Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Patti LuPone: A Memoir

For the last couple weeks, my traveling companion has been actress Patti LuPone, star of stage, screen and television.

I love it when an author narrates her/his own audio book. That's what made Kristen Chenoweth's A Little Bit Wicked come alive for me. The same is true of this eight-hour ride with Patti LuPone. I loved having Patti at my side as she told me her life story. And what a life it has been. The star of the revival of Gypsy makes it clear that not everything is coming up roses in the life of a working actress.

My first memory of Patti LuPone is probably when she portrayed Lady Bird Johnson in a made for television movie in 1987 and later as Libby Thatcher on the series, Life Goes On. It wasn't until I listened to this audio book that I learned about some of the other films she has appeared in, as well as her vast experience on stage.

I've often thought that what sets apart the good performers from the great performers is theatrical experience. There's something about actors who are able to develop a character and play the same role night after night after night that helps them become great actors. And Patti puts everything she's got into this audio book. She does not read the book to you, she tells you her story, with all of the frustration, exhilaration, pain and suffering. She screams and yells (when appropriate) for emphasis. Like when talking about her Life Goes On costar Bill Smitrovich or Andrew Lloyd Weber or several others, for that matter.

Patti tells of the auditions, the rehearsals, the disappointments (and were there plenty of disappointments) and the good times. You'd think that scoring the lead in Sunset Boulevard and Evita would be enough. But to hear of all of the conflicts involved in these productions (and others), I could feel Patti's emotional pain. I was ready to wring the neck of Andrew Lloyd Weber by the time I was through. I was glad that the book ended with her appearance in Gypsy, as that really seemed to be one of the many positive theatrical experiences she had.

Even though she doesn't hesitate to say exactly what she thinks, at the end of the book she reflects on all of the positive things that came out of each of the experiences, no matter how good or how bad they were. I like that she holds her own and keeps bouncing back. She is one gutsy lady.

As with most audio books, I hate seeing them come to an end. For anyone with a little bit of greasepaint in their blood, this a great book about the theater.

Five stars

Postscript: I just ordered the CD of the Gypsy revival cast recording.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, I did the reading while you did the listening. As another theater lover, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The only minor flaw was, to me, it skipped around too much. Sometimes, I had no idea what year I was in. Anybody considering being an actor/actress must read this. It was very enjoyable and I loved getting the inside scoop about other actors and directors.