Friday, July 13, 2007

Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters?

So lemme get this straight. We have Patti partisans and Bernadette fans here. Cool!

And not surprising, really. These big-voiced gals happen to be two of the most important marquee names in musical theater, with glittering resumes that together represent some of the high points in recent Broadway history: “Evita,” “Anything Goes,” “Master Class” (as Zoe Caldwell's replacement) and the recent “Sweeney Todd” revival for Ms. LuPone, “Song & Dance,” “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Into the Woods” for Ms. Peters.

Their ubiquity and stellar status in the same field could only ensure that the paths of Ms. LuPone and Ms. Peters would somehow meet and assume parallels. And so they have. Ms. Peters, with her Boticelli curls and pixie face, took on the leviathan role of Mama Rose in “Gypsy” in 2003, for which she earned bravos but not a Tony. Similar acclaim greeted Ms. LuPone's imposing turn in a New York concert production of the musical last year, and she's reprising the part again this month.

With “Gypsy" and “Anything Goes,” Ms. Lupone has starred in two of Ethel Merman's signature roles. She needs to do only one more--“Annie Get Your Gun”--to complete her homage to the Broadway predecessor she most resembles. Too bad that Bernadette Peters beat her to it with a well-received revival in 1999, earning for the latter her second Tony.

Yeah, two royal peas in a pod.

No producer has yet thought of a project that would unite the talents of Ms. LuPone and Ms. Peters (a musical adaptation of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” perhaps?). What a spectacular face-off that would be. In the meantime, is there a way to match them up apple-to-apple, say, by having them sing the same song?

Well, what did I tell you about their seemingly intertwined fates? As it happens, these two divas have also claimed virtual ownership of one song with their unforgettable renditions of it. Respective fans of Ms. LuPone and Ms. Peters are tearing into each other every day on YouTube, arguing who's the better of the two.

The song? “Being Alive.” The same one I featured in my “Loneliness" post. How fabulous is that?

Ms. LuPone's version, sung during the “Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall” concert in 1992 (hence the bad hair and ginormous shoulder pads), is available online. Listen in particular to that amazing last note:

Ms. Peters has a bad-quality video of “Being Alive” somewhere on YouTube, but it's not what I was looking for. What I wanted was her appearance at the 1998 “Hey Mr. Producer” concert in London, where she performed in a medley of Sondheim standards together with West End superstars David Kernan, Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, Ruthie Henshall, Michael Ball, Maria Friedman, Dame Judi Dench and a girl named Lea Salonga. (That's her you can see in the video gazing admiringly at Ms. Peters.)

I looked and looked, but this superior version wasn't in the site yet. So I uploaded the excerpt from my own collection.

Check out the clips and let's hold a poll! Patti or Bernadette, and why?


fruityoaty said...

Patti LuPone, all the way. Not so keen on Bernadette Peters' voice... There's a certain aspect in it... kind of squeeky chipmunk I don't like.

Patti Lupone - powerhouse vocals resonating with emotion... that can tear the house down everytime. Well, in her heyday.

RentHead said...

I'm not too keen on Bernadette Peters as her voice is much too brassy for my taste, so I'd go for the full-voiced Patti Lupone; although, her singing annoys me from time to time specially when she spoons her notes and eats the words.. her Meadowlark is the version I like the least!

Ralph Peña said...

Ms. Peters was the first to miss winning a Tony for Mama Rose. Everyone before her took home the hardware. I saw Ms. Peters' version. Her Rose was nuanced and plaintive, a bit thin vocally, but notable just the same for its fresh take on the a role that set the benchmark for bluster and bravura.

Ms. Lupone has the pipes, the range, and the grand persona to take the role to another level. She's got the full arsenal. She's a better actor, too. Sure she's got "nutty" attached to her name, but for Gypsy, that's not necessarily a liability. Can't wait to see it.

Ralph Peña said...

Oops. I always forget that Ethel Merman lost to Mary Martin in Sound of Music. I guess my brain just refuses to accept that. So, in fact, Ms. Peters is in good company.

erasmusa said...

until i see patti lupone in the flesh, i will withhold judgment. i also saw bernadette peters in gypsy. never was a fan of her voice, but her acting was superb.

Anonymous said...

gibbs, sondeheim lang ba talaga? di ba pwede mud wrestling na lang? hehe. my vote goes for patti just because her cameo on will ang grace was much more fun than bernadettes


gibbs4president said...

La LuPone undeniably has the vocal prowess working for her, high marks for that, pero hindi ko maintindihan ang lyrics niya. Ms. Peters was less vocally but I like the way she sang it and naintindihan ko yung sinasabi niya. Maybe yun yung flaw ni Patti. It's quite an unpopular opinion, but I liked Glenn Close more as Norma than Patti LuPone partly because of that.

Pero syempre sa "Being Alive", mas gusto ko yung kay Raul Esparza sa Tony's. This guy's God! (hindi ba obvious na fan ako, hehe)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with gibbs4president... i understood peters' version a lot more because she had better pronunciation of the words compared to lupone. Though lupone undeniably had the stronger voice, i felt peters' sang the song with more heart. Peters really felt every word she sang. I would vote for Peters for this one.

