Sources in the theatre community are saying a backstage blowup between Patti LuPone and stage management occurred following the matinee of Noises Off, March 9, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Following the raucous Michael Frayn farce that stars LuPone, members of the cast remained on stage to solicit funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and LuPone protested the group appearance to stage management. Her raised voice was audible in the house. Apparently, there had been an agreement that one member of the cast would speak to the audience about the annual spring fund-raising effort, but when others stayed on stage LuPone was irked, according to sources. A miscommunication about the post-show plan may have been to blame.
LuPone did not appear at the Saturday evening performance March 9, or the Sunday matinee March 10. LuPone has not quit the show, according to her spokesman, and will be back by the March 13 matinee. It was not immediately clear if LuPone would perform March 12. A spokesman said LuPone, though a supporter of AIDS charities, takes issue with asking for money from theatregoers who are already spending $75 on a top ticket.
LuPone's spokesman Philip Rinaldi told Playbill On-Line: "Patti has not quit the show. She should be back by tomorrow's matinee [March 13]. Patti was one of several actors in the company who had a problem asking for money at the end of the curtain call when people pay so much to go to the theatre. It wasn't anything she instigated. The company came up with a plan where one of the actors who wanted to do the fundraising would do it, and the others would leave the stage. When the time came for that to happen, one of the actors who agreed to leave the stage didn't leave the stage. It upset Patti because she felt that it undermined their solidarity, and she complained to the stage manager."
An argument ensued between LuPone and the stage manager in which "the stage manager said some very unkind things to her, which were extremely hurtful," Rinaldi said. The stage manager has since apologized. Rinaldi wanted to make it clear, however, that the story has been much exaggerated by the New York press. "She never threw any props," he said "There was never any talk about breach of contract by the producers. In fact, they've been totally supportive of her." Beloved by fans as one of the true stage divas of our time, LuPone is a Tony Award-winner for Evita and a Tony nominee for Anything Goes and The Robber Bridegroom.
The entire incident is ironic as LuPone is a long-time supporter of AIDS charities, in particular GMHC and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The former star of Evita actually performed in the first-ever AIDS benefit for GMHC, which was held at Madison Square Garden back in the early 1980s. Subsequently, she has performed in several other GMHC evenings, and when last on Broadway in David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood, she performed in the annual Easter Bonnet Competition for Broadway Cares. During her runs in both Master Class and Patti LuPone on Broadway, she took part in BC/EFA's Broadway Flea Market. Her spokesman added, "When she's around and she's asked, she goes. The [incident] had nothing whatsoever to do with [Broadway Cares]. It's about people paying $75 a ticket and then being asked for money."