Patti LuPone returned home for the first of two sold-out concerts Monday night in her native village of Northport.
“I’ve been dying for years to sing on Main Street in close proximity to Gunther’s,” said the two-time Tony and Grammy winner and Northport High School alum. That’s Gunther’s Tap Room, a favorite hangout of Jack Kerouac, author of the iconic Beat Generation novel “On the Road.” LuPone’s homecoming concert venue was a movie house when she was growing up in Northport. Located east of Gunther’s on Main, the building is now the John W. Engeman Theater.
LuPone, accompanied by her music director Joseph Thalken in her “Don’t Monkey with Broadway” concert, sings classic show tunes by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Charles Strouse and two Stephens—Schwartz and Sondheim.
Monday night’s concert, announced in September, sold out in hours and LuPone agreed to a second show Tuesday night, which sold out quickly. The $125 tickets were purchased largely through a lottery among season ticketholders to Long Island’s only year-round Actors Equity theater company. The second concert will, in part, benefit her alma mater’s Performing Arts Department. At Monday’s show, she reminisced about playing Nellie Forbush at Northport High, singing another character’s song, “Happy Talk,” from “South Pacific.”
LuPone opened with the title song to her show, interspersed with lamentations about what’s become of Broadway, including an off-color crack about President Donald Trump. She traced the early part of her career, including her first audition at 17 for the “Sweet Charity” touring company, singing “Big Spender.” “I didn’t get the part. . . . How could I not know she was a hooker?”
But by the end of Act I, LuPone got around to her biggest triumphs, closing with “Some People” from “Gypsy” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from “Evita.”
Citing her earliest influences, she held up album covers, including “Pal Joey,” and recalled, “My mom bought these at the East Northport A&P checkout counter.”
Members of the Northport High School Choir backed up the famous alum in the second half of Monday’s show on “Ya Got Trouble” from “The Music Man,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from “Guys & Dolls,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” from “Anything Goes” and “Sleepy Man” from “The Robber Bridegroom.” They will return Tuesday evening.
After leaving Northport, LuPone went on, of course, to greater glory, winning best actress Tonys for “Evita” and “Gypsy.” Her career remains in high gear at age 68. She appears in the movie “The Comedian” opening Feb. 3 with Robert DeNiro and fellow Long Island actress Edie Falco. And she returns to Broadway in the musical “War Paint,” previewing March 7 to an April 7 opening and co-starring fellow Tony winner Christine Ebersole (“Grey Gardens”). “War Paint” is the story of competing cosmetic pioneers Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, rare female entrepreneurs in their time. “I can cry right now to have this kind of experience” on Broadway, she says. “It’s rare, very rare.”