Patti, You're Not Donald Trump...So Stop Trying to Be

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief

This past January, President (shiver) Donald Trump, called out actress Meryl Streep in a Tweet in which he said the actress was "overrated". Justifiably, this created a mountainous firestorm with legions of fans jumping to defend Ms. Streep. 

Now fast forward to last week when, while appearing on "What What Happens Live", Patti LuPone was asked by Andy Cohen what she thought of Madonna's performance in the film version of Evita, since LuPone originated the portrayal on Broadway. 

To say Ms. LuPone was honest, is an understatement. Here's what followed: 

Whether you agree with her or not, that's not the point of this column. The point of this column is that while Ms. LuPone is just being Ms. LuPone, in the era of Trump, this kind of stuff just isn't fun anymore. And watching a woman sniping about another woman's performance, of a role that neither of them would be cast if it premiered now, is just silly. 

Without analyzing her comments too much, saying that the performance was shit would have sufficed, controversial but sufficed.  However, where Patti goes next is where I have an issue because when she starts calling into question Madonna's performance ability weather as an actress or not, seems to break a lot of unwritten rules the performers have with one another. While we might criticize particular performances we never go after the performer personally. Saying "she looks dead behind the eyes" and that she can't act out of a paper bag, is something that one performer should never say about another one. Very seldom will critics even go to those lengths and they're paid to criticize.

And if you can't at least see that, you're letting your fandom get in the way.

This isn't the first time Ms. LuPone's diva-ish behavior has gotten headlines. After all, she's as famous for her feuds as she is for her performances. Don't believe me? Apparently her pool is named after Andrew Lloyd Webber and not in a flattering way. 

She's also very well known for her outbursts on unruly audience members, and rightfully so. 

But the shade/slam/attack on Madonna feels different. First of all because it came out of the most random of left fields, then bitter and finally, it seemed like mean overkill. For the record, not I, nor anyone else is questioning LuPone's RIGHT to say what she wants. She can say whatever opinions come to her mind, but I can criticize LuPone's lack of filter, just as I do with our President. 

LuPone could have kept it classy by simply saying "She wasn't a fan" and that would have been enough. But to say what she did, it not only felt a bit over the line but also starved for attention. Let's be honest, while LuPone is starring in a Broadway show right now and is nominated for a Tony, all the spotlights are on Bette Midler leading into Tony night. So for LuPone, which War Paint might be her last go around in a musical(multiple people are telling me this), inserting oneself into the news cycle isn't the rarest of things to do. 

When it comes to blunt honest divas, Elaine Stritch set the mold. Yes, she was biting and cutting but it was always about comedy and your likability of her never fell. With LuPone it's different. I've had many a friend who have worked with her and have told me that it's either a nightmare, honor or education. When LuPone is being nasty, she's doing it to be nasty.

LuPone's act, if it even is that, is a dying breed in the 21st Century. The "divas" of Broadway are portrayed as more encouraging and professional towards one another rather than starting fights. Can you imagine if Jessie Mueller said the same things about Sutton Foster or Kelli O'Hara? I doubt any of you would be cheering for that. So why are you now?  

So why would LuPone be bitter? Maybe because when the movie was in development, it felt as if every woman who played the role EXCEPT LuPone was considered. Elaine Paige was the first choice and even Liza Minelli was considered at one point. When Alan Parker finally signed on to direct the film, he was considering Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close with Madonna finally nabbing the role and LuPone never mentioned as a contender. And before you say that LuPone would have been too old to play Eva Peron in 1996, keep in mind that Streep is one year younger and Close is two years older than LuPone. So to go through all that, and then be asked 20 years later what she thought of Madonna's performance? I don't blame LuPone for feeling it might be a touch subject but again, what she says crosses lines. 

Now before any of you accuse me of being either a Madonna fan or a LuPone hater, I'm neither. To be honest, I don't think either of them mastered the role itself. But I'm also not going to portray Madonna as any sort of victim here. Some of you also might feel that LuPone's longevity in her career allows her to say what she said. I believe that while a long and successful career justifies honesty without fear of retribution, I don't feel any type of career justifies someone to be nasty to someone else. 

I would be lying if I felt that LuPone's comments weren't eerily similar to the tweets coming from our Commander-in-Chief: nasty, spiteful and unnecessary. Without waxing poetic about how we all need to just get along, in truth, another headline about one celebrity going after another celebrity is getting tedious. 

In an era when Broadway is slowly but surely, becoming more inclusive and positive, cheering for an old-fashioned celeb take down feel exactly like that, old-fashioned.