Backstage With Broadway Legend Patti LuPone Tony award-winner Patti LuPone is best known for her roles in the Broadway hits Evita, Les Miserable and Gypsy but she's also seen her share of flops and feuds. In Patti LuPone: A Memoir, LuPone shares the ups, downs, firings and other dramas of the Great White Way.

Backstage With Broadway Legend Patti LuPone

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in New York City today.

Now we step back from the United Nations to celebrate another New York City institution: Broadway. We have the opportunity to speak with one of the great stars of the theater, a girl from Long Island who's gone to star as Gypsy, Reno Sweeney and Norma Desmond but probably best known as Evita.

(Soundbite of musical, "Evita")

Ms. PATTI LuPONE (Actor): (As Eva Peron) (Singing) Don't cry for me, Argentina. The truth is I never left you. All through my wild days, my mad existence, I kept my promise, don't keep your distance.

CONAN: Patti LuPone as Eva Peron in "Evita." In her new book, "Patti LuPone: A Memoir," she recounts her experience playing that role, as other great hits she starred in, along with the shows that did not succeed so well.

She discusses her memorable work with, among many others, David Mamet and Stephen Sondheim, and some terrible experiences with, among others, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

But throughout the book, Patti LuPone explains how she learned to act, not just as Julliard, but on the road in repertory theater and how continues to learn in rehearsal and onstage.

If you've an actor, how did you learn your craft? 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Patti LuPone joins us from the studios of member station WNYC in New York City. Her new book is "Patti LuPone: A Memoir." Thanks very much for being with us today.

Ms. LuPONE: Thank you, Neal, thank you very much.

CONAN: And I know you're just about to take on, you're taking on a new role that goes to previews soon: "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." So you must be in rehearsals. What are you learning?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, a lot of things. I'm working with Bartlett Sher, and it's a new musical, and that's something that I don't do that often. I'm doing a lot of, I usually do a lot of revivals.

And this one's a complicated puzzle to put together. So I'm not quite sure what I'm learning. Generally, those lessons are learned in retrospect, do you know what I mean? And right now, we're putting the puzzle together.

CONAN: It was interesting. You're talking about the rehearsal process of "Gypsy," which you had a great success in, but sitting around and reading the book and just reading the words to the songs, but reading the book, the principles around it, table for a week, and how useful that was.

Ms. LuPONE: Yes. Well, all the information is in the script, and generally in musicals, directors don't take enough time with the entire ensemble and the script.

And this happened, this was just a happy accident because the encore series couldn't afford the entire company for the entire three weeks, so they Arthur asked for the principals for the first week, and since we didn't have a musical department, or rather he didn't want it, he didn't want anything to be sung. He just wanted to investigate the words.

And it was an invaluable lesson and helped for all of us to just go to the text.

CONAN: And Arthur Laurents had, well, been involved with the show obviously from the beginning. But he said this is the first time we ever rehearsed it like this.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, that was shocking to us. When we asked him if this is, you know, other rehearsal periods that he had been involved with with this show, and he said it hadn't ever been rehearsed, meaning they hadn't ever taken the time with the scenes, which to us was shocking because the scenes are this music could stand as a play without music.

So we were shocked that the scenes were not investigated the way we were investigating them now.

CONAN: And investigating them, it was interesting. You also said he came in with the prompt book from a previous production that had starred Tyne Daly that had been a great success, and in Broadway like anywhere else, if it's been a success, you want to replicate it, and it took a while to uncouple himself from that previous blueprint.

Ms. LuPONE: I think that he might have been nervous. I'm not quite sure why, but I think with the gentle prodding of Laura Benanti, Boyd Gaines and myself, with just questions about the script that he saw that he had three very unique actors in three of his very unique characters.

And he allowed us to break through the wall and discover the play, to interpret it as we would, as the three of us would. And I think that released him as the playwright. I mean, the director was holding onto the prompt book. The playwright was very happy to begin the discovery, and then the director came on. And he was both director and playwright, and then he came along with it.

