It’s a little hard to believe that anyone could get away with bullying the Patti LuPone, an icon whose contributions to Broadway are plentiful and unparalleled. But the Tony-winning actress will tell you herself that she’s been “made tough” by a business that famously pulls no punches, ranging from sharp criticism to full-on bullying. In an interview with The New York Times’ David Marchese, LuPone opened up about her experiences with bullying at the hands of the some of theater’s biggest tentpoles, including late director and producer Hal Prince:
“Well, it was a rehearsal with the New York company of Evita after he had just opened the L.A. company of the show. He started the rehearsal with a bullhorn turned up to 10, saying, ‘The L.A. company is better than you are, and now rehearse!’ Then maybe 10 minutes into it, he accused me of changing blocking. I went, ‘No, you changed it in previews.’ An argument — this humiliation — ensued for the entire rehearsal. I ended up in a fetal position in my dressing room, crying my eyes out. Stage management came in, and I said, ‘Why didn’t you defend me? The changes were in the prompt book.’ They were Hal Prince’s men, the stage management, and one of them said, “Oh, honey, he does that to all his leading ladies.’”
LuPone expounded on a number of instances concerning her poor treatment, including a rough professional relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber, with whom she had a falling out after she was fired from a production of Sunset Boulevard in 1993. When Marchese informed LuPone that her diction had been the subject of criticism in Webber’s 2018 memoir Unmasked, LuPone wasn’t exactly surprised. “I’m an emotional, organic actor, and that gets in the way of me technically speaking clearly,” she said. “So the fact that criticism of my diction follows me around makes total sense.” But when she learned that his assessment was in reference to her performance in Evita, an opera, LuPone was quick to call bullshit. “How could he talk about Evita? The whole thing is sung. He’s a jerk. He’s a sad sack. He is the definition of sad sack.” LuPone didn’t part without offering a little criticism of her own, calling the body of Webber’s work “shmaltz,” with the exception of Evita, of course. May her legacy of telling it like it is reign in perpetuity.