Thursday, January 15, 2009

the screaming and storming

shortly after moving to new york city, i heard an interview with patti lupone on a broadway-talk-radio program.

it kinda made me wanna puke.

the show's host was all pumped and ready to explode (yes, explode) with excitement and adulation over the fact that he had the great patti lupone in his presence. during the interview i seem to remember there being a lot of "when you did this" and "when you did that" and "you were absolutely amazing in" and "you were robbed" and the like.

puke pukitty puke-puke.

one of my favorite moments, though, was lupone recalling her performance as reno sweeney in "anything goes!"

in the number "blow, gabriel, blow" lupone's character, directed to leave the stage during a big dance break, returned belting so high that the audience had no choice but to look to see where that siren-like noise was coming from. this is not the way the tune is written, but how lupone interpreted it. it was my idea, she said.

best, though, was her reasoning behind that choice: i had to get the attention back on me, i had to get the focus back on me, this was my moment, this was my number, lupone said. or something to that effect.

see, that moment, lupone realized, was about HER. not about her character, not about the show, not about the scene, or the story. it was about HER. getting the focus back on reno might have been important, but it's not where lupone lives. it wasn't about reno. it was about patti.

several days later, i heard an interview with christine ebersole on national public radio. ebersole was performing in the broadway musical "grey gardens" and spoke at length about how fortunate she was to be in the company of great actors like mary louise wilson and the others in the cast. she was so lucky to be able to perform this material, she told the interviewer. she was incredibly humble and generous. grateful.

now, these two theater stars might be exactly the opposite of what i'm guessing them to be. lupone might be the dearest, sweetest woman alive, and ebersole might be a total loon. that grateful act might have been total bullshit. and maybe my memory is a little foggy about both interviews. this is just the impression i got.

it makes this story all the more interesting to me.

amanda ameer has written an account of lupone's second to last performance in her tony award winning role as mama rose in the recent revival of "gypsy" which seems to fit in nicely with the image i have of lupone already.

any actor knows that nothing is more irritating, nothing is more disruptive than being onstage in the middle of a performance when photographs are being taken from the audience. audience members show nothing but total disrespect for the actors, the designers, the director – not to mention their fellow audience members – when they snap off a photo during a show.

besides all of that, it's illegal.

no really. illegal.

that said, amanda's story begins: she and a friend are at that second to last performance of gypsy, and suddenly, during "rose's turn", there are photographs being taken. flash! flash! right in the middle of what ameer calls "the most - some might say only - important part of the entire musical." flash!

and then?

lupone. goes. off.
"No. Enough. ENOUGH. Stop. Stop. You have taken three pictures. You in the third row from the back. Didn't you hear the announcement? They said no pictures in the announcement! Three pictures. I won't have it. I want him out of here."

What followed was a ten minute lecture on our contemporary society's "lack of public manners". "This is the the-atre!" she exclaimed as if this were a Saturday Night Live skit about a Broadway diva. "I won't go on while he's still in this theatre. Turn on the house lights, I must see that he's gone. I simply won't go on."

Screaming. Storming around the stage. Screaming and storming, the hoarse Broadway diva playing Mama Rose on the last evening show of the run, Patti Lupone: a cliché within a cliché.
now please. this kind of acting out is certainly not exclusive to ms. lupone, or to big-star-types. i've seen and heard it from plenty of others only pretending to be big stars: the storming off-stage and swearing profusely at the understudy who came in a smidge late with a line; the commenting to the stage manager, as you exit stage left, that the actor you just played a scene with (who's exiting right behind you) doesn't deserve to even be there; busting into another actor's dressing room to shout "you stepped on my god damned foot you stupid son-of-a-bitch." it's all too common.

but c'mon! actors are crazy! you have to be a little crazy (or a lot crazy) to do what they do!

so okay, i'm a big woose wuss. but that kind of crap is what makes me want to join the peace corps (which, i'm sure, has it's own divas.) and if it means instead i'll get to work with generous, caring, humble people – like many of the actors i know in milwaukee? well. i guess i'll have to settle.

but believe me, milwaukee has it's divas too.


  1. Is "woose" a word?

  2. from

    woose: A lightweight, a coward, a shitbag, a big girl's blouse.

    but then, from

    wuss [woos] –noun Slang. a weakling; wimp. Origin: 1980–85; perh. b. wimp and puss

  3. That is one self-important c.c. Not you, Tone. The lady singing Rose's Turn all scoopy on that BOOTLEG audio of said penultimate performance of Gypsy on YouTube. Wow. Yuck.

  4. Sooo you think Lupone WAS out of line or you don't? the peace corps comment lend me to think Lupone's full of herself, but as a performer i would think you'd back her rant on stage. interesting - i think Lupone was right to go off on the jerk in the audience. 'bout time.

    how are you, tony? enjoying THIS day? i can't wait for the CHANGE. and i'm being totally serious.

  5. "lends" me to think YOU think....(screwed that up)

  6. jeffrey, my dear friend.

    exactly what part of "puke pukitty puke-puke" don't you understand?

    let me be as clear as i can: as a performer, i think lupone's behavior is disgusting. as an audience member, i think it's disgusting. as a former telemarketer, i think it's disgusting.

    yes. taking photos is annoying. and dangerous. do i think lupone was concerned for her safety? no. do i think she was worried about falling off the stage? no. could i be wrong? no.

    okay, maybe. but doubtful.

    i think lupone basically IS mamma rose: self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, and delusional. it's everything i abhore about this business. and truly, it's everything that makes me think calling people to ask how they like their new buick riviera was not such a bad job.


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