• Amy Toledano

Sunday Encounters: Patti LuPone In Conversation With Edward Seckerson

Image courtesy of Danny Kaan

Patti LuPone, beloved star of both stage and screen begins the Sunday Encounters at the Royal Theatre Haymarket, a series of unique conversations with some of the most important voices of the arts and politics in the UK and abroad.

Upon entering this lovely theatre, the buzz of excitement can already be felt pulsating through the air. LuPone's fans are dedicated and enthusiastic and have arrived feeling exactly as I feel now, open and charged as if meeting with an old friend, someone they have known for years.

When LuPone enters the space, accompanied by presenter and journalist Edward Seckerson, the theatre explodes with applause that is reserved only for those who have spent years influencing people internationally.

Once settled Seckerson wastes no time in beginning with one of LuPone's most well known characters Eva Perón in Evita. LuPone describes her experience as bittersweet, being a young performer she had no protection, no agent or director who was on her side to guide her through a cut throat business. She recalls the state of her voice at the time, all gift and very little technique. "I still don't understand the diaphragm!" she exclaims, when asked if she has had much luck with singing teachers over the years. Offering a small piece of advice to any singers in the audience she says "protect and maintain yourselves.".

Image courtesy of Danny Kaan

After listening to an except of "Rainbow High" from Evita, Seckerson notices a shift in LuPone's demeanour. "How is it listening to yourself in this setting?" He asks her.

"It's weird" is her instantaneous response.

Moving on to her 2013 role in Masterclass as Maria Callas, the conversation of modern casting comes up. LuPone's opinion on the current "Instagram casting" is simple. "Who is running our business?" She has no qualms about asking "why can nobody be a smart producer anymore?" moving her audience to cheers of support that illuminate the room. As the show progresses excepts from many of LuPone's most famous roles are played. As we move through from Sunset Boulevard to her "Eight O'Clock Number" (cheekily described by Seckerson) in Les Miserables, it is clear to see that LuPone still has a deep connection to each number, her emotive nature as a performer visible throughout.

The audience hang off LuPone's every word, as she elaborates on the highs and lows of a long and fruitful career. The pressure she was under as a performer was immense, particularly in her role as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and exasperated states "why are we treated this way? We are vulnerable!" LuPone is adamant that in the end it is "all about joy".

LuPone's rendition of "Blow Gabriel Blow" from Anything Goes has the audience bouncing in their seats before the interval and, once back for part two both LuPone and Seckerson have champagne in hand and are ready to crack on. We get to hear tales from Gypsy and the way in which LuPone had no interest in playing Mama Rose, until she got the part. Then she understood.

As she reflects, the energy she emits is intoxicating, even from my seat in the Royal Circle. Her frankness is so refreshing and important to witness and her ownership and assured nature is something the young actors in the audience should take note of.

An exciting moment also comes when LuPone gushes over her experience of being in the current run of Company on the West End. Her deep love for her cast mates and admiration for leading lady Rosaline Craig is a wonder, and that working with director Marianne Elliott has been one the best experiences she has ever had.

As the show draws to a close, and LuPone has well and truly enchanted her audience the experience is clear- neither side is ready for the evening to be over. "We're finished already??" LuPone gasps. A standing ovation is had and the relationship between LuPone and her fans is a special one to witness.

The evening is an important one for an audience made up of fans young and old, and upon leaving the theatre many can be heard quoting LuPone from the night. Her impact is clear, she is one of the greats and though she may try, there is no slowing her down.

Amy x

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