Valerie Harper and Looped Playwright Matthew Lombardo Embroiled in Legal Battle
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award nominee Valerie Harper, who withdrew from the national tour of the Matthew Lombardo play Looped following her cancer diagnosis, is involved in a legal battle with the playwright and producers of the production.
Harper portrayed Tallulah Bankhead in Lombardo's 2010 Broadway play Looped, a role she was scheduled to reprise on tour. The tour, which had been slated to launch in early 2013, was delayed after Harper was hospitalized during rehearsals and took a medical leave from the production. Stefanie Powers took over for Harper in the national tour. Three months later, Harper went public with her diagnosis of terminal cancer and stated that she had "as little as three months left to live." The actress has responded well to treatment and has since appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."
According to the New York Daily News, Harper and her husband Tony Cacciotti, a producer on the Broadway production of Looped, filed suit against Lombardo, claiming the playwright failed to pay the remainder of her contract.
Lombardo and several producers on the Broadway production have now filed a countersuit against Harper and Cacciotti, seeking $500,000 to cover losses following Harper's departure from the production, in addition to $1.5 million for being "misled" about the actress' condition. The suit states that Lombardo encouraged Harper to seek medical attention during rehearsals for the tour and sought to replace her with Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh; however, Harper remained committed to the project.
Following the Daily News' report, Lombardo issued a statement regarding his countersuit. In it, the playwright states that he was resigned to taking on the financial losses following Harper's departure from the tour, but was forced to take legal action following the suit filed by Harper and Cacciotti.
Lomardo stated that it was Cacciotti who "financially abandoned the national tour of Looped at the 11th hour" and "stopped paying all tour-related bills upon which the producers and actors had been relying" after Harper took a medical leave from the production.
The playwright went on to say that he "did everything he could to support her during such a traumatic time. To this day, he has nothing but love and admiration for the iconic and talented actress and shares everyone’s delight that her cancer is in remission."
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