Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Patti LuPone: A Memoir

Patti LuPone: A Memoir
By Patti LuPone with Digby Diehl
Crown Archetype September 2010
316 pages
From the library

Patti LuPone is known in the theater world as one of the great leading ladies. Her unique voice and excellent acting have brought characters to life such as Evita, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Fantine in Les Miserables, and that infamous stage mother, Mama Rose. She is also known for being at the center of some juicy theatre drama, such as the time she yelled at an audience member to turn off their phone during Gypsy or the rumor that she was banned by Arthur Laurents himself from appearing in his work.

The writing in this memoir is not particularly memorable. It’s often choppy and seems as if Digby transcribed LuPone’s train of thought without adding any nuance or flow to the text. Ms. LuPone has a sort of carefree, almost callous tone throughout the book. She has some truly epic digs at various players in the theatre world – actors, producers, and directors alike. Then she turns around and claims that her experiences were lessons and she has adopted a “what doesn’t kill you” mentality. There is also a seeming refusal to take responsibility for anything. She got terrible reviews several times, but each time she is quick to blame the critics or the production as a whole. Her lack of honesty and vulnerability about this can be off-putting.

There are a lot of interesting stories here – Patti’s experiences in the first acting class at Julliard, a truly awful production of The Baker’s Wife, and her triumph of pure will as Eva Peron, for example. But somehow, even after so many pages, we don’t feel like we really know this woman. Sure, we know a lot more about her training, the shows she worked on, and who she loves and despises in the industry, but we don’t know her as a person. She reveals very little about her family or anything that happens in her life outside of a theater. Ms. LuPone almost appears to still be performing, even as she is pretending to reveal herself. (How very Gypsy of her…)

This memoir is not for the casual theatre patron. This is a book for someone who has seen and been blown away by Ms. LuPone’s work or for the person who loves to hear all of the backstage gossip. If you fall into one of these categories, you will love this quick, dishy read. Patti LuPone is truly one of the great actresses of the stage, but her memoir reveals only the history of her roles, not of her life. 


  1. I don't think this is for me, as I'm only casually interested in theatre. Sounds like she has had a very interesting life though!

    1. I think that is the case for a lot of biographies - unless you have a specialized interest or knowledge of a period of history, you might not be inclined to read certain biographies.