After spending about a week and a half listening to Patti LuPone tell me her life story, her life struggles and stage failures and successes in Patti LuPone: A Memoir, I had to get the CD of the 2008 Broadway cast recording of Gypsy - and I'm so glad that I did!
I saw the road show version of this production at the Lied Center for Performing Arts here in Lincoln about a year ago. For as long as I can remember, I have loved the Broadway theater. Never been to Broadway, never been to New York, but from the time that I was about seven years old, I've been blessed by having a lot of Broadway cast albums and soundtracks from movie musicals. Perhaps not so blessed are my friends and family because I immediately learned all of the songs from every one of them and will sing my version of the entire album at the top of my lungs. The problem: I cannot carry a tune. As a friend once said to me, "Such a waste. You know all the words."
It was a while before I discovered that I couldn't sing. Before then, you couldn't stop me. I was in fifth grade and we had just moved back to the 'big city" after living in a small village for five years. In the small town, there weren't many kids, so I always got the leads in the grade school plays, did all of the singing - because I was the only kid in the school who could project - no microphone needed. I was always selected to be the narrator for the performances at school. Why? Because people could hear me in the back row of the auditorium.
So - I get to the big city school (well, big for Nebraska). It was time to decide if I belonged with the sopranos or the altos. The teacher tried me with both groups, and then there were three groups: sopranos, altos and Susan. "And don't sing too loud." Sheesh! My ambitions to star in Broadway musicals was squashed at the age of 9. So - I became extremely proficient at lip syncing! Even now, whenever the people around me are singing The Star Spangled Banner or singing along at a concert, I'm just moving my lips. What a waste! I know ALL the words!
But - to this day, I can still do the opening monologue of Ya Got Trouble from Meredith Willson's The Music Man. That's more talking than singing. I could get away with it if my friends didn't make such a protest! They've heard it many (too many, they will tell you) times.
You know what I miss about all of those vinyl LPs of Broadway cast recordings and movie soundtracks? The cover - the packaging - all of the stories about the performance, the cast, beautiful photographs from the show. Since I'd never seen any of these shows performed in person, I could shut my eyes and let the music help me visualize my version of what was going on in the story: Bye Bye Birdie, The Music Man, West Side Story.
Packaging of CDs has taken away a lot of the magic of vinyl LPs. There was always that feeling of anticipation as I gently removed the cellophane wrap from the album, delicately removing the 12 inch platter from the sleeve. Sometimes there was even something printed on the sleeve. Even if it was an ad for other albums from the record label, I read every word. I read every word on the label - what were the titles of the songs? Who wrote the songs? I devoured all of the liner notes. That's probably why I do so well with trivia games dealing with music. But if the LP was a gatefold and opened up to show me photographs, well, that was pure heaven!
So, a couple days ago, the cast recording of Gypsy arrived. I was looking forward to listening to this version of one the greatest musicals every produced. The jewel case included a 32-page booklet telling all about the story, the music, the costumes, the cast! Oh, my! It just doesn't get any better than this.
Until I put the CD in my player. The live performance I had attended came back to life in my mind as the songs played. Just from the vocals, I can tell why this 2008 revival won so many Tony awards, including one for Miss LuPone. My audio books may have to take a back seat for a few days while I listen to this CD in my car over and over again.
And, alone in my car, I can belt out Everything's Coming Up Roses along with Patti, just as I have done with Ethel Merman for so many years. And I'm not lip syncing, either! Hey - at least I'm not talking on a cell phone while driving.