Hallelujah! Valerie Harper Is Tallulah in Broadway's Looped, Opening March 14
By Kenneth Jones
A late-career Tallulah Bankhead — the hard-drinking, blowsy American stage and film actress — sweeps back onto Broadway, embodied by Valerie Harper, in Looped, a new comedy that officially opens March 14 at the Lyceum Theatre.
Brian Hutchison (Exit the King) and Tony Award nominee Michael Mulheren (Broadway's Deuce; Kiss Me, Kate; The Farnsworth Invention) play film technicians opposite Emmy Award winner Harper (famous for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on TV in the 1970s).
According to the producers, "Southern, but by no means a belle, Bankhead was known for her wild partying and convention-defying exploits that surpassed even today's celebrity bad girls. Given her inebriated state and inability to loop the line properly, what ensues is an uproarious showdown between an uptight film editor Danny Miller [Hutchison] and the outrageous legend."
Harper's primary scene partner is Hutchison, and the actress bites into her role with gusto. Her foul-mouthed Tallulah is salacious, spiked with booze and pills, and eager to tell anyone within earshot that life is for living, and damn the consequences. The fellow whose time she is wasting in that sound studio is the opposite: a buttoned-up man with a secret.
Preview audiences have been convulsing with laughter at Tallulah's raunchy one-liners, most of them too dirty to repeat here. Previews began Feb. 19.
Lombardo told Playbill.com, "Mulheren plays Steve, a blue-collar sound technician who is sequestered to the sound booth and responsible for the actual recording of the line in question. Steve is constantly playing monkey in the middle (and sometimes referee) between the battling Bankhead and film editor Danny Miller."
Looped is directed by Rob Ruggiero, who co-created and directed the regional hit Ella and Off-Broadway's Make Me a Song. Ruggiero directed the world premiere of Looped at Pasadena Playhouse, as well as the productions that played both The Cuillo Centre in Florida and Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
Lombardo is the author of Tea at Five, the biographical play about Katharine Hepburn. He has also written the new play, High, about a nun with a past, currently in development as a vehicle for Kathleen Turner.
The producers of Looped are Tony Cacciotti, Chase Mishkin, Bard Theatricals, Lauren Glass Schneider, Lawrence S. Toppall and Leonard Soloway. Associate producers are Barbara Freitag and David Mirvish.
The creative team for Looped includes set designer Adrian W. Jones, costume designer William Ivey Long, wig designer Charles LaPointe, lighting designer Ken Billington and sound designers Michael Hooker and Peter Fitzgerald. Production stage manager is Bess Marie Glorioso. Production supervisors are Arthur Siccardi and Patrick Sullivan.
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." She performed with various companies of Second City in many venues all over North America. 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. She completed her cross-country tour of Golda's Balcony and is continuing as Golda Meir for the film version of William Gibson's play.
Hutchison recently appeared on Broadway in Exit the King. His other Broadway credits are The Invention of Love and Proof. Off-Broadway credits include From Up Here; Oh The Humanity; Mr. Marmalade; People Be Heard; Indoor/Outdoor; The Hiding Place; Theophilus North; Can't Let Go and She Stoops to Conquer.
Mulheren has appeared on Broadway in The Farnsworth Invention, Deuce, La Cage aux Folles, The Boy from Oz, Kiss Me, Kate (Tony, Drama Desk nominations), Titanic and On the Waterfront, plus Encores! productions of Damn Yankees, Do Re Mi, Li'l Abner and Of Thee I Sing.
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 Streetcar 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.
The Lyceum Theatre is at 149 W. 45th Street. Looped plays Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday-Friday at 8 PM, Wednesday at 2 PM, Saturday at 2 & 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.
Tickets are $111.50, $81.50 and $25 and include a $1.50 facility fee. Tickets are available through www.telecharge.com, or by calling (212) 239-6200.
For more information, visit www.loopedonbroadway.com.
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