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Viva, diva! Twenty-nine years after 'Evita,' Patti LuPone gets her big comeback at the Tony Awards

June 15, 2008 |  9:19 pm

Patti LuPone was the third Mama Rose (after Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly) to sing out with joy when she won the Tony Award for lead actress in a musical for her turn in "Gypsy." It had been almost three decades since LuPone won her first Tony Award for "Evita" and she made much of that in Patti2 her acceptance speech. As LuPone explained onstage, she was going to use one of those lists of thank yous prepared for one of her two losing bids ("Anything Goes," 1988; "Sweeney Todd," 2006).

However, she confessed backstage that this was not really the case. "I did have a prepared acceptance speech," she said. "It has been 29 years and in the course of 29 years I have worked with a lot of companies and wanted to acknowledge them. While she was clearly grateful to have won her second Tony Award, LuPone confessed, "I wish and I really mean it, the producers should celebrate the five best performances." And had she lost a third Tony bid, she says she would have been OK with that. "A lot of the reward comes in audience response, and I know the audience is having a deep reaction to 'Gypsy'. That is a huge reward."

LuPone is a true trouper, saying that eight performances a week of this powerhouse role do not intimidate her. "I am built for Broadway." And she says, she does not want to leave this show until she has another one lined up. "I want to know when I am coming back because I am not getting any younger and I want to use these vocal cords while they are still supple."

Asked to explain the appeal of the show, which has now been revived four times on Broadway since its 1959 debut, the thoughtful actress replied, "It is a Greek tragedy, a universal story about parenting and children." She thinks her character, Rose, "is not a monster, she is simply misguided." In closing, she said to the press, "Art is the soul of a nation, we need to elevate our society, to put those ideas out there, and stop censoring."