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?