City Center, New York • 17 July 2007 • 7pm
Book by Arthur Laurents. Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Directed by Arthur Laurents. Music Director: Patrick Vaccariello. With Patti LuPone (Rose), Boyd Gaines (Herbie), Laura Benanti (Louise), Leigh Ann Larkin (June), Tony Yazbeck (Tulsa), Marilyn Caskey (Electra), Alison Fraser (Tessie Tura), Nancy Opel (Miss Cratchitt/Mazeppa)…
Interesting to see Patti LuPone go from a great performance as Rose last year under Lonny Price’s guidance at the Ravinia Festival to a substandard, at times mind-bogglingly bad portrayal in this misguided production, which is supposed to be a (way) out-of-town try-out for a forthcoming London run.
The pace and delivery feel so wrong at times it looks as if Arthur Laurents took a sort of perverse pleasure in harming his own material. And some pieces of stage business — like the amount of scenes played in front of the curtain — really look amateurish.
The paradox is that some of the actors give wonderful performances: Boyd Gaines is a sensitive, heartbreaking Herbie; Laura Benanti’s transformation from shy tomboy to star stripper is sensational; Nancy Opel steals every scene she’s in as Miss Cratchitt… and the three strippers are a hoot.
But Patti LuPone looks as if she left something in the oven and is in a hurry to get back home after the performance. Many subtleties of the book and lyrics are lost to an absent-minded or rushed delivery. And her famed botched enunciation is back. Beside, she ends an otherwise fine “Rose’s Turn” on an ugly scream which must be the most tasteless thing I’ve seen on a musical theatre stage in a long time.
But the audience didn’t seem to mind. They were all on their feet after “the scream.” Go figure…