Cyndi Lauper Powers Through Buzzed-About Performance at the Hollywood Bowl

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Thanks to a bee sting on the bottom of her foot, Cyndi Lauper gave fans an unexpected demonstration of how a pro follows through on the entertainment adage “the show must go on.” The lesson occurred while Lauper was opening her two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night (June 12). 

Backed by her band and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, an exuberant Lauper had just finished her second song, “I Drove All Night.” While segueing into a cover of the 1965 Righteous Brothers hit “Unchained Melody,” the Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winner unzipped her gold-sparkled ankle boots to perform barefoot, a move that got its own round of applause. But in the middle of performing her double-entendre classic “She Bop,” Lauper began picking at something on the bottom of her foot. It turned out that she had stepped on a bee that also stung her in the process.

“A bee, my god,” said a limping Lauper after wrapping the song. “It’s just been one of those weeks. I’m sorry, guys… I had everything planned out,” she added while also lamenting about a “ridiculous diet” she’s on now owing to acid reflux. “However, that poor bastard [the bee] is worse off than me.”

After being attended to with cotton balls and something called “sting relief” offered by a stage hand a few minutes later, a still-limping Lauper (“There’s a little swelling so guess I’m not allergic”) asked one of her assistants to bring out a pair of black flip-flops. “This will ruin my whole outfit,” said Lauper, wearing a shiny multi-patterned pantsuit accented with pink trim. “Now my stylist is probably crying.”

Between an ongoing string of funny asides, Lauper soldiered on, alternately dancing and strutting her way across the main stage, skipping along a walkway separating the venue’s upfront rows from the rest of the audience and, at one point, strolling up an aisle to wind her way to a portion of the audience sitting in one of the venue’s upper levels. All the while, she pulled out songs in a repertoire primarily dedicated to females.

“I thought tonight that I would do women stories, being a woman myself,” Lauper explained after performing “Unchained Melody.”

That repertoire included songs co-written by women such as Lauper and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Sally’s Pigeons” and the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil-Barry Mann tune “I’m Gonna Be Strong.” Lauper’s subtly powerful take on the latter, underscored by the orchestra’s strings and her sustaining note at the song's close, was a particularly moving moment. And, of course, Lauper didn’t stint when it came to her own career classics. She engagingly accompanied herself on the dulcimer while performing “Time After Time,” had the audience running down the aisles to get a closer look as she rocked out on “Money Changes Everything” and then got the whole Bowl up dancing and shouting on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” As the audience belted out the song’s refrain, Lauper exclaimed, “Sing loud so some people in Washington can hear.”

In one of the evening’s most heartfelt moments, Lauper joined the Country School Choir, a local youth ensemble whose members range from kindergartners to eighth graders, in singing “A Part Hate.” Dressed in an array of vibrantly hued pantsuits and bow ties, the boys and girls were reminiscent of a giant rainbow onstage.

“The world lately is a little hateful,” said Lauper leading into their performance. “These children are going to sing with me because the next part of the century is going to be theirs.” 

Apologizing once more for stepping on the bee, Lauper fittingly closed the 90-minute set with her signature anthem “True Colors.”

Cécile McLorin Salvant opened the evening. Accompanied by the Aaron Diehl Trio, the versatile jazz singer delivered a compelling set embracing pop standards (“Wives and Lovers”) and Broadway/film tunes (“On the Street Where You Live”). McLorin Salvant’s 45-minute turn also underscored why her vocal dexterity helped her win the prestigious Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010 and two Grammys since then.

Lauper and McLorin will wrap their second show at the Hollywood Bowl tonight (July 13), with Lauper featuring the Braille Institute’s Johnny Mercer Children’s Choir.