She went out there a raw kid from the chorus — a Michael Kidd dancer in Wildcat and Subways Are for Sleeping — and came back a star of stars (the very grand and very Looped Tallulah Bankhead, opening March 14 at the Lyceum.) Before Bankhead, she was Pearl Buck (All Under Heaven), Golda Meir (on tour and film) and TV's Rhoda Morgenstern (who won her four Emmys). In short, you could say that Valerie Harper is in a perpetual state of reinvention.
"Because I've always been an actor," she offers by way of an explanation. "I've never thought of myself as A Star or as a personality, but I always wanted to act, and I was trained in this city by some great acting teachers — John Cassavetes, Mary Tarcai (not famous, but just a fabulous teacher), Bill Hickey — while I was a chorus dancer because I didn't want to stay in the chorus but I did want to stay in theatre.
"I guess the combination of being theatrically prepared and then having television fame makes you — even at my age now — still viable. It's a name that people want to see because they love Rhoda, but we have to tell people 'Don't bring the kids to this.' We have to make sure they're not coming to see 'Rhoda' because the language is a bit salty at times, and I don't want anyone to not know what they're coming into."
— Harry Haun