You can call Patti LuPone at seven in the morning, mere hours after she's finished a backbreaking series of shows in Manhattan, and she'll talk to you at length about her life and career. You can call her a Tony winner or the recipient of two Drama Desk awards or the lead in original productions of Evita and Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard. Just don't call her a star.
"I'm not a star!" she cries around a bite of breakfast. "I'm not a star at all. I'm a working actor, at best. I've worked primarily on the stage, and in the theater you never achieve that kind of recognition that you think of a star having. I'm ambitious, but I never gave up my life, because show business is too fickle to risk losing yourself in. I'm a chicken farmer! It's much more fun!"
In fact, she's a star who owns a chicken ranch who's just finished a three-day stint with the New York Philharmonic, performing selections from Sweeney Todd. "It was extraordinary. My body is racked with pain today, because it was the usual kind of minimum-rehearsal, maximum-pressure situation. But it was glorious."
When she comes to Scottsdale next week to headline a fund raiser for Shakespeare Sedona, LuPone won't be performing selections from a Stephen Sondheim musical. Nor is she likely to sing songs from her just-released pop album, Matters of the Heart. "A lot of people think I'm strictly about show tunes, but I grew up on mainstream pop music," she says about the album. "I wanted to make an album of more contemporary material." Instead, LuPone is bringing a show she originated at Carnegie Hall that she calls "The Coulda Woulda Shoulda Show."
"It's a bunch of songs from shows I coulda played," she says. "Songs I woulda done, songs I shoulda sung. I love these songs. I always look forward to an excuse to sing them."
People who care about theater -- real theater -- are closer to her heart. About Shakespeare Sedona artistic director Jared Sakren, LuPone says, "I love him! We've been friends for years, since our very first day at Juilliard." That must be why a theater star like LuPone has agreed to be on the advisory board of the fledgling company's second annual festival, which opens in Sedona in June.
"Oh, am I on the board? Is my name on it? Okay! I love Jared Sakren, whatever he says!"
What Sakren says, in press releases promoting the fund raiser, is that LuPone is "legendary" and an "international star of stage, screen, and film." He'd better hope that Patti LuPone -- who still can't believe most people have heard of her -- doesn't see those releases.
"Can I just spell my name for you?" she asks as our interview winds to a close. "It's Patti with an 'i' . . . capital 'L' . . ."
Patti LuPone will perform on Monday, May 22, at Lakeview Inn at Marriott's Camelback Golf Club, 7847 Mockingbird Lane in Scottsdale. Tickets are $250 per person, $420 per couple. For details call 1-800-780-2787.