CONAN: And nevertheless, in that case, the director had a breakthrough. In other situations, for example, replicating a great hit somewhere, it's more difficult. The copy seems to be, through this book, you're talking about the procedure with mega-productions where people want to say let's do it the same way they did it there. It was a hit in London. Let's do it exactly the way they did it in London.

Ms. LuPONE: Right. Well, I had that experience both with "Evita" and then this experience, what happened with "Les Mis." I was not a part of the New York company. I was part of the London company, but I saw it. When I saw "Les Mis," I saw Alun Armstrong's Thenardier, basically.

Or, you know, what we had discovered in London was then sort of given to the New York actor and not allowing the New York actor to discover the role for themselves.

It's I suppose if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and the problem is that there, you need to breathe new life into the production because it's very difficult to re-create, it's very difficult to put that creation on another actor.

They have their own thought processes the way, their own method of working. And it's difficult to have a success that way. I mean, "Les Mis" clearly was successful and still is, but it's unfair to the actor that's taking on the role after the original company.

CONAN: We're talking with Patti LuPone. Her new book is "Patti LuPone: A Memoir." If you'd like to join the conversation, we'd especially like to hear from actors today, 800-989-8255. Email us, And we'll start with Christopher(ph), Christopher with us from Virginia Beach.

CHRISTOPHER (Caller): Hi, thank you so much for having me on the show.

CONAN: Sure, go ahead, please.

CHRISTOPHER: Patti, so in your long career, you've had the chance to work with a lot of directors. But I wondered if you could give some perspective to actors on what it was like working with the composer of a show and how, what unique pressures and excitement that gave you developing a new work that maybe hadn't been premiered before.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, I'm working now with David Yazbek, who is very, he's so wonderful and such a terrific composer. And it's been a lot of fun because we're discovering the music, and he's very accessible to the actor in trying to you know, he said to me yesterday that he wrote a piece of music and that we are developing it, you know, into a piece of theater, and he appreciates that.

So that's pretty great, and because we are starting at the ground level, if you have a composer that is pliable, basically, it's a very exciting process. It's a creation. It's a collaboration. Do you know what I mean? If you don't have that, then it might as well be a revival. Do you know what I mean?

So in the case of David Yazbek, and I haven't worked with that many original composers, composers of original work, he is great. He and he loves actors. And I think he's been terrific in allowing other information in.

CONAN: How do you get a composer or a director who doesn't love actors? Or what would they be doing in the business?

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, geez.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Oh dear. There's a lot of them out there. I have no idea. They have their own ulterior motive, I suppose. But I've worked with several who don't like actors.

And composers, well, they just hold on for especially the composers. They hold on for dear life to their material. So their material doesn't breathe. How about that, you know.

CONAN: Okay, Christopher, thanks very much for the call.

CHRISTOPHER: Thank you so much. Thank you.

CONAN: So long. Let's go next to, this is Michelle(ph), Michelle with us from San Francisco.

MICHELLE (Caller): Hi, Patti, this is Michelle Anton(ph). We actually met in Rome on a movie set with James Russo(ph).

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, wow, that was Michelle, hi. How are you?

MICHELLE: I'm great. I'm great, Patti. I'm making movies in San Francisco and, you know, missing you. You were a blast.

Ms. LuPONE: We had a great time, Michelle.


CONAN: Was this the movie set where there were two film crews in the same little town, and the bars ran out of alcohol at four o'clock?

Ms. LuPONE: Yes, it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: (Unintelligible) in Sicily.

MICHELLE: That's right. And Patti, my question for you is having gone to Julliard myself, how did your time at Julliard impact your career?

Ms. LuPONE: It made my career. It made my career. I survived every aspect of what the Julliard school was at that particular time. I'm not sure it is that now because I haven't been there in quite a few years, but at the time, it was a test of survival on top of trying to learn a technique.