Closet Queer said...

Both have powerful voices, but similarly both are a bit too nasal for me.

But then again, it's Bernadette Peters for me. From what I see and hear, her performances are far more charming and (to quote someone on this thread) nuanced.

When I listen to Patti LuPone's Evita, I feel like she's fucking my ear with her voice (and here I thought Madonna was an unconvincing teenager). Granted that I loved that recording and far more impressive, I couldn't feel for her character.

Sunset Blvd. is one of my favorites. Saw it with Linda Baglord (not so great for me) as Norma. Listened to the American Premiere Recording with Glenn Close (arguably one of the best Cast Recordings of any musical). Loved it. Bought the OLC with LuPone. I threw up. I gave my double CD copy away.

To give LuPone credit, while I didn't like her performance in the Sweeney Todd concert, her performance in the Tony Awards was superb.

Still Peters gets my vote on the strength of her Witch in Into the Woods and her Stepmother in Cinderella (her presence added class to a TV movie).

Laura said...

Bernadette Peters feels more real to me. When she sings, she's saying something and not just singing pretty sounds. It's actually that roughness in Mrs. Peters' voice that I love. (And I loved her Mama Rose in Gypsy! Admittedly, I don't have any comparisons, but her performance in the Tony's just blew me away.)

Patti LuPone is great too, but there's something about Bernadette that touches me more than Patti.

snglguy said...

It's Patti for me, Gibbs. And it has always been, since I heard her sing in "Evita" many many years ago. Sa video lang ha, di sa stage, hehe. Anyways, her voice definitely has more 'Ooomph' than that of Ms Peters. Halata bang biased? Hrhrhr :-D

clem said...

both singers in both videos are outstanding. i've watched both videos at least 5 times now in an attempt to judge who is better. but the more i repeat the more i can't decide and the more i'm moved by both.

barbra streisand's was the only version of this song i've known.

here's to more great singers just singing great songs. keep us alive!

gibbs cadiz said...

hi FRIENDS! pag-isahin ko na lang comment ko ha, hehe. i love patti and bernadette, i think they're two wonderfully idiosyncratic musical theater artists. i do have a couple of misgivings lang. with patti, it's her tendency to lose her diction when she's hitting those high notes, and the way she pummels the song to submission. i'd like to see more warmth and softness in her singing. with bernadette naman, the crack in her voice, coupled with her brash, brassy tones, can be off-putting sometimes. i've heard her sing the quieter rodgers & hammerstein songs (some enchanted evening, etc.) and when she's not straining full-throttle, wow, she sounds really gorgeous. but i guess i'm nitpicking. i know i'd watch anything by these two any time, given the chance...

hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. you're all wonderful. :)

Maxxann said...

I love them both.
But Bernadette Peters blew me away. especially her part in Into the Woods. wow.

Anonymous said...

WALA SA KANILANG DALAWA ANG MAMA ROSE GYPSY NG NEW MILLENIUM. Ang recent, ultimate mama rose ay si.....


Peter said...

I have to say I prefer Bernadette's, but really, I think it comes down to which performer speaks to you more on an individual level. Personally, I've grown up watching (and adoring) Bernadette Peters, and I've heard (though never seen) this arrangement of the song before.

I can understand those who would say she's "performing" the song too much, but I think that's appropriate for this venue. She's not playing Bobby here (oh man, can you imagine?), she's performing a showstopper in concert. I do feel like she has a very good understanding of the song, however.

That said, I do love Patti's. Bernadette's just clicks with me more. (And I do think it comes down to the performer herself... I preferred Bernadette's Momma Rose to Patti's as well.)

erwin said...

I saw Bernadette Peters perform last year as the headline act for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. She was amazing... She's good with sexy songs and she has the ability to sell it well... Her version of Johanna (from Sweeney Todd) was really good... In terms of who has the stronger voice however, I'd have to say Ms. Lupone takes that title easily. However, I saw Maria Friedman's show in the 2008 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.. And she was fierce!!!! I love her!!!! Her version of Maybe this Time was amazing!!!! So for me, it's Maria Friedman all the way!!! :)

Gej said...

Bernadette Peters definitely for me. mainly for Into the Woods. But the song she sang which I found the most moving was "Not a Day Goes By".

Lara Miles said...

It HAS to be Bernadette Peters for me 100%!

LuPone is an overrated diva! Whatever she is in, it seems like it is"The Patti LuPone show featuring songs from (insert musical!)" Also she is highly unprofessional!

Bernadette Peters creates a character, becomes the character and enchants the audience with her gorgeous voice and stunning looks... Patti has poor diction, annoying, constant vibrato, bad acting and a face like a rotting toad.

BP all the way for me <3

jaded said...

have loved patti lupone's version of being alive. matter of fact, i bought the dvd of the sondheim concert just to enjoy her performance. as for bernadette's rendition of the song? didn't like it (i also have the dvd of her performance). it totally pales in comparison with that of patti's bring-the-house-down performance!

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