Regional Reviews: Seattle
Matters of the Heart at the Paramount
Also see David's review of Giant
Patti LuPone made her Seattle debut Tuesday as the tour of Matters of the Heart arrived at the Paramount to an appreciative, medium-sized crowd that seemed an even mix of her Broadway devotees and those who know her best from her long-running role as the Libby Thatcher on ABC's Life Goes On. Looking grand, singing strongly, and offering an appealingly eclectic mix of songs, LuPone is winning some new admirers (I would count my date among them) in the tightly paced show conceived, written and directed by talented Hairspray Scott Wittman, with musical arrangements by the late, great Dick Gallagher.
Starting soft and sweet with a wistful version of "Love Makes the World Go Round" from Carnival!, LuPone's song list is reasonably Broadway laden, though none of her signature songs are in the mix, largely owing to the show's theme. Though she doesn't reprise any numbers from her recent Sondheim roles as Fosca in Passion or Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, the audience at the Paramount on opening night went wild over her stellar rendering of "Not A Day Goes By" and a driving, up-tempo "Being Alive." One of LuPone's best comic moments - this lady's wicked comedic flair is one of her really strong assets as a performer - is the much less often-performed Sondheim gem "I Never Do Anything Twice." She makes a case that she might have been a stellar Mother in Ragtime, with a stirring "Back to Before" by Ahrens and Flaherty. It is also treat to hear her venture into Rodgers & Hammerstein territory with a freely interpreted "Cockeyed Optimist" and a serene "Hello, Young Lovers" that made me think I would really enjoy seeing her do King & I in concert. And I must hasten to add that LuPone's sometimes muddy diction, a mainstay of Forbidden Broadway's ribbing of her, is hardly ever an issue in Heart.
Two stand-out comedy numbers in the show are a hilarious piece "Shattered Illusions," which was entirely new to me, and a terrifically layered version of "I Wanna Be Around" by Johnny Mercer. Of her pop numbers, I was most taken by her presentations of "God Only Knows," Judy Collins' plaintively folky "My Father", a really great cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", and, surprisingly (as I am not a fan of the song otherwise) "Alone Again, Naturally."
Musical director/pianist Chris Fenwick is a real keyboard artist, and a most affable musical accomplice for LuPone, and the string quartet consisting of Rick Dolan (1st violin), Rob Taylor (2nd violin), Richard Brice (viola) and Arthur Fiacco (cello) is simply sublime. Ideally, a show like Matters of the Heart would be a better fit for a more intimate space than the Paramount, but a bold, bigger than life star like Patti LuPone has no problem eliminating this particular pitfall. Welcome to Seattle, Patti, and come back soon!
Matters of the Heart runs through Sunday April 17, 2005 at the Paramount Theatre, 9th & Pine in downtown Seattle. For more information go online to www.theparamount.com.- David-Edward Hughes