The object of the drama division of the Juilliard School was to give American actors European, Russian techniques, as well as American techniques, so that we would be a pliable enough actor to work with European directors and Russian directors. But in the process - and then get, you know, and teach technique to these American actors. It was a very, very hard school.


Ms. LuPONE: But if I hadn't - yes, as you know. And if I hadn't had that experience, I don't think I would've been able to survive some of the experiences I had on the outside. They did say Juilliard would be a microcosm of my professional world, and they were right.

CONAN: Can you talk for a moment about your relationship with John Houseman, cofounder of the drama school at Juilliard, with whom you had a roller coaster relationship. Is that fair to say?

Ms. LuPONE: Mm-hmm. Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Well, when he considered me. He - ultimately, I think, Mr. Houseman really, really liked me. But in the beginning, I think he admired my talent, but I was completely undisciplined and was - you know, I was young and having a good time. I'm always getting in trouble, and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: ...I got in trouble at Juilliard. And, Michelle, you had John, didn't you? Wasn't he...

MICHELLE: No, we actually had Suria. Suria was there for all of our acting classes. John had passed at that point.

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, and so - and they are to think that it actually was Michael Langham then, right?

MICHELLE: Yes. We had Michael Langham. And then Langham went over to USC, and then we had Michael Kahn.

Ms. LuPONE: Okay. All right. He was scary and he was loving and he was funny and he was distant and he was aloof and he was the reason I have a career. And...

CONAN: You also - you say at one point he said - he told you you were too short to be a leading lady at a time when you were a leading lady.

Ms. LuPONE: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: And I - you know, you listen to some of the things that John said, and just - I didn't know how to take them. I had no retort. I didn't say, look around you. I'm playing the leading lady. I was just shocked it came out of his mouth.

CONAN: Was...

Ms. LuPONE: I was playing a leading lady for the company, as well.

CONAN: For his company, yes. Michelle, thank you very much for the call. We appreciate it. Glad we could put you two back together.

Ms. LuPONE: Thank you, Michelle. Yes.

MICHELLE: Thank you, Patti.

Ms. LuPONE: Take care of yourself. I'll see you the next time I'm in San Francisco.

MICHELLE: I hope so. Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

Ms. LuPONE: Bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Paul, Paul with us from where you grew up, in Long Island.

PAUL (Caller): Exactly. Good morning - good afternoon, Patti.

Ms. LuPONE: Good afternoon, Paul.

PAUL: A pleasure, pleasure. I've watched you all the time, as much as I can. My son is going to be 30 soon. He's an actor. He got his - he went to college for it, his theater arts degree and everything else. He's always working, but he never seems to get that break where you can really make some money. What turns it?

Ms. LuPONE: Luck.

CONAN: Luck?

Ms. LuPONE: You know...

PAUL: That's it, huh, Pat?

Ms. LuPONE: Well, you know, I - talk about making money. I can't - if I told you that the first time I made money on Broadway was "Gypsy" two years ago, would you believe me?


Ms. LuPONE: Well, let me tell you. The first time I made an equivalent of a Broadway salary was two years ago in "Gypsy." You have to love it. You have to...

PAUL: Oh, he does. And he's the most standout guy in most of the productions. That's...

Ms. LuPONE: Then he's a happy actor. If he's working and he's learning, he's a happy actor.

PAUL: Oh, he is.

Ms. LuPONE: Money is, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PAUL: You know, I mean, I'm (unintelligible) do you still live with your mom and dad?

CONAN: Paul, tell him to go for the big bucks in public radio, okay?

Ms. LuPONE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PAUL: Oh, that's where I'm going next.

CONAN: We wish him the best of luck, Paul.

PAUL: Yeah, but do you still - you know, you got to have some way of an income.

CONAN: Yes, you do.

