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Mixin' it up with hits from Broadway

Patti LuPone says starring in a musical and doing a one-woman show are equally demanding — "But in a one-woman show, it's all on your shoulders."

LuPone should know. She's been a Broadway star since "Evita" in 1979, and the one-woman show "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" is just the latest of several individual shows.

LuPone is bringing "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" to Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. She says she'll sing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," but she's not giving away more than that.

"I'm not tipping the hat," she says.

"The wonderful thing is, I learn more from addressing an audience without a character," she says of doing a show accompanied only by a pianist.

LuPone is busier than ever. She's doing an interview from a limo on the way to the airport in Dallas for a flight to San Francisco. This is the morning after a show and just days after Broadway producers announced that LuPone would star in a new production of "Gypsy" directed by multiple-Tony-Award-winner Arthur Laurents and co-starring Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti. It's her third time as Rose.

"It's a historic production because Arthur is at the helm," she says. "And the company is extraordinary."

The show will begin performances on March 3 and open on Broadway March 27 at the St. James Theatre. "Gypsy" boasts such tunes as "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Rose's Turn" and "Some People."

LuPone's New York stage appearances include the role of the pie-making Mrs. Lovett in John Doyle's hit revival of "Sweeney Todd," "Passion" for Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series, the New York Philharmonic's productions of "Candide" and "Sweeney Todd," the Broadway productions of "Noises Off," "The Old Neighborhood" and "Master Class," three sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and much more.

LuPone, 58, is a native of New York state. One of her ancestors was the renowned 19th-century opera singer Adelina Patti. She trained with the first class of the Drama Division of New York's Juilliard School, then began her career as a founding member of John Houseman's "The Acting Company" in 1972, playing Broadway and touring the country with what would quickly become America's foremost touring repertory theater company.

She became a star with her portrayal of Eva in the American premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Evita," for which she won a 1980 Tony Award for leading actress in a musical.

But she later had a high-profile dust-up with Webber when he fired her from the role of Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" and replaced her with Glenn Close.

"The show tanked," she says. "So I guess I'm vindicated."

She says she would never work with Webber again.

"It's not worth it."

She became a frequent collaborator with David Mamet, acting in his plays "The Woods," "All Men Are Whores," "The Blue Hour," "The Water Engine," "Edmond" and "The Old Neighborhood."

"John Houseman in 1976 commissioned David to write a play," she says. "He gave me the work. We just started working together. I have an affinity for his language. I don't fight it. I like to sing it. I'm lucky to have had the association with David all these years."

She acted in New York productions of Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist," Israel Horovitz's "Stage Directions," 1988's "Anything Goes" and many other plays. In London she created the role of Fantine in "Les Miserables" and played in "The Cradle Will Rock" and won an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She played Maria Callas in the West End production of "Master Class."

Her movie credits include "Driving Miss Daisy," "Witness," "Summer of Sam," "City by the Sea." She has a long list of TV credits and has recorded albums for RCA Victor, Polygram and Phillips Classics, among other labels.

She says even though the two roles that are perhaps her two most famous portrayals are quite different, she can see commonalities.

"Mama Rose and Mrs. Lovett are both funny," she says. "At least the way I play them. They both sing a lot. ... They're both blinded by their desires. They're quite different, but they're both blinded."

She recently saw Tim Burton's movie version of "Sweeney Todd" and liked it, with some reservations.

"It was a beautiful film to look at," she says. "I'm a fan of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. But it's a bit too gruesome for me."

She recognizes problems in today's musical theater, including spiralling costs and ticket prices, but she thinks the form will somehow survive.

"I don't think you can kill it," she says. "Too many people want to be in it, and too many people want to see it. It's an American art form.

"Something will break, but it will survive."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or at bvarble@mailtribune.com.

Tony Award-winning actress and singer Patti LuPone will be back on Broadway this spring in a new production of “Gypsy.”