Patti LuPone(Photo: Stephanie Berger)
Patti LuPone
(Photo: Stephanie Berger)
It's official: Patti LuPone is on a roll. Last fall, she gave a triumphant benefit concert for GMHC at Carnegie Hall. This spring, she did a star turn as Mrs. Lovett in the New York Philharmonic's much-anticipated and highly praised concert performances of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Now, she can be seen and heard on Sunday and Monday evenings through December 23 in her new, one-woman show Patti LuPone: Matters of the Heart at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater.

Revolving around love songs of all shapes and sizes, the show allows LuPone to challenge herself both artistically and vocally, and gives audiences a chance to hear her deliver an interesting variety of show tunes and pop songs. Utilizing the "Theme From Carnival" ("Love Makes The World Go 'Round") as a thread to weave the evening together, musical director and arranger Dick Gallagher has served LuPone very well, indeed. Backed by a string quartet, the lady sounds fantastic, displaying a softness and introspection on songs such as "Unexpressed," "Alone Again (Naturally)," "Air That I Breathe," "Sand and Water," "My Father," and "Look Mummy, No Hands" that will surprise those who are only familiar with her work as a Broadway belter. LuPone wisely (and, some might say, bravely) employs her head voice more than usual in these numbers and utilizes the top of her chest register in a restrained, sensitive manner. The choice is effective and entirely welcome.

Of course, that famous belt is present in all its glory for "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy" (from South Pacific), "Not A Day Goes By" (from Merrily We Roll Along), "Being Alive" (from Company), and--most dazzling of all--"Back To Before" (from Ragtime). LuPone's trademark sense of humor are evident in "Shattered Illusions," "Better Off Dead," and "I Never Do Anything Twice." But, for this reviewer, the highlight of the evening was a heartbreaking, possibly definitive rendition of "Easy To Be Hard" from Hair. (Note: The Encores! series would be well advised to line up LuPone, if she's available, for their concert staging of that show next year.)

Interspersed throughout Matters of the Heart are funny anecdotes, sweet stories, and LuPone's personal observations on love in its many forms. (John Weidman is credited with some of the dialogue). Director Scott Wittman keeps the star focused and the show well paced. Clad in gowns by Vera Wang and Kleinfeld, LuPone has never looked better. She is arguably at the zenith of her career, so it would be foolish indeed to miss her in this or any other show.