Ms. LuPONE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We'll leave it at that. Paul, we wish your son the best of luck.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And our guest is Patti LuPone. Her new book is "A Memoir: Patti LuPone." Here's an email from Lori(ph) in Oakland, California: Please ask the amazing Patti LuPone for more comments about my extraordinary 92-year-old cousin Arthur Laurents. What else did you learn working with him? Do you feel he's received the accolades that he deserves?

Ms. LuPONE: I love Arthur. Arthur was such a joy to have in the room. Besides all the information that he imparted to us about this play that he wrote and all the stories, the little gossipy stories around that, he was a miracle of human abilities at 90 years old. And I think I wrote about that the more involved that we all became in the play, especially him, the younger he got. He's an amazing man. And do I think he's gotten all the accolades he deserves? No, I don't.

CONAN: Here's an email. This - another one, this from Molly. I was privileged enough to grow up in a town that had an amazing performing arts festival and classes for a week every summer. The Donna Reed Festival of the Performing Arts in Denison, Iowa, was an amazing experience to have. It gave me a great base for the theater I did in my youth in college, into my adulthood, a fantastic opportunity, I'm very thankful for that experience.

Did you - I know you got to do a lot of theater and music in high school and, indeed, in middle school. Did you have anything equivalent to that Donna Reed Festival?

Ms. LuPONE: I would have to say that the Northport public school system from Northport, Long Island was my awakening, my focus, and the thing that kept me on track. I had the Northport elementary, junior high and high school music department. Esther Scott, who was my music teacher who really got me, saw me and celebrated me, that's what I had.

And then, of course, we had the Patio Players. So I think the equivalent of the Donna Reed Performing Arts Center would have to be the Patio Players, which was a group of kids that got together and put on great, big, Broadway musicals in -on Cathy Sheldon's patio, and then, finally, in the East North Virginia High School and Middleville High School. So that would be my equivalent.

CONAN: There's also a story you tell about Esther, you hiding under her desk as the assistant principal of the school walked through the hallway, screamed -what was he screaming?

Ms. LuPONE: Well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: ...we went into the brand-new Northport High School, and I don't know. There was a common area, and I don't know what was going on. But Ryan Bifunkle(ph) put me in a garbage can. Or - excuse me. I think I put me in the garbage can. I think I was campaigning for - I don't know - class president. Who knows what. But I put myself in a garbage can and was going, vote for me, whatever. And Ryan Bifunkle and somebody else lifted up the garbage can and put it on a set of lockers. So I was in a garbage can on the top of set of lockers, just campaigning like crazy when I looked up and saw the principal - the vice principal and the music department teachers. Esther, of course, was laughing her head off. They got me off of the - out of the garbage can and off the lockers, and I bolted and ran and hid underneath Esther's desk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We'll talk more with Patty LuPone about her long, storied acting career and her difficulties in high school.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: Today, we're talking with Patti LuPone about her career and her new memoir.

(Soundbite of song, "New Ways to Dream")

Ms. LuPONE: (singing) This was dawn. There were no rules. We were so young. Movies were born. So many songs yet to be sung. So many roads still unexplored. We gave the world new ways to dream. Somehow we found...

CONAN: Patty LuPone in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard." If you're an actor, how did you learn your craft? 800-989-8255. Email us: You can also join the conversation at our website. That's an Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Patti LuPone with us from WNYC, our member station here in New York City. Her new memoir is called "Patti LuPone." And Patti LuPone, there are some people who are - after they read this book - going to cross you off their Christmas card lists.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I think one of them may be Andrew Lloyd Webber.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Well, I don't think I've been on his, and he hasn't been on mine for over 10 years now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, no, not 10 years now, not quite 10 - yes, wait a minute. Oh, yes, over 10 year. Yeah. Well, what can you do? That's life.

CONAN: You called him, among other things, a coward.

Ms. LuPONE: Hmm. Yes, I do, don't I?

