‘Gypsy’ in her soul

B’way legend and gay icon Patti LuPone brings her powerful pipes to Dallas

concerts-1ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

You might not have seen her name above the title on a movie or welcomed her every week into your house via the boob tube, but when it comes to the stage, there are few contemporary performers who rival Patti LuPone.

“I’m not a movie actress — I think I’m a hard sell in the movies,” LuPone says matter-of-factly. (She is, however, about to shoot a film in New Orleans, playing  J-Lo’s mom.) While the Juilliard-trained actress has met her greatest success in musical theater, it’s her acting chops that have transformed songs like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (from Evita — her first Tony Award) and “Rose’s Turn” (Gypsy — her second Tony). The latter was a career highlight: The most ferocious role for a woman ever written for an American musical. Two years after it closed, she’s still happy to talk about it.

“It was great,” she beams. “Arthur [Laurents, the director and writer] assembled a spectacular cast — we really were a triumvirate. I don’t think you can act alone. You need partners on stage.”

That the production took place “was really done as a tribute to Arthur’s partner of 50 years, Tom Hatcher,: she says. “Tom had just died, and he’s the one who told Arthur to do West Side Story and Gypsy. Arthur agreed to do it basically to keep him alive. He wanted it to be different than the last one and really have an acted show.”

Although the entire principal cast won Tonys, Laurents did not.  “How could the director not win!” LuPone says, voice filling with outrage. You sense it’s such emotional readiness that has made her a Broadway icon.

LuPone brings that legendary power to the stage of the Meyerson this week, with what she calls a “piano and voice only” concert (no orchestra), titled Gypsy in My Soul. “It’s a collection of songs including some showtunes,” she says.

When an actress so identified with certain composers, especially Stephen Sondheim, performs in concert, she can run the risk of being compelled to perform songs that no longer interest her. That’s simply not the case with LuPone.

“Songs never become old hat to me, “ she says categorically. “Because audiences want to hear one, so I do one — not even because I have to; I want to. If they are really good songs you want to sing them.”

LuPone has, in one venue or another, run through almost the entire Sondheim repertoire: Mama Rose, Passion, Company, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd (another Tony nomination — “I actually got rotator cuff problems from carrying around that tuba”). Really, only two have eluded her.

“I wanted to play Desiree [in the revival of A Little Night Music, which closed earlier this year on Broadway]. I contacted Trevor [Nunn, the director], who didn’t contact me back,” she says, with a sting. “Really the last Sondheim role for me is the Witch in Into the Woods, which I was originally offered! After it left San Diego they offered it to me; I said I d like to play Cinderella, so I came in and auditioned for that. Then they said, ‘We still want you to play the Witch.’ Then negotiations fell apart.”

Her resume is littered with shows — some huge hits, some personal triumphs.

“I loved Women on the Verge,” she says of her last Broadway venture, which closed quickly last year (though not before landing her a sixth Tony nom). “I think there’s a lot of creativity [on Broadway] now, but I’m sick and tired of the spectacles. My biggest complaint is the sound level: I’d rather be brought to the stage than pushed back in my seat.”

And she’s always looking ahead. “Mandy [Patinkin] and I are coming to Broadway for nine weeks [soon], then we will go out on the road both together and separately. Then there’s stuff happening that I can’t say because I’m not supposed to,” she teases.

You might expect she’d find a pace more suitable for a 62-year-old, but LuPone denies that the demands of eight shows a week wear her out.

“I have Italian peasant energy,” he says. “Even at my age, there is this abundance of energy, especially songs that are physically demanding. I am exhilarated by them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Weekly Best Bets 05.27.11

Friday 05.27

Don’t cry for herseth_cooper1
OK, let’s admit it, dancey divas are a dime a dozen. But without them, we might never have known Lady Gaga or Ke$ha. Now we have Eva who is navigating the club scene waters. She’s made a good start by hitting up the gays, especially with her debut single “Not My Daddy.,” What gay boy couldn’t relate? Plus, you can always say you saw her when.

DEETS: The Rose Room at Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road.
Doors at 9 p.m. PartyAtTheBlock.com.

