One of things actors do when they are working on a show together is share war stories. It would be a safe bet that anyone who has ever worked on a production with Patti LuPone has the best war stories. LuPone’s notorious temper and diva personality are the stuff of Broadway legend.
To her credit, LuPone doesn’t water down her tendency to want things her way and throw the occasional fit in her recent book, Patti LuPone: A Memoir (Harmony Books). She completely owns up to trashing her London dressing room after finding out that Glenn Close would be taking Norma Desmond to Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard instead of her. LuPone admits to fibbing to get out of being part of the ensemble in Les Miserables after her character, Fantine, dies early in the show. She wears the fact that Arthur Laurents at one time banned her from performing any of his work like a medal of honor.
LuPone’s story begins and ends with the 2008 opening night of the most recent revival of Gypsy on Broadway, which earned her a second Tony Award. In between, LuPone spends scant time on her childhood and teen years. The chapters after her studies at Julliard are organized by the shows that she worked on. Fittingly, the role that made her a star, Eva Peron in Evita, gets two chapters. So does the debacle that was LuPone’s experiences in Sunset Boulevard. She doesn’t pull any punches along the way and drops plenty of names.
There are two glaring omissions in LuPone’s book. She never mentions doing Noises Off on Broadway, which was rife with rumors about the diva’s bad behavior. She also doesn’t say a peep about stopping the show the night before her last Gypsy outing closed to scream at an audience member who was taking pictures. It would have been fun to read her memory of the incident that lives on courtesy of YouTube.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty of juicy stuff included: Her romance with Kevin Kline. John Houseman telling her she was illiterate and calling her “flannel mouth.” Her battles with Lloyd Webber.
LuPone’s common thread throughout her mishaps and triumphs are the lessons learned. That, and how valium or a glass of wine can cure just about anything.
By the end of her story, you can’t help but admire the star, who is exactly what she seems―a force to be reckoned with and be just a little bit intimidated by. LuPone’s book is a gossipy guilty pleasure. It’s just like listening to the diva herself holding court and telling war stories in the green room.
Patti Lupone: A Memoir is available on Amazon for $14.55 (hardcover) or $9.99 (Kindle version).