CONAN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: Well, he was cowardly, and that refers to the fact that I was fired from "Sunset Boulevard" in Liz Smith's column. I was...

CONAN: In the New York Daily News.

Ms. LuPONE: Uh-huh. I was in London, preparing to go on. I was at my dressing room table putting my makeup on when I got a telephone call from my agent at the time. And he said, Patti, you've been fired. I said, what? Because, of course, there I was in London and I hadn't seen Andrew or heard from anybody from Really Useful, his company. And it was announced in Liz Smith's column.

And to this day, I have not heard from Andrew Lloyd Webber other than the two letters that he wrote me right after the firing.

CONAN: There - this is a long story and it's a complicated one, yet this was also the man largely responsible for that huge break you got in "Evita."

Ms. LuPONE: Well, no, I wouldn't say he was responsible. I would say Hal Prince was responsible for casting me. I think anybody that played that part would have become a huge star - if I became a huge star from "Evita." But Hal was instrumental in casting me. Andrew - I don't even know whether Andrew had anything to do with the casting process. I think Hal - well, because they wanted to fire me in "Evita," and Hal was the one - Hal and - Hal told me - Hal would not allow me to be fired. And I found that out seven years after the fact when I had a conversation with the late critic Clive Barnes, who told me that the producers Robert Land(ph) and Robert Stigwood called him and asked him who should replace me in "Evita," and he said, nobody. Let her figure it out. And Hal would not have allowed me to be fired. So Hal was the one that was instrumental in my success.

CONAN: There will be...

Ms. LuPONE: I'm taking nothing away from Andrew and his score, but he didn't cast me.

CONAN: There may be some great attention focused on that story and others you told in the book. However, the great majority of the book is enormously positive about the people you've worked with and the great lessons you've learned with acting. We want to focus on that for the remainder of the broadcast. But I do have to ask you: You were in a TV show that people will remember - I think you got a couple of Emmy Awards for it - and say you could never stand your leading man.

Ms. LuPONE: Right.

CONAN: And towards the last year, you never spoke with each other, except on set.

Ms. LuPONE: Right. That's true. That's absolutely true.

CONAN: How do you do that?

Ms. LuPONE: You know you can't - well, that's acting. You know, you can't always work with people that you like. And you hope that then you will - you just work people that will - you will respect. But there was - there is no love lost and there's no respect for this guy. It was - he was a bully. And he wasn't just a bully, he was, I think, inexperienced and sort of maybe desperate for a kind of stardom that eluded him in - I don't know what else to say. It didn't work. And I wasn't the only one that had problems with him. And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: know, you - like I said, you can't always work with people that you're going to like, but you hope that there will be some sort of mutual respect. And in this particular case, it was just a nightmare.

CONAN: All right. Let's get to another phone call. This is Karen, Karen with us from Aurora, Colorado.

KAREN (CALLER): Ms. LuPone, you are my hero. Not just for your...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: ...magnificence and your talent, but also for having the boldness and the bravery to speak to your truth. I love it.

Ms. LuPONE: Oh, thank you.

KAREN: I was wondering what you think about storytelling as a technique for training actors. I just had a wonderful experience through storytelling with a script here in a local theater company. And the playwright allowed the director to transform the script into a series of stories, and we had a wonderful time just doing the truth of it that way.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, I totally applaud that, because, ultimately, the only thing an actor is is a storyteller. We have to tell the story the playwright wrote through the direction, the concept of the director, to the audience. So if you know how to tell a story, then you know how to act. That's what I think. I mean, you definitely need craft to be able to play in certain environments and to reach an audience and be understood. But if you know how to tell a story, you can act.

KAREN: Thank you. We got three-and-a-half out of four stars from The Denver Post.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, there you go. Good for that director.

KAREN: Thank you. Bye.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the phone call, Karen, and continued good luck to you. There are several points in which you cite directors, I think, including Arthur Laurents, as saying, stop acting.