 

Saturday 05.28

So you think you can dance?
You’ll have the opportunity to show off those dance moves at the star-studded Memorial Weekend party with DJs Seth Cooper, pictured, and Roland Belmares spinning out the night at the old Club One spot. It’ll be just like old times. The two will deliver the beats, while you boogie on down.

DEETS: 3025 Main St. 10 p.m.
PaulKraftProductions.com

 

Sunday 05.29

Hanging out with the jocks
Although we don’t mind sitting through the Beat the Heat softball tourney all weekend long, we can’t help but swoon over the athletes all washed up for the awards finale. Besides, it’s air conditioned inside.

DEETS: Woody’s Sports & Video Bar, 4011 Cedar Springs Road.
7 p.m. DallasPSSA.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Girls talk: Laurinda D. Brown opens eyes to black lesbian relationships in her play ‘Walk Like a Man’

PASSION PLAY | Tensions rise in ‘Walk Like a Man’ as the play takes on hot topic issues like domestic violence, religion and even DADT but from an African-American lesbian perspective.

An all-female cast going on about romance, life’s dramas and sex isn’t something new — and definitely not new to LGBT audiences. Hello? Sex and the City, thank you very much.

But while SATC is famously about four straight white women who behave like gay men, Laurinda D. Brown saw life a whole lot differently.

With Walk Like a Man, Brown has adapted her 2006 Lambda Literary Award-winning book of short stories for the stage, describing the gamut of lesbian relationships, all from a black female perspective. The production gets a one-day, two-performance run this weekend in Garland.

Touted as steamy and lustful, the book version of Walk Like a Man was both erotic and enlightening. Brown brings the sexy stuff to the stage version as well, but she brings the heavy stuff, too. The play’s slogan — “It’s about life … not lifestyles” — touches on the comedy and tragedy of everyday lesbian life that includes topics such as “runaway youth, love and religious controversies, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, safe sex and affairs in the workplace,” according to the Positive Scribe Productions’ website. The site also mentions that Man is the first off-Broadway play written by a black lesbian. The cast is a variety of women of all ages and sizes, and it addresses bigger picture issues like labels and stereotypes.

The play, along with Brown’s other work, Bois Don’t Cry, was recently selected as part of the D.C. Black Theatre Festival held in June.

Brown may not be Langston Hughes or Tony Kushner — yet — but she’s definitely making her mark in the LGBT universe of playwrights and authors. And she’s capturing the attention of all the right people: Famed African-American author Zane is a fan and the Human Rights Campaign called the show a “must-see.”

Just know that Walk Like A Man is heavy in displaying adult situations, thus the play isn’t open to those underage. Makes sense.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high’

Dave Guy-Gainer, second from left, of Forrest Hill celebrates with Army Major Margaret Witt, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis and Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach after this morning’s DADT repeal signing ceremony. (Meghan Stabler)

We just got a call from Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” who’s really become the face of the push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in North Texas over the last few years.

Guy-Gainer, a gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was one of about 500 people who attended this morning’s signing ceremony for the bill to repeal DADT.

Guy-Gainer said he would have driven to D.C. for the ceremony if he had to, and he was the 12th person in line this morning outside the Department of the Interior.

“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said. “You couldn’t help but shed a tear in there. It was just such an overwhelming feeling of weight being lifted and equality finally happening.”

Guy-Gainer said it was great to see “40 years of gay activists” assembled together, many of whom he’s met over the last decade at functions around the country — alongside lawmakers who’ve worked so hard to end the policy.

“For the first time in a long time I really said the Pledge of Allegiance with feeling,” Guy-Gainer said. “I gave a thumbs up to Sen. Lieberman and he gave me a victory sign back. … Looking at the kids around me. Dan Choi and I were talking for a while. …

“Another one was the standing ovation that [Rep.] Patrick Murphy got,” Guy-Gainer said, recounting some of his memorable moments from the ceremony. “I think he got more applause than the president. He was the real hero in this. …  He fell on his political sword for us.”

A year ago when we interviewed Gainer, he said if repeal didn’t happen in 2010, he’d “implode.” So what will he do now that it has finally happened?

“We still have transition to do. We still have to get the certification. We’ll still probably have some legal battles in the courts,” Guy-Gainer said. “There’s still more work to be done.”

—  John Wright