By Andrew Gans
11 Jan 2009
Following an emotional performance at the St. James Theatre that featured lengthy entrance applause for most every scene and principal performer — both co-stars Patti LuPone and Laura Benanti were visibly moved by the audience's volcanic reactions to their entrances — Laurents and Sondheim joined the cast onstage.
The sold-out afternoon performance — including dozens who stood in the back of the theatre to watch LuPone's last performance as Rose — was a give-and-take love affair between audience and cast. There were several times the audience erupted into thunderous applause, most notably after LuPone's dazzling "Rose's Turn." The applause lasted so long — with some in the crowd yelling, "We love you Patti" and "You're a national treasure" — that the Tony-winning actress finally gestured for the crowd to let her and Benanti finish the scene.
When LuPone took her final bow, dozens of single roses were tossed to the stage, and she proceeded to pick up the flowers and distribute a single rose to each and every member of the cast. After she brought out Laurents and Sondheim to much applause, LuPone said, "Two of the creative staff are no longer with us, and we must acknowledge them — Jule Styne and [choreographer] Jerome Robbins."
More applause followed, and LuPone offered a simple, brief speech, stating, "This experience in this theatre has been blessed by the theatre gods. . . . The crew, the front of house, and our wardrobe and everybody in this show . . . it's a rare experience that was led by Arthur with love, for which we are eternally grateful. I think I've never worked with a more dedicated, more committed, more lovely group of people who call themselves theatricals . . . and I am incredibly grateful … This is not goodbye, this is simply fare thee well."