Ms. LuPONE: Right. David Mamet taught me a very valuable thing when he said let the script do the work. You - he said, do not act upon the words. Let the script do the work, you have the fun. And basically, he was saying the same thing that Arthur is saying. We have a tendency to over emphasize, to put too much weight on each individual word or each individual sentence and not just speak it the way one would normally speak in life. And basically, if you have a good script, it's all there, and all that has to be done is to simply say it.

CONAN: I'm...

KAREN: Well, you know, we - I think as actors, we don't trust ourselves. We don't trust the material. But we're only the messenger, and if it - and our responsibility is to get the material out there, and that's all.

CONAN: I want to ask you another question about technique that you - a thing you picked from Jonathan Price who worked with you and said, get to the end of the line.

Ms. LuPONE: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: What did he mean by that?

Ms. LuPONE: He means - he meant get to the - literally that: Get to the end of the line. Make the point. I didn't realize that I might have been taking too much - well, for instance, I will explain to you what I mean. I would take too much time getting to the end of the sentence.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You're a champion...

Ms. LuPONE: And...

CONAN: ...slow talker of America.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, it's also - you know, it just - I don't know what it is. It's indulgence is, what it is. And he was saying if want to make your point, you have to make your point. And there's an acting term - there is a - that everybody uses, which is urgency. You have to come on stage with urgency. You have to impart the information with urgency. So if you are desirous, if you want to tell the story, you're not going to take your time. You're going to make your point. And that's what he was saying. He was saying, basically, say the line. Get to the point. And it's so - you know, we will - it's also a technique in memorizing lines. Instead of memorizing each individual word...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. LuPONE: really make sense of - you make sense of the line. You try to figure out what that particular line - what the sense of that line is. And it's easier to memorize it if you know what the sense is. And that's getting to the end of it, getting to the point. It makes sense, doesn't it?

CONAN: It does. In fact, I've been in radio my whole life, I memorize nothing. But I have to memorize something for something I'm doing, so I'll take that under advisement. Thank you for that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Frank, and Frank's with us from Salt Lake.

FRANK (CALLER): Hi, Patti. I'd like to know - have you comment on the difference between film and stage acting. You sort of answered my question just with your last comments partly, though.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, I think you - the - I think that the act - I know that actor's medium is the stage, because once the curtain goes up, there's nothing in between the actor and the audience and that particular story. And, of course, there's no stopping. You tell the story until the story is completed. I don't think there's that much difference in the technical delivery, except that you really do have to be aware of size for camera. And it would be wise to know camera angles and lens sizes.

But, pretty much, the director is more concerned with the camera than he is with the actor, where on stage, the director is concerned, hopefully, with the actor, because there's no camera. The camera is basically the audience in the proscenium, you know what I mean? The - so you don't have to act differently, except in size physically, I think. But then again, one is out of control. I take that back. You're pretty much out of control in your performance. You can calibrate it, and then an editor will...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: ...can come in and edit your performance. It's really hard to have any kind of control of your performance when it comes to film and TV.

FRANK: Right, if the crew will become your audience a little bit, that might be your only choice, I guess.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, it's - and that's - in "Life Goes On," I would use the crew as my audience. And I knew that if there was a silence on the soundstage, I knew that they were listening to the material and I knew that I - then the television viewers would listen to the material.

FRANK: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: It's interesting, you say that same thing about acting in the theater. You say deafening silence is a great sign because people are totally engrossed.

Ms. LuPONE: Mm-hmm. Yup. They're listening, no cameras are going off, no food is being eaten, no texting people. You know, I think when you want - when we all buy tickets to go to the theater, we - it's a collective group of people going into an environment for a singular purpose, you know, a singular experience, but collectively.

