Patti Lupone’s week long residency at the Leicester Square Theatre brings the Broadway star back to London, where she originated both the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and Fantine in Les Miserables. Lupone’s presence, humour, ferocity and unmistakeable sound prove to be an extraordinary master class in musical theatre, despite the confines of a hot and stuffy basement space. Accompanied by Seth Rudetsky (author, presenter, musical theatre enthusiast, who offers a rather unnecessary but short solo first half), Lupone’s show has a ‘freefall’ effect, in a conversational format, discussing shows and situations, with songs coming out of the anecdotes in no set order.

Beginning with a powerful rendering of ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Gypsy, a show she starred in on Broadway a few years ago, Lupone stamps her mark on the evening from the start. Lupone is obviously an actress who wants to create her roles from scratch. When Arthur Laurents attempted to impose elements from a previous production of Gypsy on her portrayal, she was having none of it, needing to discover the character and journey for herself. Lupone also decided not to transfer with Les Miserables to Broadway after her London run ended – the original RSC company was her company and she wanted to keep the precious and happy memories of her original run. Here she offers a poignant, emotive and well acted version of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. Lupone claims that she dodged going back on as a chorus player after Fantine’s death in Les Miserables by using the excuse of a throat infection she had picked up during transatlantic flying at the time. However, a fellow cast member spotted her at the back of the auditorium during rehearsals and she – and every subsequent Fantine – ended up in the barricade scene.

Lupone’s programme is quite varied, with her dramatic trademark attitude which is the kind of ‘take me as I am or else’ approach of a true Broadway belter and diva (read her autobiography for further details!).  Inevitably Lupone offers a Sondheim number, ‘Being Alive’ from Company, along with a pacy and fun version of ‘Anything Goes’, another Broadway role. There’s plenty of light and shade in her version of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ too, and a toned down, subtly sung version of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. Lupone recreates her appearance as the original Broadway Evita, with several songs – “in the original key!” – including the Eva/Magaldi duet, sung with current touring Magaldi, Nic Gibney.

Lupone was replaced for the Broadway transfer of Sunset Boulevard, and hasn’t publicly revisited that score for almost twenty years. The scars have only partially healed during that time, but Rudetsky coaxes her to do one final encore (after several ovations) and Lupone stands behind the piano, dons glasses and reads the music for a number she hasn’t sung in a long time. For this actress and diva, Norma’s paean to her own talent, ‘With one look’, is an apt choice. Lupone gives it a characteristically dramatic rendering, its final line, “With one look I’ll be me!”, reflecting the nature of the star herself. Patti’s back at last – and how London has missed her.