A day in the life of a down-to-earth diva: Patti Lupone says she was thinking about how to finish the David Mamet chapter in her autobiography while driving her dog home from the vet.
The Broadway star spent some of the morning cleaning up after the sick Labrador’s accidents.
"I’ve been doing that for two days straight. It’s being a muthah!" she says, slipping into Rose, her Tony-winning character in "Gypsy."
Now she’s back home in rural Connecticut, washing vegetables while talking about a new show, made to order for The Orleans this weekend.
"I have a voice that can sing with a band," the 60-year-old says of "The Gypsy in My Soul," the showcase she’ll perform with a 10-piece ensemble Saturday and Sunday. "That’s all I ever wanted to be, was a girl singer with a band."
Instead, she did all sorts of things, from singing big roles on Broadway and acting in playwright Mamet’s edgy dramas to recent concerts with Mandy Patinkin.
"Gypsy" came after her last Las Vegas date in late 2007, an intimate Suncoast date with only piano accompaniment. This time she’s in the larger showroom at The Orleans.
The stage is 60 feet wide, so Terry Jenkins, who books the room, asked if she could put together something that would play big and have the potential to become part of the venue’s regular rotation.
Lupone is picking songs that "lend themselves to brass," from standards such as "I Get a Kick Out of You" to a block of tunes from musicals she has done on Broadway.
"You have to line them up, make sure they make sense to an audience," she says. "We’re working on the laugh lines now. I’m not a great improvisational performer. I have to have a script."
You won’t hear her regaling the audience with stories from her own life. "I’m not the kind of performer that does, ‘And then I sang, and then I did … .’ ‘"
She’s saving all that for the book, which is supposed to be turned in by August but probably won’t be. But she’s going all out on it, filling in her own lapses in memory by interviewing other cast members of shows such as "The Baker’s Wife." The 1976 musical might have made her a star, had the producers not closed it during out-of-town tryouts.
"Some of the situations are kind of shocking, they are," she says. And some of the people who will be mentioned are bound to be offended. "I’m telling the truth!" she says with a laugh.
"What I don’t want it to sound like is, ‘Woe is me,’ " she says. "Broadway’s not for sissies, as they say. There’s been a lot of school of hard knocks in my career, but I don’t want it to sound like that. It’s the truth, but that doesn’t mean I lost my sense of humor in it.
"The one time I lost my sense of humor was when I was doing ‘Evita,’ " the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical bio of Eva Peron that made her a star in 1979. "And that’s why I left ‘Evita,’ (because) I lost my sense of humor."
Fans debate whether she lost her humor the night before "Gypsy" closed in January (the economic slump pulled the plug a couple months shy of her contracted tenure).
YouTubers can hear Lupone stopping a song to chew out a photographer — apparently a sanctioned journalist, it later turned out — at first sounding in character as Rose as she went all Christian Bale on the shooter: "Stop taking pictures right now! You heard the announcement, who do you think you are? How dare you?"
In a more down-to-earth voice, she tells the audience, "We have forgotten our public manners."
She’s not backing down from that now. "Actors are very distracted by it. We see the cameras, we see the texting, we hear the phones going off. … In this isolated society, people forget they are in the building."
Moreover, "If you’re chronicling it, you are not partaking in it," Lupone says, "so why do you spend a hundred dollars? You’re not there to be a part of this experience. You’re chronicling it. You’re not involved."
Lupone doesn’t know when she will be back on Broadway. "That’s what I like about my career. It’s constantly surprising."
What wasn’t surprising was winning the Tony for Rose, a character that also served as career milestones for Ethel Merman and Tyne Daley.
"You can’t play that part and lose," she says, but then adds, "I suppose you can. People have." (Merman lost to Mary Martin for "The Sound of Music.") "If I’d have lost after the anticipation of me playing that part, that would have been a fate crueler than … I don’t know what."
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Preview
"Patti Lupone — The Gypsy in My Soul"
8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Showroom at The Orleans, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.