Staying in WRJ a bit longer. 

Backstage Magazine Interview with Broadway Legend Patti LuPone

Thursday, May 26, 2022 by Magellan Helm | Uncategorized

When I lived in Kansas City, I had the opportunity to share the stage with Patti LuPone.  It was the inaugural concert of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. I was there to sing the Brahms German Requiem with the Symphony Chorus and Patti was in the audience.  Throughout our rehearsal, legendary musicians were walking in and sitting down to listen.  Placido Domingo was particularly noticed.  But Patti LuPone was one of us.  She blended into her surroundings and her presence was barely noticed.  I caught sight of her and told my neighbor, “ “Look! It’s Patti LuPone!” Her response. “No. It can’t be.”  Well it was and that collective disbelief is what allowed me a few short minutes of her time backstage. What a spirited conversation we had! 

Her most recent triumph is in the female adapted and directed musical Company written by LuPone’s good friend, now deceased, Stephen Sondheim. She won the Olivier Award for her role and standing ovations mid show after singing the iconic, “Ladies who lunch.” 

Here is a snippet of the article which deals directly with the importance of understanding a song and delivering it directly to the audience. This is her magic. Her MOJO! Take her advice and run with it! 

Take lyric interpretation, which she has always used as her North Star. “I have to make sense of the story in order to sing the song, and that’s where I start,” she says. “Think of when people tell you a joke. There is energy, tension, anticipation, and there’s the resolution. It’s the same thing in the songs. You are leading to something. How do you build to the climax? How do you build so that you’re not climaxing through the entire song, or so that you don’t miss the climax altogether?” 

When she’s offstage or in the audience watching others perform, can she tell when an actor isn’t connecting to the lyrics? “Of course you can!” she snaps. More than anything, LuPone suggests, that lack of connection to the material points to an actor’s inability to truly be present in the scene. 

She has no clever tips or tricks for how she manages to do so herself, night after night, year after year, show after show. Her solution is as simple as can be: “I want to be onstage.” 

“I want to tell the story,” she says. “Before I start the show, I always look out at the audience, because I want to see who I’m playing to. I will look them in the eye. I’m in a musical. It’s presentational theater. I deliver lines to people. I look in the corner of my eye and decide: Who am I gonna give the ‘Kiss off, Rodney!’ line to? I clock them, and that’s the person I give it to. And then, throughout the show, I’m looking at people—not to make them uncomfortable, but to include them in the story. You are telling a story to someone else. You can never lose sight of that.”


MLH Studio Vocal is offering online and IN STUDIO lessons 

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Megan Helm is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing

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