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Patti LuPone famously originated the role of Norma Desmond in the London musical adaptation of Sunset Boulevard back in 1993, but was replaced before the production premiered on Broadway

By Dave Quinn
April 02, 2020 10:47 AM
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Patti Lupone Sunset Boulevard
Credit: Patti Lupone/ Twitter; David Crump/ANL/Shutterstock

All right, Mr. DeMille: Patti LuPone is ready for her close-up again.

Days after giving one of the most delightful home tours of all time, the Broadway legend, 70, returned for another trip around her eclectic, treasure-filled basement — this time, dressed as deranged actress Norma Desmond, the fictional former silent-film star she played in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Sunset Boulevard.

“You there, why are you so late?” LuPone quipped at the clip’s start, dressed in Desmond’s signature robe, turban, and sunglasses.

She then sang a few lines of Desmond’s ballad “With One Look” while walking around her Connecticut home, pulling the handle of a vintage slot machine along the way and even making a selection on her jukebox.

“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small,” she said at the video’s close, reciting the iconic line from Sunset Boulevard as Danny and the Juniors’ 1958 hit “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” played.

The two-time Tony winner captioned her hilarious post, “Ya bored yet?”

LuPone’s little performance was extra special for theater fans, who have long wanted to see her return to the role of Norma.

She famously originated the part in the musical adaptation of Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning 1950 film of the same name back in July 1993, when it premiered at London’s Adelphi Theatre. But when the production moved to Broadway in November 1994, LuPone was replaced by Glenn Close, who had been playing the role in a Los Angeles tryout.

The move was one of the biggest controversies in musical theater history and spurred a decades-long feud between LuPone and Lloyd Webber.

As she wrote in her 2010 memoir, she was furious when she heard the news, reading it in Liz Smith’s gossip column while backstage in London. “I took batting practice in my dressing room with a floor lamp,” LuPone wrote. “I swung at everything in sight — mirrors, wig stands, makeup, wardrobe, furniture, everything. Then I heaved the lamp out the second-floor window.”

Eventually, LuPone sued Lloyd Webber, receiving a reported $1 million settlement and using the money to build at her home what she dubbed “The Andrew Lloyd Webber Memorial Pool.”

He paid up,” LuPone recalled on an episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen years ago. “I had a signed contract!”

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Patti LuPone
| Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Since then, the two have remained mostly at odds, but had a moment of peace when LuPone performed a tribute to Lloyd Webber and Leonard Bernstein at the Grammys in 2018.

As for her and Close, LuPone said on WWHL the two didn’t speak for years but made nice at Barbara Cook’s Kennedy Center Honors in 2011.

“[During] all that controversy, there was a great deal of silence on Glenn’s part,” LuPone said, explaining the tension between those two. “But I did see Glenn … at the Kennedy Center Awards because we were honoring Barbara Cook. And as luck would have it, I sat at Barbara’s table with everybody else that was performing for Barbara and there was an empty seat right next to me and Glenn Close came and sat down right there, and I went, ‘Holy s—.’ She said, ‘I had nothing to do with it’ and we hugged. And I thought, ‘It’s that easy that you can get rid of years of that anxiety.’ ”

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Meanwhile, like millions of Americans, LuPone is social distancing and staying indoors amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

She was set to make her return to Broadway in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. The acclaimed production, transferring from London, had planned to open on March 22 but all Broadway performances have been canceled until further notice.

During an appearance on The Rosie O’Donnell Show benefit in March, LuPone said that she “was holding on” during the pandemic, explaining that she used the time to play games like pool with her husband Matthew Johnston and their son, Joshua.

“I’m trying to take stock of this time, and reflecting,” she said, adding that she’s focusing on making sure “that every moment in our lives and our day counts.”

“I have time with my family. I have time,” LuPone said. “Usually in our business, we don’t have time. We’re always working, we’re always going to another place, we’re always doing something. This is time to reflect and time to pray for a better world.”

As of Thursday morning, there are at least 214,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 4,800 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

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