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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone, with Digby Diehl
BOOK REVIEW
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
2012-01-18

This article shared 2993 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
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When you were 4 years old, you were already an expert.

Okay, so you were an expert at play, but that was important. Play taught you to learn, and learning led to what were some undoubtedly unique ideas about what you wanted to "be" some day. Imagine where you'd "be" if you had followed those plans.

Author, actress and Broadway star Patti LuPone knew, at just 4 years old, that she wanted to be a performer. In her new book,Patti LuPone: A Memoir (with Digby Diehl), she writes of her journey to get there and beyond.

Patti LuPone was born into a Long Island family filled with drama. Rumor had it that her maternal grandmother was a bootlegger and that Grandma had something to do with Grandpa's murder. One of LuPone's aunts was a bellydancer. LuPone's own parents were divorced at a time when divorce was uncommon.

LuPone says that her mother wasn't a "stage mother" but she took pride in her brood of three. LuPone and her older twin brothers were dancers, and the trio was often seen on TV but when they were defeated—under suspicious circumstances—on The Amateur Hour, LuPone turned to music.

Although she really didn't want to go to Julliard, LuPone auditioned and was accepted. She was taught opera but she "wasn't planning on becoming an opera singer." After her first year, she auditioned for the newly formed drama division at the school and was accepted there—which changed her life.

The actor John Houseman was one of her teachers at Julliard, and he became a big influence on LuPone's career by igniting a love of theatre in her. Following graduation from the iconic school, she and fellow classmates traveled the East Coast in a repertory company they had assembled. LuPone honed her skills, learned and gathered contacts. She was noticed by the "right" people. Her career blossomed.

One of LuPone's favorite memories of her childhood includes a role in a backyard performance of Gypsy when she was a teenager. It should come as no surprise, then, that Gypsy is what won LuPone her second Tony Award…

Oh, my. Where do I begin?

LuPone's self-titled memoir starts off about as clunky as a partially restored 1957 Edsel. Do we, for instance, need to know the names of teachers she had nearly 50 years ago? Does the average reader care about a bit-player in a 1975 repertory group who is no longer acting? This attention to what could be considered inconsequential detail is occasionally amusing but, more frequently, appears to be just a chance for name-dropping and shout-outs.

There's a bit of humor in this book and I did enjoy LuPone's wonderfully fine-tuned sense of the absurd, but there's an awful lot of complaining here, too—good-natured complaining, but complaining nonetheless.

I think that if you're a theatre fan of the rabid sort, or if your name is actually in this book, you'll love it just fine. For the rest of us, though, "Patti LuPone" is merely a "four."

Want more? Look for Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals by Arthur Laurents, or Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season-1959 to 2009 by Peter Filichia.


This article shared 2993 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
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