Thursday, June 25, 2009

This week's LVW col: LuPone's Showstopper

So I'm in Rhode Island for family travel and, as usual, I've stumbled across a great Vegas-related story that I'm working on but can't discuss yet for the NYT. And so it goes. But here's this week's "Strip Sense" entry on the Patti LuPone incident at the Orleans -- with comments from several other Vegas show folks including Rita Rudner, who was also at the show. Enjoy and Happy Thursday! -sf

LuPone's Showstopper

When the Broadway diva chastised a texter, it highlighted problems with Vegas audiences


The last thing I posted online before the lights came down for the start of Broadway legend Patti LuPone’s concert on Sunday was this: “Realized I’ve never been in the Orleans Showroom before. Lumpy seats. Wonder how Patti will react if I tweet her show.”

It was a joke, of course, that harked back to her onstage explosion in January in New York when an audience member during a performance of Gypsy was shooting photos. “Stop taking pictures right now!” she shouted, breaking character and halting the show to berate someone who later turned out to be a sanctioned journalist. “You heard the announcement, who do you think you are? How dare you?”

That was the stuff of YouTube glory, but it also struck a nerve among anyone who’s ever been in a showroom or a movie theater and had the comfort and focus provided by darkness disrupted by someone’s electronic this-or-that. The Gypsy incident is so legendary that you would think that anyone who knew enough about LuPone to turn out to see her at the Orleans over this past weekend would be aware of it.

Except it wasn’t. About halfway into her Gypsy in My Soul show in Las Vegas, the two-time Tony winner was winding up to launch into the number she made a classic in her Tony-winning creation of Eva Peron in Evita, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” The lights were down, her eyes were shut, her arms were out as she was working herself into the character, when, suddenly, she stopped her 10-piece orchestra.

“What were you doing?” LuPone asked some dumb schlub in the third or fourth row. “I promise not to be mad at you. Just tell me, what were you doing—videoing? Taking photos? Texting? I really want to know.”

It seems he was sending a text message. Ka-boom!

Well, sort of. Her reaction was far more measured than her freak-out in New York and, thus, probably a lot more effective. She even sweetly said to the man, “I’m not going to yell at you, I don’t think.” But she did give him an earful about how she’s on “a campaign” against this sort of behavior and said, “The thing is, the people who text, they don’t seem to understand that we can see you. If you really need to do that, why don’t you just leave?”

He did not do so. He kept his piehole shut and hoped the storm would pass. It did, but not before something else happened: Several people in the audience stood up and applauded.

I admit, I wasn’t one of them, but mostly because I was too busy recording the goings-on in my brain so I could report them as faithfully as possible later without the assistance of the electronic recording devices that A.) would have made LuPone completely lose it and B.) I realized then I had become entirely too reliant upon. Also, I was rejoicing that I had witnessed such a brilliant diva moment with my evening companion, who works as a backstage show manager, and with the Las Vegas Sun’s Joe Brown, who was also in my row.

But God, LuPone really nailed it and hit on something that so many performers in Las Vegas and elsewhere struggle with, a dramatic lowering of audience standards and etiquette.



R-J Guy said...

but i thought some loony tunes ruined your nyt career?!?! LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the "character" (for lack of a better word) of the average audience member has changed over the years. And as sad as I think it is, I also think that performers are just going to have to get used to it and deal. The world is changing, technology is changing, and people are changing. Entertainers are going to have to change and learn to tune out that stuff. The behavior is only going to get worse. (I am not defending the perpetrators. They annoy me also. I do not take pictures, text, video or audio-record, or talk on the phone during shows. I am there to enjoy the show! I just don't think it is going to change for the better.)