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A Film by Michael Kantor

THE STARS

Performers

Patti Lupone

Patti Lupone

Born: April 21, 1949
Key Shows
  • "Anything Goes"
  • "Evita"
  • "Oliver!"
  • "Working"
Related Artists
  • Cameron Mackintosh
  • Mandy Patinkin
  • Harold Prince
  • Tim Rice
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber
An actress and singer who left several well-known Hollywood and Broadway stars feeling bitterly disappointed and distraught when she won the role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1993 London production of “Sunset Boulevard.” LuPone made her stage debut, tap dancing, at the age of four, and later took dancing classes with Martha Graham. She trained for the stage at the Juilliard School. where she met the actor Kevin Kline. A six-year personal relationship was supplemented by a joint association with John Housman’s Actor’s Company, which gave them both invaluable experience in the straight theater, and resulted in their appearance together — as the bride and bridegroom — in a short-lived Broadway musical, “The Robber Bridegroom” (1975). After several other flops, including “The Baker’s Wife” (1976) and “Working” (1978), LuPone won a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award for her performance in the leading role of “Evita” (1979) on Broadway, and stayed with the show “until the strain of being obnoxious and dying from cancer every night got too much.” She returned to serious theater in the provinces and had occasionally effective roles in movies such as 1941 and WITNESS. In 1985, LuPone moved to London and appeared first in “The Cradle Will Rock.” In the same year, she became the first American actress and singer to gain a principal role with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in the hit musical “Les Misérables.” The names of both shows appeared on her 1985 Laurence Olivier Award. In complete contrast to those two roles, in 1986 she played Lady Bird Johnson in a U.S. miniseries based on the ex-president’s life, and, a year later, was back on Broadway in an acclaimed revival of “Anything Goes.”

LuPone made her stage debut, tap dancing, at the age of four.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s LuPone had a major role in the popular U.S. situation comedy LIFE GOES ON, and experienced some difficulty breaking free from her contract when the call came from Lloyd Webber. She first played Norma Desmond at the composer’s Sydmonton Festival in the summer of 1992. Declining the use of the book on stage, she learned the part and gave what was regarded as a “sensational” performance. Soon afterward it became obvious that she had stolen the role of a lifetime from under the noses” of bigger names such as Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, and Julie Andrews. Sunset Boulevard” opened in the West End in July 1993, and although LuPone enjoyed a personal triumph, her contract to take the show to Broadway was canceled, resulting in a payoff “in the region of $1 million.” During the remainder of the ’90s LuPone appeared in New York in her own “Patti LuPone on Broadway” (1995) and as opera diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” on Broadway (1996) and in London (1997). Early in 1999, she took her acclaimed new concert act, “Matters of the Heart,” to the Sydney Opera House, in Sydney, Australia. The eclectic program of original and contemporary music included works by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Randy Newman, and Cole Porter.

Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.

Photo credits: Photofest