And Steve Sondheim was talking about this - and I'm going to misquote him, and I wish I had really, really heard what he said. But he talked about when he and Hal went to the theater, and the only seats they could afford were balcony seats, and - because they were talking about sound in theaters, actually. And you leaned forward and you isolated yourself to hear what was going on. And you knew that you were in an environment of other people, but the isolation, to have that experience, you leaned forward in your seat. And when an audience is involved, there is an electricity. There is a deafening silence.

It is - it's incredible. It's incredible. And that's something that you hope for every time you go out there, that you will unite an audience in this particular story you're telling so much so that they leave the theater and they are in the world of the play with you.

CONAN: Frank, thanks very much for the call.

FRANK: Thank you.

Ms. LuPONE: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with Patti LuPone about her new memoir, "Patti LuPone." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And this is an email from Sam in Little Rock. I bought tickets to "Women on the Verge" in the first 15 minutes after they went on sale. Please tell us something about it.

Ms. LuPONE: Well, I would suggest they go get the Pedro Almodovar movie of the same name, because that is what it is based on. "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," I believe, written and definitely directed by Pedro Almodovar. And it is a series of women in a situation - it was about abandonment and loss - lies, abandonment and loss. And it's a comedy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: It's a dramedy, really. It's very moving. But Pepa Marcos is -wakes up to find out that her lover has left her and she can't get in touch with him. And she spends the entire movie and the play trying to find him. I am his ex-wife who has just been released from a mental institution, and I want to find him. I think I'm still married to him, and I want to get back together with him.

Another character, Candela, played by - Pepa is played by Sherie Rene Scott. I'm playing Lucia. Laura Benanti plays Candela, who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because she finds out she's having an affair with a Shiite terrorist. And Marisa, my son's fiancee, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because she is discovering her sexuality - her sensuality, rather. She's a, you know, she's a frigid woman, and something is releasing her. And my feminist lawyer, Paulina, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because she's now having an affair with Ivan, the object of Pepa's and my desire.


Ms. LuPONE: Danny Burstein plays the mambo cab driver that Pepa keeps getting into in search of Ivan. And this particular musical was written by David Yazbek, book by Jeffrey Lane, directed by Bart Sher. It's a Lincoln Center Theater production. And I have to say, it is the most beautiful company I have ever worked with. I don't know where to look next. They're all so gorgeous to look at. The dancing is spectacular, Christopher Gattelli and there's another -well, I don't Rebecca's last name. So there's flamenco dancing in it, and just very hot Latin dancing. And it's women in high heels and short skirts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: What could possibly be wrong with that?

Ms. LuPONE: Really, I'm glad you bought your tickets.

CONAN: So it's not going to be "The Baker's Wife"?

Ms. LuPONE: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LuPONE: No. No. No, I hope not. I mean, I loved "The Baker's Wife." Are you kidding? I loved it. It was such a great movie. Hopefully, we will, you know, put the pieces of this puzzle together, and the audiences will love it.

CONAN: She describes "Baker's Wife," by the way, as Hitler's road show, a good sentence for him if - it's an old Broadway joke about what to do with Adolf Hitler. A good sentence is to sentence him to be in a bad musical, or a failing musical, in any case.

Patti LuPone, I can't thank you enough for your time today. We wish you the best of luck.

Ms. LuPONE: Thank you, Neal. Thank you so much for having me on.

CONAN: And her new book is, of course, "Patti LuPone: A Memoir." She joined us from the studios of member station WNYC in New York. We're going to let you go out listening to Patti LuPone from her role as Gypsy.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in New York City.

(Soundbite of song, "Rose's Turn")

Ms. LuPONE: (as Gypsy) (Singing) Well, someone tell me, when is it my turn? Don't I get a dream for myself? Starting now, it's going to be my turn. Gangway, world, get off of my runway. Starting now I bat a thousand. This time, boys, I'm taking the bows and everything's coming up, Rose. Everything's coming up roses. Everything's coming up roses this time for me. For me. For me. For me. For me. For me. For me.

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