Valerie Harper Will Be Tallulah, Darling, on Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
01 Dec 2009

Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead in Looped
Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead in Looped
Photo by Scott Suchman

Looped, starring Emmy Award winner Valerie Harper as aging actress Tallulah Bankhead, who spars with a movie sound editor, will have a Broadway life in spring 2010, according to a casting notice.

The Matthew Lombardo play — about a clash between the sixtysomething star and the cloistered technician, in a "looping session" for what would be her last film — has been seen regionally with Harper (TV's "Rhoda"). Most recently, it had a run in June 2009 at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. Rob Ruggiero (Make Me a Song, Ella) directed in the past and will helm the Broadway engagement, aiming for a first preview in February at a theatre to be announced. A March opening is expected.

The producers are Tony Cacciotti, Chase Mishkin and Leonard Soloway.

According to the casting notice, "During the summer of 1965, an inebriated Tallulah Bankhead stumbles into a sound studio to re-record (or 'loop') one line of dialogue for what would be her last film. Given her drunken state (and inability to loop the line perfectly), what ensues is a showdown between an uptight sound editor (Danny Miller) and the outrageous legend."

The role of Danny Miller has yet to be cast. "Steve" is a third character — an off-stage voice.

Beyond the casting notice, there has been no official announcement about a Broadway run.

Lombardo is the author of Tea at Five, the biographical play about Katharine Hepburn.

Tallulah Bankhead (1902-68) was the outspoken, reckless and blowsy film and stage star whose famous roles include Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth, Regina in The Little Foxes and Blanche Du Bois in a 1956 City Center production of A Steeetcar Named Desire. Her manner was so arch that people often thought she was British; she was, in fact, a native of Alabama. She was nominated for a Best Actress Tony in 1961 for the play Midgie Purvis.


Looped made its world premiere in summer 2008 at Pasadena Playhouse and later played Cuillo Centre for the Arts in Florida. Since the Cuillo run, Lombardo has continued to rework the script for the 2009 Arena production (and its wider future). Jay Goede played Danny in DC.

Harper is a four-time Emmy Award winner famous for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the spin-off series, "Rhoda." In 2000, she reprised the role of Rhoda Morgenstern (along with Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards) in the ABC television movie "Mary and Rhoda," which attracted nearly 18 million viewers. She performed with various companies of Second City and Story Theatre in many venues all over the country and in Canada. In 1970 she was a member of the original stage production of Story Theater in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum and on Broadway. During the run at the Ambassador Theater, Paul Sills opened his second production: Ovid's Metamorphoses, also featuring Harper, to run in repertory with Story Theater. In the mid-1970s she played Los Angeles' James Doolittle Theatre and later toured in Dear Liar with Anthony Zerbe. She and her husband, Tony Cacciotti, began developing a one-woman play based on the life and work of Pearl S. Buck, the Nobel Prize-winning author of, among many works, "The Good Earth." She co-wrote and performed that play All Under Heaven (directed by Ruggiero) in New York (1999), in Los Angeles (2000) and across the country. In 2001 Harper was back on Broadway starring in Charles Busch's comedy The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. She played "the Wife" (Marjorie Taub) for a year on Broadway and then for another year in the national tour. Having completed her cross-country tour of Golda's Balcony, Harper is continuing as Golda Meir for the film version of William Gibson's play.

Director Ruggiero is known for co-creating and directing the regional hit Ella, a bio-play about Ella Fitzgerald. He staged the previous regional productions of Looped. He also conceived and directed the regional and Off-Broadway show Make Me a Song: the Music of William Finn.

The earlier creative team for Looped included set designer Adrian W. Jones, costume designer William Ivey Long, assistant costume designers Cathy Parrott and Donald Sanders, wig designer Charles LaPointe, lighting designer Michael Gilliam, sound designer Michael Hooker, stage manager Amber Dickerson, Hartford assistant stage manager Scott Pomerico, Arena assistant stage manager Kurt Hall, production dramaturg Janine Sobeck, assistant director Nick Eilerman, D'Nesstah Fields and hair/makeup designer Amanda Mitchell.