Broadway Scene Stealers: The Women

By Ben Rimalower
22 Aug 2013

Patti LuPone
Photo by Paul Kolnik

10. Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

It's debatable whether I am actually in a position to deem Patti LuPone a scene stealer, since (as I've made a lot of noise iterating) my heart belongs to LuPone. It would almost be more appropriate to give the scene stealer commendation to anyone who's held my attention despite LuPone being onstage with them.

That said, scene stealing is the word for what LuPone did in David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane's musical version of Pedro Almodovar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Playing the supporting role of Lucia, the institutionalized ex-wife, LuPone had relatively little stage time, but it seemed to have been calibrated specifically to make the most of her disproportionate star presence — not just in her late-in-the-proceedings, big, dramatic song (what's the word for those in musicals? Oh, right, 11-o'clock numbers, and they're usually reserved for the star…), but even in the most minor moments like the wonderfully gratuitous choice to give her a special wig for her hair blowing behind her speeding by on a motorcyle. (Just the decision to put Patti LuPone on a motorcycle at all, however intrinsic to the plot, is a decision taking advantage of the effect of her legendary presence in a deliciously absurd context.) And, who could forget the image of LuPone "flying" in to sing in the Act One Finale title song? I'm not the only one for whom LuPone stole those scenes — and it was no accident.