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From Hello, Dolly! to Virginia Woolf: Dream Casting Patti LuPone with Ben Rimalower

The Patti Issues performer offers his picks for the roles LuPone is born to take on. logo

Ben Rimalower
(© Christian Coulson)
When Ben Rimalower was eight years old, his father came out of the closet and embarked on a bender that nearly left his family in ruins. Like many before him, young Ben found solace in the world of musical theater and became enamored with one particular star: she of Evita and Anything Goes and Sweeney Todd and Gypsy. The one and only Patti LuPone.

In Patti Issues, his acclaimed solo show at The Duplex, Rimalower explores his particular brand of fandom, from his first introduction to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Evita, the show which made LuPone a household name, to his eventual professional acquaintanceship and – later on – his actual friendship with the two-time Tony Award winner.

Knowing of his deep love and admiration for the Broadway star, TheaterMania gave Rimalower the opportunity to play casting director; hand-picking the roles he'd love to see her play. From witches to drunks and matchmakers, here are Rimalower's dream cast picks for La LuPone.

Role: The Witch
Show: Into the Woods
Ben's Description: "She was offered the role in the original production -- and I believe also in the revival. No one could possibly sing it as thrillingly as Patti, from the throbbing ache in "Stay With Me" and "Lament" to the pulsating power of "Last Midnight." And who but Patti could be so hilarious and heartbreaking and maternally warm and supernaturally frightening?

Patti LuPone as Dolly Levi
(Photoshop by Kelley L. Smith)

Role: Dolly Levi
Show: Hello, Dolly!
Ben's Description: Carol Channing's performance in the pre-Broadway tour of the 1994 revival changed my life. This show was built around that kind of larger-than-life musical comedy muscle and Patti could bring that same heightened level of existence to the character, along with what would surely be definitive vocals and new layers of humanity. This is a big ship that will only really sail with Patti commandeering the stage.

Role: Martha
Show: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Ben's Description: Patti has proven time and again how much she can make a play sing, with or without music. My mind reels imagining the notes she would hit in this gloves-off, drunken waking-nightmare.

Role: Mrs. Madrigal
Show: Tales of the City
Ben's Description: Since I first read Armistead Maupin's seminal serial and saw Olympia Dukakis' masterful performance in the mini-series, I have thought this was a plum role for Patti if there were ever a musicalization. I haven't heard any material from the production done at A.C.T. in San Francisco, but with Jeff Whitty and Jason Moore, respectively, writing and directing, and a score by the Scissors Sisters' Jake Shears and John Garden, I am very excited. Mrs. Madrigal would bring out all of Patti's wonderful earthy warmth and bohemian joie de vivre.

Role: Helen Sinclair
Show: Bullets Over Broadway
Ben's Description: If Woody Allen knows what's good for him, he'll cast Patti as theatrical grande dame Helen Sinclair. Patti has just the right combination of comic timing, haughty authority, and undeniable stage presence to take this cherished film character to the next level for live performance. And of course, Patti will rule the roost performing the period standards.