kathryn Hahn and Aubrey Plaza.

But just because she’s stepping away from musicals doesn’t mean you can’t see her sing. For one night only in Los Angeles, she’ll be performing Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes at the LA Opera on April 20.

“What I wanted to do was speak to the touchstones, my musical experience of growing up in America,” she says about compiling a heavily guarded setlist. Spoiler alert: Don’t expect a lot of showtunes in the musical performance, which she’s also taking on the road to such venues as Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. “I grew up with transistor radios. I grew up with the hippie generation. I grew up in the AIDS epidemic. When I think of all I’ve gone through in this country, it’s pretty traumatic. It’s pretty stressful.”

Does that mean you’ll be busting out a Rolling Stones song?

It’s about personal touchstones and also it recalls different decades in my life growing up in this country. Not that I’m going to be singing anti-war songs, but I’m trying to relate the idea that we all have similar experiences where we’ll hear a song now and we will remember exactly where we were when we first heard it, how old we were, who we were with and the impact that song had on us. This is a brand new show, so it will evolve.

We might see more of you on the West Coast with your attention on film and TV. Tell me about your roomie Aubrey Plaza from Agatha: Darkhold Diaries.

Aubrey’s great. When we were shooting, at one point she said I’m doing a play off Broadway. And I’m saying, “Uh-oh.” I thought it’s my responsibility to take care of her. It’s my responsibility to introduce her to theater bootcamp. Her apartment wasn’t ready, and she lived with me, and I told her what I knew, stuff that she needed to know. When you transfer to the stage, you have to be reminded that you have to project.

In recent years, you’ve made some headlines confronting rude audience members.

I remember going to the theater before cell phones. We never had an issue with cell phones. I think we always had an issue with photographs. I remember one performance of Evita in 1979 on Broadway where Mandy [Patinkin] — someone had a flash camera and was sitting in the first row — and Mandy came down from the stage, going, “Keep taking the pictures!” It was shocking! It changed when technology took over our lives, and people couldn’t put their phones down. It’s never everybody. It’s just one or two people who ruin it for everyone else. I see incredibly respectful audiences, and I see stupid audiences where they think they’re part of the show.

You said you never really found your role in Evita until you sang it in Australia?

Cause I wasn’t in New York. I had already won the Tony, and I didn’t have the pressure of New York on me. There was tremendous hype on this before I even got the part. How do you negotiate the hype and try to perform? Everyone is on your case. Expectations are not reasonable.

Ticket sales on Broadway are still almost 20 percent below pre-Covid sales. How do we bring it back?

I don’t believe how expensive the tickets are at the door. It’s become an elite sport. If you’re going to develop audiences, you have to get young people in the theater, and they have to see more than Back to the Future. There are so many great composers and lyricists and playwrights out there that need to be supported so that we can educate an audience. We are in the process of dumbing them down even further. Whoever has decided to dumb down America has done a really good job.

You originated the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on the London stage, but when the show transferred to Broadway, they cast Glenn Close. Did you ever get an explanation for that?

Andrew Lloyd Webber is a narcissistic, insecure man. So, there’ll be no explanation for that except that he didn’t get what he wanted in London and thought he would get it in New York. It’s still a shitty musical. I know it has a brand new life with Nicole Scherzinger. We’ll see what happens. But it’s not a good musical. It’s a lumbering musical.

You’ve talked about confronting bullies backstage, even with all your accolades. 

The experiences I’ve had were ridiculous. They were cruel, but nobody was going to stop me from doing what I was born to do. I don’t know why I was singled out for the bullying and abuse I got from several people in this business. It will never happen again. One time it happened and I was in a fetal position. The stage manager came in and said, “Oh honey, he does that to all his leading ladies, and they just walk off the stage.” And I thought why the fuck didn’t I just walk off the stage? ‘Cause I was afraid of getting fired. I know it will never happen again and if it does I will walk off the stage.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from working with Stephen Sondheim?

The fact that he was in the room, the notes he gave me, when he died I said to myself, “Who would make me better?” I went to Juilliard, and I had some pretty extraordinary teachers. But the two teachers who taught me the most about acting and singing were David Mamet and Stephen Sondheim.

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